Review. Natural kinds. T.E. Wilkerson
Daly (Chris)
Source: Mind, 105, Number 419, July 1996, pp. 514-517(4)
Paper - Abstract

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Introduction

    This book presents a thorough and detailed account of the metaphysics of natural kinds1. It is extremely well presented and written with marvellous clarity. Its chief themes are that natural kinds2 have real essences, and that laws of nature are metaphysical necessities. In outline, Wilkerson makes the following claims. There are various kinds of entities with various associated explanations. But since physicalism is true, physical facts, and their associated explanations, are privileged (Ch. 1). Some kinds of entities are natural kinds3, others are not. An object is a member of a natural kind4 in virtue of having a real essence: a set of properties necessary and sufficient for membership of that kind. It is also a member of a natural kind5 irrespective of whatever other objects exist, and whatever properties they have. Hence the properties which form a real essence are intrinsic properties. Moreover, an object’s causal powers are determined solely by is intrinsic properties. Since the members of a natural kind6 share certain intrinsic properties (those formed by their real essence), they have characteristic causal powers. Consequently, the members of a natural kind7 are governed by characteristic causal laws. Three types of non-natural kinds can be distinguished (Ch. 2). The laws of nature hold as a matter of metaphysical necessity. Social sciences probably do not study natural kinds8, and so probably are not genuine sciences (Ch. 3). Putnam’s theory of natural kind9 terms needs modifying because many terms in ordinary language classification are intended to designate non-natural kinds, and other such terms intend, but fail, to designate natural kinds10 (Ch. 4). Species lack necessary and sufficient conditions for membership, and so are not natural kinds11 (Ch. 5). There are no individual essences (Ch. 6).

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