In March 2014, I attended a workshop on natural kinds in Paris. Other attendees included Matt Slater, Muhammad Ali Khalidi, and Thomas Reydon. It seemed to me that, although we disagreed about many of the details, we shared a core conception of natural kinds.1 I mooted the idea of writing a consensus statement. We could give it a flashy name, refer to in our writing, and then maybe other people would start using the phrase too.
Today, while moving the last papers out of my old office, I came across an outline from the conference. Here I’ve quoted it exactly, including the all-caps title.2 Despite agreement from at least some of the others, nobody else assented to sign on.
THE SPRINGTIME in PARIS VIEW
- NKs should be understood by way of scientific classification
- they are natural to the extent that the world constrains classificatory categories3
- metaphysical depth is attained by starting superficially and, by considering evidence, making contingent a posteriori claims of greater depth
- Regarding some of the subtle disagreements, see my review of Khalidi’s book.
- It fits nicely with the modest naturalism that I wrote about yesterday.
- I.e.— categories are natural to the extent that the world constrains classificatory practice.