Carving Nature at Its Joints
Natural Kinds in Metaphysics and Science
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The MIT Press
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The contemporary problem of natural kinds is related to a long tradition of philosophical reflection, dating from at least as far back as Plato’s discussions of Forms. Natural kinds offer an answer to the question, what is it for an individual thing to belong to a certain kind of thing and thus to be of the same kind as other particular...
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Earlier versions of the essays in this volume were presented at the eleventh annual Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference (INPC), held March 15 – 17, 2008, in Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho. For their financial and administrative support of the conference, we thank the philosophy departments at Washington State...
1. Introduction: Lessons from the Scientific Butchery
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Good chefs know the importance of maintaining sharp knives in the kitchen. What’s their secret? A well-worn Taoist allegory offers some advice. The king asks about his butcher’s impressive knife-work. “Ordinary butchers,” he replies “hack their way through the animal. Thus their knife always needs sharpening. My father...
2. Induction, Samples, and Kinds
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There are lots of ways of answering such questions. In “ induction,” the questions are answered by noting the relation between F and G in observed cases and making some sort of extrapolation or generalization. This is presumably done with the aid of background knowledge. But the approach taken is one in which the number...
3. It Takes More Than All Kinds to Make a World
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The various species of elementary particle (some of which are depicted below, in table 3.1) are in many ways ideal cases of natural kinds. Each elementary particle belongs to exactly one of these natural kinds and it essentially belongs to that kind. In terms of certain properties, there are perfect uniformities within each...
4. Lange and Laws, Kinds, and Counterfactuals
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In this essay I examine and question Marc Lange’s account of laws, and his claim in the preceding chapter that the law delineating the range of natural kinds of fundamental particle has a lesser grade of necessity than do laws connecting the fundamental properties of those kinds with their derived properties...
5. Are Fundamental Laws Necessary or Contingent?
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A central issue in metaphysics is whether there are any necessary relations in nature. The Humean answer is that there are not, so that laws of nature are contingent. The opposing view, that laws of nature are such necessary relations, offers a very different metaphysical picture of the universe. In this essay I primarily address a dispute...
6. Para-Natural Kinds
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There is a folk taxonomy for para-natural kinds. Scientists refine this taxonomy by improving the alignment of our commonsense categories with the corresponding para-natural kinds. After William Hershel discovered infrared light, physicists acquiesced to his talk of invisible shadows (despite the locution echoing the...
7. Boundaries, Conventions, and Realism
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If you have driven in Europe recently you may have had that strange feeling. You see a sign that says ‘Deutschland' or ‘France’ or ‘España’ — and just drive through. No customs barrier, no passport control — just a sign. You say “Ah!” and carry on; the sign could be a hundred yards further out and it would make no difference. Yet by crossing...
8. Natural Kinds and Biological Realisms
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There are a number of “realism” issues in biology, issues about what “exists,” what is “real,” what is “objective.” In general, realism issues tend to be confused and the biological ones are no exception. We shall see that the interesting realism issues in biology are best seen as ones over which kinds “carve nature at its...
9. Three Ways of Resisting Essentialism about Natural Kinds
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Essentialism about natural kinds has three tenets. The first tenet is that all and only members of a natural kind have 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...
10. Arthritis and Nature’s Joints
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It should come as a surprise to almost no-one that the thought that diseases constitute natural kinds does not generally sit well with the essentialist picture of natural kinds as championed by Kripke and Putnam in the 1970s. According to that essentialist picture, in order for a class of entities to be a natural kind it is required...
11. Predicting Populations by Modeling Individuals
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Despite their many differences, the so-called dynamic and statistical interpretations of evolutionary theory (ET) share a common understanding of that theory. ET is, among other things, a theory about how frequencies of types change in populations, and these changes are recorded as changes in the values of variables measured...
12. Similarity and Species Concepts
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Conceptions of species that are explicitly based on similarity or resemblance between group members have fallen out of widespread favor despite the apparent importance of morphological criteria of identification for field biologists. To put the matter succinctly: similarity, be it morphological or genotypic, is widely regarded as insufficient...
13. Species Concepts and Natural Goodness
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Philippa Foot (2001) has defended a form of natural goodness evaluation in which living things are evaluated by how well fitted they are for flourishing as members of their species, in ways characteristic of their species. She has argued, further, that assessments of moral goodness (virtue and vice) in humans are...
14. How to Think about the Free Will/Determinism Problem
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Common sense says that we have free will. We make choices. And while we are sometimes in a position where we make a choice while being mistaken about what our options are, this is not always, or even usually, the case. Ordinarily, when we make a choice we really do have the choice we think we have. You can stop reading this...
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Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Topics in Contemporary Philosophy