Natural kinds as categorical bottlenecks

Philosophical Studies 172 (4):925-948 (2015)

Abstract

Both realist and anti-realist accounts of natural kinds possess prima facie virtues: realists can straightforwardly make sense of the apparent objectivity of the natural kinds, and anti-realists, their knowability. This paper formulates a properly anti-realist account designed to capture both merits. In particular, it recommends understanding natural kinds as ‘categorical bottlenecks,’ those categories that not only best serve us, with our idiosyncratic aims and cognitive capacities, but also those of a wide range of alternative agents. By endorsing an ultimately subjective categorical principle, this view sidesteps epistemological difficulties facing realist views. Yet, it nevertheless identifies natural kinds that are fairly, though not completely, stance-independent or objective.

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Author's Profile

Laura Franklin-Hall
New York University

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