The vision of natural kinds that is most common in the modern philosophy of biology, particularly with respect to the question whether species and other taxa are natural kinds, is based on a revision of the notion by Mill in A System of Logic. However, there was another conception that Whewell had previously captured well, which taxonomists have always employed, of kinds as being types that need not have necessary and sufficient characters and properties, or essences. These (...) competing views employ different approaches to scientific methodologies: Mill’s class-kinds are not formed by induction but by deduction, while Whewell’s type-kinds are inductive. More recently, phylogenetic kinds (clades, or monophyletic-kinds) are inductively projectible, and escape Mill’s strictures. Mill’s version represents a shift in the notions of kinds from the biological to the physical sciences. (shrink)
This is the final draft of a paper written for a collection in honour of Ruth Millikan. Millikan has argued that biological taxa are historical kinds. Her argument is puzzling: it shows only that biological taxa are relational. And this conclusion has been challenged by Michael Devitt. Here, I argue that stable polymorphisms in kinds require underlying mechanisms that keep sub-groups separate. (This answers a criticism of my earlier views by Wilson, Barker, and Brigandt.) I argue that this (...) condition brings in a kind of historicity that Millikan wants, but that a further kind of historicity is dubious. (shrink)
In this paper I criticize arguments by Pauline Phemister and Matthew Stuart that John Locke's position in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding allows for natural kinds based on similarities among real essences. On my reading of Locke, not only are similarities among real essences irrelevant to species, but natural kind theories based on them are unintelligible.
What are biological species? Aristotelians and Lockeans agree that they are natural kinds; but, evolutionary theory shows that neither traditional philosophical approach is truly adequate. Recently, Michael Ghiselin and David Hull have argued that species are individuals. This claim is shown to be against the spirit of much modern biology. It is concluded that species are natural kinds of a sort, and that any 'objectivity' they possess comes from their being at the focus of a consilience of inductions.
In earlier work I have claimed that emotion and some emotions are not `natural kinds'. Here I clarify what I mean by `natural kind', suggest a new and more accurate term, and discuss the objection that emotion and emotions are not descriptive categories at all, but fundamentally normative categories.
Essentialism about natural kinds has three tenets. The first tenet is that all and only members of a natural kind has some essential properties. The second tenet is that these essential properties play a causal role. The third tenet is that they are explanatorily relevant. I examine the prospects of questioning these tenets and point out that arguing against the first and the second tenets of kind-essentialism would involve taking parts in some of the grand debates of philosophy. But, (...) at least if we restrict the scope of the discussion to the biological domain, the third tenet of kind-essentialism could be questioned more successfully. (shrink)
This paper examines causal theories of reference with respect to how plausible an account they give of non-physical natural kind terms such as ‘gene’ as well as of the truth of the associated theoretical claims. I first show that reference fixism for ‘gene’ fails. By this, I mean the claim that the reference of ‘gene’ was stable over longer historical periods, for example, since the classical period of transmission genetics. Second, I show that the theory of partial reference does not (...) do justice to some widely held realist intuitions about classical genetics. This result is at loggerheads with the explicit goals usually associated with partial theories of reference, which is to defend a realist semantics for scientific terms. Thirdly, I show that, contrary to received wisdom and perhaps contrary to physics and chemistry, neither reference fixism nor partial reference are necessary in order to hold on to scientific realism about biology. I pinpoint the reasons for this in the nature of biological kinds, which do not even remotely resemble natural kinds (i.e., Lockean real essences) as traditionally conceived. (shrink)
There are no "special sciences" in Fodor's sense. There is a large group of sciences, "historical sciences," that differ fundamentally from the physical sciences because they quantify over a different kind of natural or real kind, nor are the generalizations supported by these kinds exceptionless. Heterogeneity, however, is not characteristic of these kinds. That there could be an univocal empirical science that ranged over multiple realizations of a functional property is quite problematic. If psychological predicates name multiply realized (...) functionalist properties, then there is no single science dealing with these: human psychology, ape psychology, Martian psychology and robot psychology are necessarily different sciences. (shrink)
There is an assumption common in the philosophy of mind literature that kinds in our sciences—or causal kinds, at least—are individuated by the causal powers that objects have in virtue of the properties they instantiate. While this assumption might not be problematic by itself, some authors take the assumption to mean that falling under a kind and instantiating a property amount to the same thing. I call this assumption the “Property-Kind Individuation Principle”. A problem with this principle arises (...) because there are cases where we can sort objects by their possession of common causal powers, and yet those objects do not intuitively form a causal kind. In this short note, I discuss why the Property-Kind Individuation Principle is thus not a warranted metaphysical assumption. (shrink)
I defend a moderate (neither extremely conservative nor extremely liberal) view about the contents of perception. I develop an account of perceptual kinds as perceptual similarity classes, which are convex regions in similarity space. Different perceivers will enjoy different perceptual kinds. I argue that for any property P, a perceptual state of O can represent something as P only if P is coextensive with some perceptual kind for O. 'Dog' and 'chair' will be perceptual kinds for most (...) normal people, 'blackpool warbler' for the expert birdwatcher but not for the rest of us, 'dangerous', 'familiar', or 'meaning that the cat is on the mat' for none of us. (shrink)
In this paper I will examine two responses to the argument from marginal cases; the argument from kinds and the similarity argument. I will argue that these arguments are insufficient to show that all humans have moral status but no animals do. This does not prove that animals have moral status but it does shift the burden of proof onto those who want to maintain that all humans are morally considerable, but no animals are.
In this article I examine some of the issues involved in taking psychiatric disorders as natural kinds. I begin by introducing a permissive model of natural kind-hood that at least prima facie seems to allow psychiatric disorders to be natural kinds. The model, however, hinges on there in principle being some grounding that is shared by all members of a kind, which explain all or most of the additional shared projectible properties. This leads us to the following question: (...) what grounding do psychiatric disorders qua natural kinds have? My principal method for examining the issue is a case study of a particular psychiatric disorder: the so-called “apathetic children.” I argue that there appear to be at least two competing models that both appeal to non-organic a grounding of the disorder. However, for other psychiatric disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the evidence points toward an organic explanation of the disorder. I contend that what unites psychiatric disorders is not a distinctive type of grounding that all psychiatric disorders share, but the distinctive set of determinable properties that is shared by all psychiatric disorders. (shrink)
In this paper, I want to explore the question of whether or not there are laws in psychology. Jaegwon Kim has argued (Supervenience and mind. MIT press, Cambridge; 1993; Mind in a physical world. MIT press, Cambridge 1998) that there are no laws in psychology that contain reference to multiply realized kinds, because statements about such kinds fail to be projectible. After reviewing Kim’s argument for this claim, I show how his conclusion hinges on a hidden assumption: that (...) a kind can only feature in a projectible statement if it is defined by an internal physical property. This assumption, however, is false: constrained kinds can feature in projectible statements, and yet they are not defined by any set of internal physical properties. I suggest that many mental terms actually refer to constrained kinds, and give an example from motor neuroscience of a constrained kind that is multiply realizable and “projectible”: the intention to move voluntarily in a specific direction. (shrink)
This paper argues for an ontological distinction between two kinds of universals, 'kinds of tropes' such as 'wisdom' and properties such as 'the property of being wise'. It argues that the distinction is parallel to that between two kinds of collections, pluralities such as 'the students' and collective objects such as 'the class'. The paper argues for the priortity of distributive readings with pluralities on the basis of predicates of extent or shape, such 'large' or 'long'.
In this paper, I focus on life-threatening medical conditions and argue that from the point of view of natural properties, induction(s), and participation in laws, at least some of the ill organisms dealt with in somatic medicine form natural kinds in the same sense in which the kinds in the exact sciences are thought of as natural. By way of comparing two ‘divisions of nature’, viz., a ‘classical’ exact science kind (gold) and a kind of disease (Graves disease), (...) I show that there is no justifiable ‘ontological gap’ between disease kinds and exact sciences kinds. We have instead a difference of degree. (shrink)
I formulate and defend two sceptical theses on specific parts of our modal knowledge (unqualified and absolute modalities). My main point is that unqualified modal sentences are defective in that they fail to belong unambiguously to specific modal kinds and thus cannot be evaluated; hence, we must be sceptical of beliefs involving them.
What in Aristotle corresponds, in whole or (more likely) in part, to our contemporary notion of predication? This paper sketches counterparts in Aristotle's text to our theories of expression and of truth, and on this basis inquires into his treatment of sentences assigning an individual to its kinds. In some recent accounts, the Metaphysics offers a fresh look at such sentences in terms of matter and form, in contrast to the simpler theory on offer in the Categories . I (...) argue that the Metaphysics initiates no change in this regard over the Categories . The point that form is (metaphysically) predicated of matter is a contribution, not to the account of statement predication, but to the analysis of compound material substances. Otherwise put, in our terms Aristotelian form is not - in particular, is not also - a propositional function, but a function from matter to compound material substances. (shrink)
A long-standing debate has dominated systematic biology and the ontological commitments made by its theories. The debate has contrasted individuals and the part – whole relationship with classes and the membership relation. This essay proposes to conceptualize the hierarchy of higher taxa is terms of a hierarchy of homeostatic property cluster natural kinds (biological species remain largely excluded from the present discussion). The reference of natural kind terms that apply to supraspecific taxa is initially fixed descriptively; the extension of (...) those natural kind terms is subsequently established by empirical investigation. In that sense, classification precedes generalization, and description provides guidance to empirical investigation. The reconstruction of a hierarchy of (homeostatic property cluster) natural kinds is discussed in the light of cladistic methods of phylogeny reconstruction. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine how Scotus and Ockham try to solve the following problem. If different kinds of constituents contribute some difference in kind to the things they constitute, then the divine Father and Son should be different in kind because they are constituted by at least some constituents that are different in kind (namely, fatherhood and sonship). However, if the Father and Son are different in kind, the Son's production will be equivocal, and equivocal products are typically (...) less perfect than their producers. Therefore, the Son must be subordinate to the Father. In response, Scotus argues that different kinds of constituents do not necessarily result in different kinds of things, but Ockham rejects this, arguing instead that although the Father and Son are different in kind, they are still equal in perfection because of their identity with the divine essence. (shrink)
It is sometimes said that humans are unlike other animals in at least one crucial respect. We do not simply form beliefs, desires and other mental states, but are capable of caring about our mental states in a distinctive way. We can care about the justification of our beliefs, and about the desirability of our desires. This kind of observation is usually made in discussions of free will and moral responsibility. But it has profound consequences, or so I shall argue, (...) for our conception of the very nature of beliefs and other mental states. Suitably developed, it allows us to draw a line between two distinct ways in which a creature may possess a belief, represent a scene, and fall into error. The first way (which I shall call the 'mindless' way) involves little more than an encoding of information in some way designed to guide appropriate response. This is the common heritage of humans, and many other animals. The second way (which I shall call the 'mindful' way) requires that the creature be capable in addition of a special kind of second-order reflection, and (importantly) be expert at detecting the kinds of situation in which such reflection is called for. The differences between these two ways of 'believing that P' are sufficiently deep and significant to warrant (or so I claim) our treating them as two distinct classes of mental states. For it is only courtesy of the second layer of complexity, I shall argue, that it becomes proper to hold someone accountable for their beliefs or other mental states, and it is this fact of (something like) accountability that in turn raises the most significant challenge for philosophical attempts to give naturalized accounts of meaning, belief, and mentality. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that depression and suicide are natural kinds insofar as they are classes of abnormal behavior underwritten by sets of stable biological mechanisms. In particular, depression and suicide are neurobiological kinds characterized by disturbances in serotonin functioning that affect various brain areas (i.e., the amygdala, anterior cingulate, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus). The significance of this argument is that the natural (biological) basis of depression and suicide allows for reliable projectable inferences (i.e., predictions) to be (...) made about individual members of a kind. In the context of assisted suicide, inferences about the decision-making capacity of depressed individuals seeking physician-assisted suicide are of special interest. I examine evidence that depression can hamper the decision-making capacity of individuals seeking assisted suicide and discuss some implications. (shrink)
The paper sketches an ontological solution to an epistemological problem in the philosophy of science. Taking the work of Hilary Kornblith and Brian Ellis as a point of departure, it presents a realist solution to the Humean problem of induction, which is based on a scientific essentialist interpretation of the principle of the uniformity of nature. More specifically, it is argued that use of inductive inference in science is rationally justified because of the existence of real, natural kinds of (...) things, which are characterized as such by the essential properties which all members of a kind necessarily possess in common. The proposed response to inductive scepticism combines the insights of epistemic naturalism with a metaphysical outlook that is due to scientific realism. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss a central objection against diseases being natural kinds—namely, that diseases are processes or transitions and hence they should not be conceptualized in the ‘substantish’ framework of natural kinds. I indicate that the objection hinges on conceiving disease kinds as phase kinds, in contrast to the non-phase, natural kinds of the exact sciences. I focus on somatic diseases and argue, via a representative comparison, that if disease kinds are phase (...) class='Hi'>kinds, then exact science kinds are phase kinds as well. On the other hand, if exact science kinds are non-phase kinds, then disease kinds are non-phase kinds as well. This objection should thus be rejected, under a certain caveat, though. If natural kind membership has an influence over the diachronic identity of kind members, then it is possible, in principle, to draw the phase/non-phase distinction such that an ‘ontological gap’ lies between medical kinds and exact science kinds. I show further that this caveat is unavoidable even in relation to substantive universals and ‘essential’ properties—two controversial, strong features that were traditionally associated to natural kinds. (shrink)
While philosophers tend to consider a single type of causal history, biologists distinguish between two kinds of causal history: evolutionary history and developmental history. This essay studies the peculiarity of development as a criterion for the individuation of biological traits and its relation to form, function, and evolution. By focusing on examples involving serial homologies and genetic reprogramming, we argue that morphology (form) and function, even when supplemented with evolutionary history, are sometimes insufficient to individuate traits. Developmental mechanisms bring (...) in a novel aspect to the business of classification—identity of process-type—according to which entities are type-identical across individuals and natural kinds in virtue of the fact that they form and develop through similar processes. These considerations bear important metaphysical implications and have potential applications in several areas of philosophy. (shrink)
Since Hilary Putnam and Saul Kripke's first attacks on traditional, descriptivist theories of natural kind terms, it has become customary to speak of the ‘Putnam-Kripke’ view of meaning and reference. This article argues that this is a mistake, and that Putnam's account of natural kind terms is importantly different from that of Kripke. In particular, Putnam has from the very start been sceptical of Kripke's modal claims, and in later papers he explicitly rejects the proposal that theoretical identity statements are (...) metaphysically necessary (if true). I suggest that this is wholly in line with Putnam's earlier, Quine-inspired writings on general terms, and his preoccupation with the philosophy of science. Moreover, I argue that the picture of general terms that emerges from Putnam's writings is more plausible than that suggested by Kripke. However, contrary to Putnam, I also suggest that Putnam's later views on natural kinds and natural kind terms do not support standard Twin Earth externalism. (shrink)
This article, which is intended both as a position paper in the philosophical debate on natural kinds and as the guest editorial to this thematic issue, takes up the challenge posed by Ian Hacking in his paper, “Natural Kinds: Rosy Dawn, Scholastic Twilight.” Whereas a straightforward interpretation of that paper suggests that according to Hacking the concept of natural kinds should be abandoned, both in the philosophy of science and in philosophy more generally, we suggest that an (...) alternative and less fatalistic reading is also possible. We argue that abandoning the concept of natural kinds would be premature, as it still can do important work. Our concern is with the situation in the (philosophy of the) life sciences. Against the background of this concern we attempt to set something of an agenda for future research on the topic of natural kinds in the (philosophy of the) life sciences. (shrink)
The detailed analysis allows to discern seven kinds of integration, namely: I₁ consisting in the synthesis of scientific disciplines from their elements, including disciplinary unification I₁; I₂ inclusion of a science in (reduction to) another, more general; I₃ - links between different sciences, especially establishing of common elements; I₄ - interdisciplines bridging various sciences; I₅ - combination of two (or more) disciplines into a new (complex) science; I₆ - a general approach to several domains or multidisciplinary unification; I₇ - (...) transdisciplinary sciences about relations of the same type in various traditional domains. These kinds of integration are interwoven with processes of differentiation, viz. D₁ - internal differentiation of the sciences resulting of I₁; D₂ - interdisciplinary differentiation concomitant I₄, and D₃ - specialization of I₇ sciences in several sections. As a result integration and differentiation are combined in the pairs I₁ - D₁, I₇ - D₃, and D₂ - I₄. The processes of integration (and differentiation) may be presented schematically in the following (not strictly isolated one of another) sequence: in the 17th century started I₁ followed by D₁, and in the last decades by I₁'; during the 18th and the 19th c. cases of I₂ and I₃ appear; I₄ (together with D₂) is unfolding since the late 19th century. Finally, I₇ (and D₃), as well as I₅ and I₆ pertain to the latter half of our century. Representative are for one thing I₁, I₄, and I₇ outlining the main stages of integration and at the same time connected with respective kinds of differentiation. (shrink)
Talk of different types of cells is commonplace in the biological sciences. We know a great deal, for example, about human muscle cells by studying the same type of cells in mice. Information about cell type is apparently largely projectible across species boundaries. But what defines cell type? Do cells come pre-packaged into different natural kinds? Philosophical attention to these questions has been extremely limited [see e.g., Wilson (Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays, pp 187–207, 1999; Genes and the Agents of (...) Life, 2005; Wilson et al. Philos Top 35(1/2):189–215, 2007)]. On the face of it, the problems we face in individuating cellular kinds resemble those biologists and philosophers of biology encountered in thinking about species: there are apparently many different (and interconnected) bases on which we might legitimately classify cells. We could, for example, focus on their developmental history (a sort of analogue to a species’ evolutionary history); or we might divide on the basis of certain structural features, functional role, location within larger systems, and so on. In this paper, I sketch an approach to cellular kinds inspired by Boyd’s Homeostatic Property Cluster Theory, applying some lessons from this application back to general questions about the nature of natural kinds. (shrink)
Evolutionary developmental biologists categorize many different kinds of things, from ontogenetic stages to modules of gene activity. The process of categorization—the establishment of “kinds”—is an implicit part of describing the natural world in consistent, useful ways, and has an essentially practical rather than philosophical basis. Kinds commonly serve one of three purposes: they may function (1) as practical tools for communication; (2) to support prediction and generalization; or (3) as a basis for theoretical discussions. Beyond the minimal (...) requirement that classifications reflect biological reality, what sorts of kinds or classification will be useful in advancing a research program depends on the epistemological context. Thus, the important meaning of “natural” in “natural kinds” is not “natural with respect to nature,” but “natural with respect to the question.” This conclusion arises from the recognition that the proper role of concepts (e.g. natural kind, module, homology, model) is not to answer biological questions, but rather to help frame them. From a scientist’s perspective, arguing about the wording (or existence) of a single definition of “natural” or “kind” is beside the point: we get more work done by letting the question at hand determine what kinds of kinds are natural, on the basis of their ability to help answer it. We should be content to let “natural kinds” remain vague, multivalent, and–therefore broadly useful. For a philosopher like Hacking, the diverse, disparate, and ultimately incommensurable uses of the term “natural kind” have diluted its value so far that it loses all meaning. For practicing scientists, however, defining useful kinds in the context of particular questions and systems remains a productive epistemological strategy. (shrink)
Concepts are highly theoretical entities. One cannot study them empirically without committing oneself to substantial preliminary assumptions. Among the competing theories of concepts and categorization developed by psychologists in the last thirty years, the implicit theoretical assumption that what falls under a concept is determined by description () has never been seriously challenged. I present a nondescriptionist theory of our most basic concepts, which include (1) stuffs (gold, milk), (2) real kinds (cat, chair), and (3) individuals (Mama, Bill Clinton, (...) the Empire State Building). On the basis of something important that all three have in common, our earliest and most basic concepts of substances are identical in structure. The membership of the category like that of is a natural unit in nature, to which the concept does something like pointing, and continues to point despite large changes in the properties the thinker represents the unit as having. For example, large changes can occur in the way a child identifies cats and the things it is willing to call without affecting the extension of its word The difficulty is to cash in the metaphor of in this context. Having substance concepts need not depend on knowing words, but language interacts with substance concepts, completely transforming the conceptual repertoire. I will discuss how public language plays a crucial role in both the acquisition of substance concepts and their completed structure. (shrink)
This paper takes a hierarchical approach to the question whether species are individuals or natural kinds. The thesis defended here is that species are spatiotemporally located complex wholes (individuals), that are composed of (i.e., include) causally interdependent parts, which collectively also instantiate a homeostatic property cluster (HPC) natural kind. Species may form open or closed genetic systems that are dynamic in nature, that have fuzzy boundaries due to the processual nature of speciation, that may have leaky boundaries as is (...) manifest in lateral gene transfer and introgression, that may be of multiple origins through hybridization, and that may split and merge and split again over time. The identity conditions of species qua individuals will have to be anchored in their history, rather than in their unique evolutionary origin. Species qua historically conditioned HPC natural kinds requires the kind to be mereologically structured, subject to the part-whole relation rather than the membership relation. This implies that there can be more than one kind of natural kinds. (shrink)
Fodor claims that cognitive modules can be thought of as constituting a psychological natural kind in virtue of their possession of most or all of nine specified properties. The challenge to this considered here comes from synaesthesia. Synaesthesia is a type of cross-modal association: input to one sensory modality reliably generates an additional sensory output that is usually generated by the input to a distinct sensory modality. The most common form of synaesthesia manifests Fodor's nine specified properties of modularity, and (...) hence, according to Segal (1997), it should be understood as involving an extra module. Many psychologists believe that synaesthesia involves a breakdown in modularity. After outlining how both theories can explain the manifestation of the nine alleged properties of modularity in synaesthesia, I discuss the two concepts of function which initially motivate the respective theories. I argue that only a teleological concept of function is properly able to adjudicate between the two theories. The upshot is a further application of so-called externalist considerations to mental phenomena. (shrink)
This paper discusses whether it can be known a priori that a particular term, such as water, is a natural kind term, and how this problem relates to Putnams claim that natural kind terms require an externalist semantics. Two conceptions of natural kind terms are contrasted: The first holds that whether water is a natural kind term depends on its a priori knowable semantic features. The second.
Ideas play at least two roles in Locke's theory of the understanding. They are constituents of ‘propositions,’ and some of them ‘represent’ the qualities and sorts of surrounding bodies. I argue that each role involves a distinct kind of intentional directedness. The same idea will in general be an ‘idea of’ two different objects, in different senses of the expression. Identifying Locke's scheme of twofold ‘ofness’ reveals a common structure to his accounts of simple ideas and complex ideas of substances. (...) A consequence is a distinction among substance sorts parallel to one of his distinctions between primary and secondary qualities. (shrink)