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How to carve nature across the joints without abandoning Kripke-Putnam semantics

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Kripke-Putnam semantics (KP) for natural kind terms, according to which truths like ‘water is H2O ’ are metaphysically necessary but knowable only a posteriori, is often taken to have significant metaphysical consequences. In particular, it is often taken to justify ‘natural kind essentialism’. I argue that the metaphysical consequences of KP are in fact extremely weak; in particular, KP is consistent both with species pluralism (the view that there are several, equally ‘correct’ ways of classifying organisms) and with Kuhnian relativism.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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