The Linnaean system of nomenclature has been used and adapted by biologists over a period of almost 250 years. Under the current system of codes it is now applied to more than 2 million species of organisms. Inherent in the Linnaean system is the indication of hierarchic relationships. The Linnaean system has been justified primarily on the basis of stability. Stability can be assessed on at least two grounds: the absolute stability of names, irrespective of taxonomic concept; and the continuing application of the same names to the same concepts. More recent arguments have invoked conformity to phylogenetic methods as the primary basis for choice of nomenclatural systems, but even here stability of names as they relate to monophyletic groups is the ultimate objective. The idea of absolute stability was wrong from the start. The reasons are several. First, taxa are concepts, no matter the frequency of assertions to the contrary; as such, they are subject to change at all levels and always will be. Second, even if the true nature of all taxa could be agreed upon, the goal would require that we discover them all and correctly recognize them for what they are. Much of biology is far from that goal at the species level and even further for generic and higher-groups. Botanical nomenclature is more stable than zoological in the spelling of species epithets. This simplifies database creation and maintainence. Yet, stability at this level is superficial. Nomenclature serves as a tool for biology. Absolute stability would hinder scientific progress rather than promote it. It can been demonstrated that the scientific goals of systematists are far from achieved. Thus, the goal of nomenclatural stability is illusory and misguided. The primary strength of the Linnaean system is its ability to portray hierarchic relationships; stability is secondary.

Key words: Linnaean, nomenclature