Natural Kinds, Human Kinds, and Essentialism
Haslam (Nick O.)
Source: Social Research; Summer98, Vol. 65 Issue 2, p291-314, 24p
Paper - Abstract

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EBSCOHost Abstract

    This article examines the extendibility of natural-kind concepts and essentialist thinking into the social domain from two angles. First, to what degree is the extension of natural-kind concepts and essentialism warranted epistemologically and second why is it that laypeople's intuitive understandings of human kinds commonly favor such accounts. Both will be tackled in a psychological point of view. The paper argues that the extension of natural-kind concepts into the social domain may be less problematic than many theorists believe, because natural kinds1, at least those in the biological realm, are not what theorists imagine them to be. Biological kinds must be understood in nonessentialist ways, and natural-kind concepts can be relieved of the implication of essentialism. Moreover, essentialist claims have several distinct and loosely bound conceptual components, and accounts of human kinds can profitably retain some components without thereby yielding to essentialism.

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