How to fix kind membership: A problem for hpc theory and a solution

Philosophy of Science 76 (5):724-736 (2009)
Abstract
Natural kinds are often contrasted with other kinds of scientific kinds, especially functional kinds, because of a presumed categorical difference in explanatory value: supposedly, natural kinds can ground explanations, while other kinds of kinds cannot. I argue against this view of natural kinds by examining a particular type of explanation—mechanistic explanation—and showing that functional kinds do the same work there as traditionally recognized natural kinds are supposed to do in “standard” scientific explanations. Breaking down this categorical distinction between traditional natural kinds and other kinds of kinds, I argue, delivers two goods: It provides us with a view of natural kindhood that does justice to the epistemic roles of kinds in scientific explanations. And it allows us to solve a problem that HPC theory, currently one of the more popular accounts of natural kindhood, confronts.
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