Natural kinds as nodes in causal networks

Synthese 195 (4):1379-1396 (2018)
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In this paper I offer a unified causal account of natural kinds. Using as a starting point the widely held view that natural kind terms or predicates are projectible, I argue that the ontological bases of their projectibility are the causal properties and relations associated with the natural kinds themselves. Natural kinds are not just concatenations of properties but ordered hierarchies of properties, whose instances are related to one another as causes and effects in recurrent causal processes. The resulting account of natural kinds as clusters of core causal properties that give rise to clusters of derivative properties enables us to distinguish genuine natural kinds from non-natural kinds. For instance, it enables us to say why some of the purely conventional categories derived from the social domain do not correspond to natural kinds, though other social categories may.
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