Natural Kind Terms and Recognitional Capacities
Brown (Jessica)
Source: Mind - 107/426 (April 1998)
Paper - Abstract

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Philosophers Index Abstract

  1. The main contribution of this paper is a new account of how a community may introduce a term for a natural kind1 in advance of knowing the correct scientific account of that kind.
  2. The account is motivated by the inadequacy of the currently dominant accounts of how a community may do this, namely those proposed by Saul Kripke and by Hilary Putnam. Their accounts fail to deal satisfactorily with the facts that
    1. typically, an item that instantiates one natural kind2 instantiates several - "the higher-level natural kinds3 problem"; and
    2. natural kinds4 often occur in nature in impure form - "the composition problem".
    (edited)

Ingenta Abstract
  1. The main contribution of this paper is a new account of how a community may introduce a term for a natural kind5 in advance of knowing the correct scientific account of that kind. The account is motivated by the inadequacy of the currently dominant accounts of how a community may do this, namely those proposed by Kripke and by Putman. Their accounts fail to deal satisfactorily with the facts that
    1. typically, an item that instantiates one natural kind6 instantiates several - 'the higher-level natural kinds7 problem', and
    2. natural kinds8 often occur in nature in impure form - 'the composition problem'.
  2. On the account I propose, a term for a natural kind9 gains its reference by being associated with a recognitional capacity for that kind. I show how members of a scientifically ignorant community could have a recognitional capacity for a natural kind10, say gold, as opposed to a certain kind of appearance, for instance the appearance that gold actually has. I argue that members of such a community can have recognitional capacities for particular natural kinds11 despite the actual or possible existence of duplicate kinds, e.g. water. After developing the account in detail, I show how it can deal with the two problems faced by Kripke's and Putnam's problem.
  3. The case of natural kind12 terms is crucial to the central debate in the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind about whether we can refer non-descriptively to objects and kinds in the world. I take the account I propose to be a non-descriptive account of linguistic reference to natural kinds13 that can be used to support externalism in the philosophy of mind.

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  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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