Locke on Essence and the Social Construction of Kinds

In Matthew Stuart (ed.), A Companion to Locke. Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley. pp. 212–235 (2015)
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Abstract

Genesis suggests that God is the creator of kinds. Kinds as Locke understands them are what are nowadays called "social constructions". They are social constructions because the boundaries between them reflect our interests, perspectives, and desires, but in Locke's view those boundaries are not altogether arbitrary, because they also reflect natural or God‐given similarities among things. This chapter looks more closely at the story of creation, and explains how, in John Locke's view, kinds in particular, those kinds whose members Locke calls "substances", come to be. It further comments on the simplicity and explanatory strength of Locke's story. In spite of its strengths, Locke's view is open to many objections and attended by many complications, one of which is considered here. One objection is that the story of creation pays only glancing attention to entities that must exist in order for the story to be true.

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Kenneth Winkler
Yale University

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Locke on Real Essence.Jan-Erik Jones - 2012 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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