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École normale supérieure


"Natural kinds : a new synthesis"

Theoria, 35, pp. 365-387, 2020

Anouk Barberousse, Françoise Longy, Francesca Merlin, Stéphanie Ruphy

What is a natural kind ? This old yet lasting philosophical question has recently received new competing answers (e.g., Chakravartty, 2007 ; Magnus, 2014 ; Khalidi, 2013 ; Slater, 2015 ; Ereshefsky & Reydon, 2015). We show that the main ingredients of an encompassing and coherent account of natural kinds are actually on the table, but in need of the right articulation. It is by adopting a non-reductionist, naturalistic and non-conceptualist approach that, in this paper, we elaborate a new synthesis of all these ingredients. Our resulting proposition is a multiple-compartment theory of natural kinds that defines them in purely ontological terms, clearly distinguishes and relates ontological and epistemological issues - more precisely, two grains of ontological descriptions and two grains of explanatory success of natural kinds -, and which sheds light on why natural kinds play an epistemic role both within science and in everyday life.

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