Department of Political Science

Scientific realism with historical essences: The Case of Species

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Natural kinds, real kinds, or, following J.S. Mill simply, Kinds, are thought to be an important asset for scientific realists in the non-fundamental (or “special”) sciences. Essential natures are less in vogue. I show that the realist would do well to couple her Kinds with essential natures in order to strengthen their epistemic and ontological credentials. I argue that these essential natures need not however be intrinsic to the Kind’s members; they may be historical. I concentrate on assessing the merits of historical essential natures in a paradigm case of Kinds in the non-fundamental sciences: species. I specify two basic jobs for essential natures: (1) offering individuation criteria, and (2) providing a causal explanation of the Kind’s multiple projectable properties. I argue that at least in the case of species historical essences are fit for both tasks. The principled resistance to Kinds with historical essences should also be cleared.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSynthese
Volume198
IssueSuppl. 12
Pages (from-to)3041 - 3057
Number of pages17
ISSN0039-7857
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

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