Natural kinds and crosscutting categories

Journal of Philosophy 95 (1):33-50 (1998)
Abstract
There arc many questions that 0nc can ask about categories in scicncc and in common scnsc, and ther are many ways cf construing the claim that some categories arc more “riatural" than Others. One can ask whether a system cnf categories is innate (for cxamplc, up/down) cnr acquired by learning (bcurgcolsic/proletariat], whcthcr it is thccrctically based (vcrtabratc/nonvcrtcbratc) O1' ad hoc (under onc kilogram/over 0nc kilogram), whether it pcrnalns no a natural phenomenon (plant/animal) or to a social insmituticm {lcgal/lllcgal), whether in is lcxicalizcd in nanural language (red/bluc} 01* requires a compound linguistic expression (r<—;·d-and-round/blueand-square), and whether it is prcjcctiblc (green/blue) OT nonprojcctiblc (gruc/blcen]. These distinctions m" all relevant to the qucsnion of whether a certain system cf camcgcrics ls natumlor emtzyicial The existence of such divergent consnruals 0f what makes a catcg01’}' 0r system cf categories mztum! renders suspect any univocal answer to [his qucsnicn in any particular case. Yet another question one can ask which some authors Lake to have a bearing cm the issue of the nacuralness of categories is whether a system of categories constitutes :1 unique way of organizing a particular set of cntitics 01* phenomena, or whether there arc other lcginimate classification schemes that can coexist with it. Ar10Lhc:r way cf putting this is by asking whether systems cf categories can cut across 0nc another, and if s0, unclr what circumstances. Some philosophers have claimed that crosscutting systems cnf categories cannot exist as genuine namural kinds. Richmond Thomasorf has claimed that natural kinds are arranged in Z1 hierarchy, such than higher catcgorics in the taxonomic system d0 not trespass 011 the boundaries among thc categories at the lowcr levels. In cther words, two kinds can cmly ovcrlap if one of thos kinds is wholly subsumed umir the ochr. S0 an individual can belong no two or more kinds, provided they can all bc put in subsumption relations with each other..
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