Conceptual analysis and natural kinds: the case of knowledge

Synthese 193 (1):167-184 (2016)
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There is a line of reasoning in metaepistemology that is congenial to naturalism and hard to resist, yet ultimately misguided: that knowledge might be a natural kind, and that this would undermine the use of conceptual analysis in the theory of knowledge. In this paper, I first bring out various problems with Hilary Kornblith’s argument from the causal–explanatory indispensability of knowledge to the natural kindhood of knowledge. I then criticize the argument from the natural kindhood of knowledge against the method of conceptual analysis in the theory of knowledge. A natural motivation for this argument is the following seemingly plausible principle: if knowledge is a natural kind, then the concept of knowledge is a natural kind concept. Since this principle lacks adequate support, the crucial semantic claim that the concept of knowledge is a natural kind concept must be defended in some more direct way. However, there are two striking epistemic disanalogies between the concept of knowledge and paradigmatic natural kind concepts that militate against this semantic claim. Conceptual analyses of knowledge are not affected by total error, and the proponents of such analyses are not subject to a priori conceptual obliviousness. I conclude that the argument from natural kindhood does not succeed in undermining the use of conceptual analysis in the theory of knowledge.



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Joachim Horvath
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Citations of this work

Knowledge as a Non‐Normative Relation.Kurt Sylvan - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 97 (1):190-222.
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