Activities of kinding in scientific practice

In C. Kendig (ed.), Natural Kinds and Classification in Scientific Practice. Routledge (2016)
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Discussions over whether these natural kinds exist, what is the nature of their existence, and whether natural kinds are themselves natural kinds aim to not only characterize the kinds of things that exist in the world, but also what can knowledge of these categories provide. Although philosophically critical, much of the past discussions of natural kinds have often answered these questions in a way that is unresponsive to, or has actively avoided, discussions of the empirical use of natural kinds and what I dub “activities of natural kinding” and “natural kinding practices”. The natural kinds of a particular discipline are those entities, events, mechanisms, processes, relationships, and concepts that delimit investigation within it—but we might reasonably ask: How are these natural kinds discovered?, How are they made?, Are they revisable?, and Where do they come from? A turn to natural kinding practices reveals a new set of questions open for investigation: How do natural kinds explain through practice?, What are natural kinding practices and classifications and why should we care?, What is the nature of natural kinds viewed as a set of activities?, and How do practice approaches to natural kinds shape and reconfigure scientific disciplines? Natural kinds have traditionally been discussed in terms of how they classify the contents of the world. The metaphysical project has been one which identifies essences, laws, sameness relations, fundamental properties, and clusters of family resemblances and how these map out the ontological space of the world. But actually how this is done has been less important in the discussion than the resultant categories that are produced. I aim to rectify these omissions and suggest a new metaphysical project investigating kinds in practice.

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Catherine Elizabeth Kendig
Michigan State University


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