The Niche

Barry Smith
Department of Philosophy and Center for Cognitive Science, SUNY Buffalo, NY

Achille C. Varzi
Department of Philosophy, Columbia University, New York, NY

Published in Nous, 33:2 (1999) 198–222.
The concept of niche (context, setting, habitat) has been little studied by ontologists, in spite of the wide application of this and similar concepts in a variety of disciplines, from evolutionary biology to economics. What follows is a first formal theory of the niche, a theory of objects in their settings. The theory builds upon existing work on mereology, topology and the theory of spatial location as tools of formal ontology. Our mereotopological theory of the niche will be illustrated above all by means of simple biological examples, but the concept of niche should be understood as being, like concepts such as part, boundary, and location, a formal concept, one that is applicable in principle to a wide range of different domains.
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