Cats are not necessarily animals

Erkenntnis 89 (4):1387-1406 (2024)
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Some plausibly necessary a posteriori theoretical claims include ‘water is H 2 O’, ‘gold is the element with atomic number 79’, and ‘cats are animals’. In this paper I challenge the necessity of the third claim. I argue that there are possible worlds in which cats exist, but are not animals. Under any of the species concepts currently accepted in biology, organisms do not belong essentially to their species. This is equally true of their ancestors. In phylogenetic systematics, monophyletic clades such as the animal kingdom are composed of an ancestral stem species and all of its descendants. If the stem species had not existed, neither would the clade. Thus it could have been the case that all the organisms which actually belong to the animal kingdom might have existed yet not have been animals.

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Margarida Hermida
King's College London


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