When Traditional Essentialism Fails: Biological Natural Kinds

Philosophical Topics 35 (1-2):189-215 (2007)
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Essentialism is widely regarded as a mistaken view of biological kinds, such as species. After recounting why (sections 2-3), we provide a brief survey of the chief responses to the “death of essentialism” in the philosophy of biology (section 4). We then develop one of these responses, the claim that biological kinds are homeostatic property clusters (sections 5-6) illustrating this view with several novel examples (section 7). Although this view was first expressed 20 years ago, and has received recent discussion and critique, it remains underdeveloped and is often misrepresented by its critics (section 8).

Author Profiles

Matt Barker
Concordia University
Ingo Brigandt
University of Alberta
Robert A. Wilson
University of Western Australia


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