Philosophical Studies

, Volume 172, Issue 4, pp 925–948 | Cite as

Natural kinds as categorical bottlenecks

  • L. R. Franklin-Hall


Both realist and anti-realist accounts of natural kinds possess prima facie virtues: realists can straightforwardly make sense of the apparent objectivity of the natural kinds, and anti-realists, their knowability. This paper formulates a properly anti-realist account designed to capture both merits. In particular, it recommends understanding natural kinds as ‘categorical bottlenecks,’ those categories that not only best serve us, with our idiosyncratic aims and cognitive capacities, but also those of a wide range of alternative agents. By endorsing an ultimately subjective categorical principle, this view sidesteps epistemological difficulties facing realist views. Yet, it nevertheless identifies natural kinds that are fairly, though not completely, stance-independent or objective.


Natural kinds Realism Anti-realism Homeostatic property clusters Classification Categorization 



For helpful discussions of this paper, thanks to Richard Boyd, Marc Ereshefsky, Andrew Franklin-Hall, Sharon Street, Michael Strevens, participants in the Corridor Reading Group (Errol Lord, Barry Maguire, John Morrison and Kristin Primus), and an audience at Cornell University. Many thanks are also due to Elizabeth Radcliffe for organizing this issue and for her patience with my contribution to it.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNew York UniversityManhattanUSA

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