Transitional Gradation in the Mind: Rethinking Psychological Kindhood

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I here critique the application of the traditional, similarity-based account of natural kinds to debates in psychology. A challenge to such accounts of kindhood—familiar from the study of biological species—is a metaphysical phenomenon that I call ‘transitional gradation’: the systematic progression of slightly modified transitional forms between related candidate kinds. Where such gradation proliferates, it renders the selection of similarity criteria for kinds arbitrary. Reflection on general features of learning—especially on the gradual revision of concepts throughout the acquisition of expertise—shows that even the strongest candidates for similarity-based kinds in psychology exhibit systematic transitional gradation. As a result, philosophers of psychology should abandon discussion of kindhood, or explore non-similarity based accounts.
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Archival date: 2015-01-11
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