Limitations of natural-kind talk in the life sciences: Homology and other cases

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    The aim of this article is to detail some reservations against the beliefs, claims, or presuppositions that current essentialist natural kind concepts (including homeostatic property cluster kinds) model grouping practices in the life sciences accurately and generally. Such concepts fit reasoning into particular preconceived epistemic and semantic patterns. The ability of these patterns to fit scientific practice is often argued in support of homeostatic property cluster accounts, yet there are reasons to think that in the life sciences kind concepts exhibit a diversity of grouping practices that are flattened out by conceptualizing them as natural kinds. Instead this article argues that the process of understanding grouping practices needs to start from a more neutral position independent of any ontological account. Following Love (Acta Biotheor 57:51–75, 2009) this paper suggests that typical natural kind concepts should be broached in the first place as grouping strategies that use a variety of semantic and epistemic tactics to apply group-bound information to tasks of explanation and understanding.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109-120
    JournalBiological Theory
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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