Locke's theory of classification

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Abstract
Locke is often cited as a precursor to contemporary natural kind realism. However, careful attention to Locke’s arguments show that he was unequivocally a conventionalist about natural kinds. To the extent that contemporary natural kind realists see themselves as following Locke, they misunderstand what he was trying to do. Locke argues that natural kinds require either dubious metaphysical commitments (e.g., to substantial forms or universals), or a question-begging version of essentialism. Contemporary natural kind realists face a similar dilemma, and should not appeal to Locke in their defense.
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Archival date: 2016-08-25
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2009-01-28

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