Natural Kind Essentialism Revisited

Mind 124 (495):795-822 (2015)
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Abstract

Recent work on Natural Kind Essentialism has taken a deflationary turn. The assumptions about the grounds of essentialist truths concerning natural kinds familiar from the Kripke-Putnam framework are now considered questionable. The source of the problem, however, has not been sufficiently explicated. The paper focuses on the Twin Earth scenario, and it will be demonstrated that the essentialist principle at its core (which I call IDENT)—that necessarily, a sample of a chemical substance, A, is of the same kind as another sample, B, if and only if A and B have the same microstructure—must be re-evaluated. The Twin Earth scenario also assumes the falsity of another essentialist principle (which I call INST): necessarily, there is a 1:1 correlation between (all of ) the chemical properties of a chemical substance and the microstructure of that substance. This assumption will be questioned, and it will be argued that, in fact, the best strategy for defending IDENT is to establish INST. The prospects for Natural Kind Essentialism and microstructural essentialism regarding chemical substances will be assessed with reference to recent work in the philosophy of chemistry. Finally, a weakened form of INST will be presented.

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Tuomas E. Tahko
University of Bristol

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