Natural kinds is a widely used and pivotal concept in philosophy – the idea being that the classifications and taxonomies employed by science correspond to the real kinds in nature. Natural kinds are often opposed to the idea of kinds in the human and social sciences, which are typically seen as social constructions, characterised by changing norms and resisting scientific reduction. Yet human beings are also a subject of scientific study.Does this mean humans fall into corresponding kinds of their own?
In The Epistemology and Morality of Human Kinds Marion Godman defends the idea of human kinds. She first examines the scientific use and nature of human kinds, considering the arguments of key philosophers whose work bears upon human kinds, such as Ian Hacking, John Searle, Richard Boyd and Ruth Millikan. Using the examples of gender, ethnic minorities and Buddhism she then argues that human kinds are a result of ongoing historical reproduction, chiefly due to pre-existing cultural models and social learning. Her novel argument shifts the focus away from the reductionism characteristic of research about human kinds. Instead, sheargues that they are “multiply projectable” and deserving of scientific study not in spite of, but because of their role in explaining our identity, injusticeand the emergence of group rights.
Table of Contents
2. Human kinds for knowledge and as levers for change
3. Existing approaches to human kinds
4. Historical Kinds
5. Gender as a historical kind: A plea for reclassification
6. What is culture and how is it realized?
7. How historical kinds achieve a moral standing
8. Conclusion: The key contributions of human historical kinds.
Marion Godman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Aarhus University, Denmark and an Affiliated Scholar of the History and Philosophy of Science Department at Cambridge University, UK. She is currently a recipient of a Sapere Aude research leader grant examining what a theory of human kinds (or groups) can tell us about the basis for group rights.