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Species, Essences and the Names of Natural KindsAuthor(s): T. E. WilkersonReviewed work(s):Source:
The Philosophical Quarterly,
Vol. 43, No. 170 (Jan., 1993), pp. 1-19Published by:
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ThePhilosophicaluarterlyol.3No.170January993ISSN0031-80942.00
ThePhilosophicalQuarterly
SPECIES,ESSENCES ANDTHE NAMESOFNATURALKINDS
BYT.E. WILKERSONI. PUTNAMON THE NAMES OFNATURAL KINDSAt various timesnthehistoryfphilosophy,ndparticularlynrecentyears,therehave beenattemptso defenddoctrinefnaturalkinds.The centralthoughtsthatobjectsaremembersof natural kindsnvirtue ofcertain intrinsicproperties, uite independentlyofotherobjectsand,inparticular, quite independentlyf ourselves and oursystemsfclassification.ypicalexamplesinclude kinds of chemicalelementsandcompounds(carbon,oxygen,water,nitricacid)andkinds ofbiologicalindividuals(chimpanzee,human, beech,oak).What makescarboncarbon,waterwater,chimpanzeeachimpanzee,an oak anoak,isineach case acertainrealessence,propertyr set ofproperties ecessarynd sufficientormembershipfthekind.Wemaynothavethewit to discoverllthenatural kindshatexistbuttheyre,as itwere,outthere,waitingto bediscovered,and it istheobofscientists o discoverthem.Presentednthatway,thedoctrine fnaturalkinds s ametaphysicalthesis,viewaboutwhat theworldcontainsand how it works. Itinvolvestalkingaboutnatural kinds and realessences,nd does notinvolveasking,forexample,how names fnaturalkinds functionnnaturallanguages.Somephilosopherswill consider that omissionaveryeriousone,and willarguethatasane account of natural kindsmustrest'uponnunderstandingfthewayinwhichwe learn and usegeneralnames,and natural-kind namesinparticular.Oneveryinfluentialccount ofgeneralnames can be foundn anumberfpapers
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2
T. E.WILKERSON
byPutnam,1ndinthispaperIwant to considerwhether heaccountappliesto thenames ofbiologicalkinds.So,althoughPutnamhas agreatdeal tosayaboutsuchnamesas'gold'and'water',Iamonlyinterestednwhathe hastosayabout such namesastiger'nd 'lemon'.Ishall discuss twoalleged problemsand,althoughIhavebroadsympathywith Putnam'sview,Ishalldisagreeovermany mportantdetails.Inthepapersthatformhefocus fourdiscussionPutnamdevelopsthegeneraloutlinesofaviewsince dubbed 'externalism'thats,theview thatrepresentations epresentnlyftheyhave therightortofcausal connectionwithobjectsofthekindrepresented.Meaningsain'tin thehead.'Inparticular,heargues,wordsgettheirmeaning,notbecause we areincertainpecialinternal tateswhen weusethem,butratherbecausetheiruse iscausallyconnectednanappropriatewaywith theobjectsreferred o.WhenIuse a wordliketiger', maywellhave certainthoughtsrideasrunning hroughmyhead,but itreallydoesnotmatterverymuch whattheyare.Imay,forxample,havethoughtsftriped,eline,ierce ndianquadrupedsgoing throughmymind-aset ofpropertieshatLocke would havecalled the nominalessence'ofthenimalsnquestionbutsuchthoughtsonotdeterminethemeaningf theword'tiger'.The crucial(thoughnotperhapstheonly)considerationsthatmyuse of the wordtiger'shouldhavetherightortofcausal connectionwithtigers.Howthenaregeneralnames,andparticularlynames ofnaturalkinds,ntroduced?AccordingoPutnam,we are blessedwithcuriousmixture of confidence andignorance.Wenaturallyfind ourselvesfocusingnagroupofobjectsthataresuperficiallyimilarncolour,shape,habit,geographical position,etc.,and webeginto thinkofcertainobjectsastypicalof thewholegroup.Thegeneralname isintroducedoriginallyasan indexicalexpression,thatis,asanexpressionwhichallows us topoint, iterallyormetaphorically,toobjectsnthegroup.So,forxample,we focusonagroupofanimalsthatarelarge, striped,ierce elinesromndia,and we introducethewordtiger'topointtoanyoneofthose,notherwords,tooneof thetypicaltigers.Notonlycan weconfidently pplythegeneralnametoanyone ofa numberofobjects,but withequalconfidencewecanlistthepropertiesftigers: heyrelarge,triped,ierce elinesromndia.But-andthiss a crucialpointaccordingtoPutnam,thesepropertiesdo notdeterminemembershipf thekind,and thelists nota listof
'SeeH.Putnam,Is SemanticsPossible?',Explanationand Reference'and'TheMeaningof"Meaning"',collectedasChapters8,11 and12of hisPhilosophicalapers,vol.II(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityress,1975).
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