Water is and is not H 2 O

Mind and Language 35 (2):183-208 (2019)
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Abstract

The Twin Earth thought experiment invites us to consider a liquid that has all of the superficial properties associated with water (clear, potable, etc.) but has entirely different deeper causal properties (composed of “XYZ” rather than of H2O). Although this thought experiment was originally introduced to illuminate questions in the theory of reference, it has also played a crucial role in empirically informed debates within the philosophy of psychology about people’s ordinary natural kind concepts. Those debates have sought to accommodate an apparent fact about ordinary people’s judgments: Intuitively, the Twin Earth liquid is not water. We present results from four experiments showing that people do not, in fact, have this intuition. Instead, people tend to have the intuition that there is a sense in which the liquid is not water but also a sense in which it is water. We explore the implications of this finding for debates about theories of natural kind concepts, arguing that it supports views positing two distinct criteria for membership in natural kind categories – one based on deeper causal properties, the other based on superficial, observable properties.

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Author Profiles

Kevin Tobia
Georgetown University
Joshua Knobe
Yale University

Citations of this work

Dual Character Art Concepts.Shen-yi Liao, Aaron Meskin & Joshua Knobe - 2020 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 101 (1):102-128.
Teleological Essentialism.David Rose & Shaun Nichols - 2019 - Cognitive Science 43 (4):e12725.
The Folk Concept of Law: Law Is Intrinsically Moral.Brian Flanagan & Ivar R. Hannikainen - 2022 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 100 (1):165-179.

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Naming and Necessity.S. Kripke - 1972 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 45 (4):665-666.

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