Arthritis and Nature's Joints

In Michael O'Rourke, Joseph Keim Campbell & Matthew H. Slater (eds.), Carving Nature at its Joints: Natural Kinds in Metaphysics and Science. MIT Press (2011)

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the view that diseases comprise natural kinds and how this view is in conflict with the essentialist picture of natural kinds as championed by Kripke and Putnam. This essentialist depiction of natural kinds contends that in order for a class of entities to be a natural kind, it is required that all and only members of the class instantiate very specific properties that explain the presence of any other properties typically associated with being a member of the kind; these privileged properties constitute the “essence” of the kind. The problem is that the essentialist picture provides only two options, none of which is desirable: satisfy the essentialist desiderata by locating some etiological feature both necessary and sufficient for kind membership, or reject the thought that similarity between disease instances can be understood in terms of natural kinds.

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Neil E. Williams
State University of New York, Buffalo

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