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The Department of Science and Technology Studies, UCL is an interdisciplinary centre for the integrated study of science's history, philosophy, sociology, communication and policy, located in the heart of London. Founded in 1921. Award winning for teaching and research, plus for our public engagement programme. Rated as outstanding by students at every level.

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STS Seminar: Are Chemical Substances Natural Kinds?

Publication date: Oct 2, 2013 4:09:23 PM

Start: Nov 13, 2013 4:00:00 PM
End: Nov 13, 2013 6:00:00 PM

Location: South Wing, Garwood LT

Speaker: Dr Robin Hendry, Durham University

Abstract: 

Are chemical substances natural kinds? On the one hand, chemical kinds like water and gold have been so central to the philosophical literature on natural kinds that they should be regarded as paradigms by which to judge general criteria for the 'naturalness' of other classificatory terms. This suggests that chemical substances cannot fail to be natural kinds. On the other hand, these very examples violate general criteria for being natural kinds that are widely accepted in the metaphysical literature, including (i) discreteness and (ii) independence from classificatory interests. Perhaps chemical substances aren't natural kinds after all.

In response to these tensions I argue that it is the general criteria that should be rejected, because (i) the arguments for applying them are a priori (i.e. independent of information drawn from any particular empirical science), and (ii) there are core cases of natural kinds that fail to satisfy them. I also argue that neither non-discreteness nor interest-dependence undermine important realist theses about natural kinds.

Page last modified on 02 oct 13 16:08 by Jo E Pearson


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