, Volume 195, Issue 4, pp 1487–1508 | Cite as

Anchoring in ecosystemic kinds

  • Matthew H. SlaterEmail author
S.I.: Causation in Metaphysics


The world contains many different types of ecosystems. This is something of a commonplace in biology and conservation science. But there has been little attention to the question of whether such ecosystem types enjoy a degree of objectivity—whether they might be natural kinds. I argue that traditional accounts of natural kinds that emphasize nomic or causal–mechanistic dimensions of “kindhood” are ill-equipped to accommodate presumptive ecosystemic kinds. In particular, unlike many other kinds, ecosystemic kinds are “anchored” to the contingent character of species and higher taxa and their abiotic environments. Drawing on Slater (Br J Philos Sci 66(2):375–411, 2015a), I show how we can nevertheless make room for such contingent anchoring in an account of natural kinds of ecosystems kinds.


Ecosystems Natural kinds HPC kinds SPC kinds Laws Stability 



Thanks to audiences at the IHPST workshop on “Causation and Metaphysics” organized by Andrew McFarland (particularly Andrew, P.D. Magnus, Thomas Reydon) and at POBAM2014 (particularly Matt Barker, Matt Haber, Roberta Millstein, Elliott Sober, and Joel Velasco) for helpful suggestions. Thanks also to two anonymous referees for Synthese for constructive criticism and Jay Odenbaugh and Jeff Trop for sound advice on earlier drafts.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bucknell UniversityLewisburgUSA

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