Natural Kinds and Concepts: A Pragmatist and Methodologically Naturalistic Account

In Jonathan Knowles & Henrik Rydenfelt (eds.), Pragmatism, Science and Naturalism. Peter Lang Publishing (2011)
Abstract
The central aim of this essay is to put forward a notion of naturalism that broadly aligns with pragmatism. I do so by outlining my views on natural kinds and my account of concepts, which I have defended in recent publications (Brigandt 2009, in press-b). Philosophical accounts of both natural kinds and concepts are usually taken to be metaphysical endeavours, which attempt to develop a theory of the nature of natural kinds (as objectively existing entities of the world) or of the nature of concepts (as objectively existing mental entities). However, I shall argue that any account of natural kinds or concepts must answer to epistemological questions as well and will offer a both pragmatist and naturalistic defence of my views on natural kinds and concepts. Many philosophers conceive of naturalism as a primarily metaphysical doctrine, such as a commitment to a physicalist ontology or the idea that humans and their intellectual and moral capacities are a part of nature. Sometimes such legitimate views motivate a more contentious philosophical program that maintains that any philosophical notion ought to be defined in a purely physicalist vocabulary (e.g., by putting forward a theory of concepts and intentional states that does not define them in terms of intentional notions). We will see that I reject this latter project (which is naturalistic in some sense) on naturalistic grounds, as science does not aim at developing reductive definitions. Rather than naturalism as a metaphysical doctrine, more germane to my account is a methodological type of naturalism. Here the idea is that some aspects of scientific method and practice should be used by philosophers in their attempts to develop philosophical accounts. I will illustrate this naturalistic method by laying out how philosophers can and ought to develop philosophical notions without Ingo Brigandt 2..
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