Natural Kinds, Causes and Domains: Khalidi on how science classifies things

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 54:132-137 (2015)
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Natural Categories and Human Kinds is a recent and timely contribution to current debate on natural kinds. Because of the growing sophistication of this debate, it is necessary to make careful distinctions in order to appreciate the originality of Khalidi’s position. Khalidi’s view on natural kinds is naturalistic: if we want to know what Nature’s joints really are, we should look at the actual carving job carried out by our best scientific practices. Like LaPorte, Khalidi is a fallibilist: our best scientific theories may be revised or abandoned and so can our current classifications of natural kinds. Unlike LaPorte, however, Khalidi is an anti-essentialist: he argues against the idea that membership in a natural kind is a matter of possessing an essential set of necessary and sufficient properties. Like Dupré, Khalidi is a pluralist and anti-reductionist: he does not believe that there is only one true classification system and that there are natural kinds only at the so-called "fundamental level" of microphysics. Khalidi develops his pluralistic and anti-reductionistic position on the basis of a deep appreciation for the special sciences but, unlike Dupré, he thinks that only the scientific inquiry, which is driven by epistemic purposes, discover natural kinds and that, therefore, there are important differences between scientific and folk classifications. Khalidi’s conception of natural kinds has both an epistemic and a metaphysical component.

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Vincenzo Politi
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

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