Early Modern Philosophy Lecture Series - Lodi Nauta (University of Groningen)

Locke and Natural Kinds
Dec 9, 2022, 3:00 pm4:30 pm
201 Laura Wooten Hall (Formerly 201 Marx Hall)



Event Description

Early Modern Philosophy Lecture Series


“Locke and Natural Kinds”


L.W. (Lodi) Nauta

(University of Groningen)


Friday, December 9th

3:00 pm to 4:30 pm

201 Wooten Hall


Abstract: John Locke famously wrote that ‘Men make sorts of Things’, by which he is often taken to mean that we, rather than nature, divide up the world into species. Nature does not tell us which qualities are essential for a thing to possess in order to count as member of this or that species. That is what we do. But if species relate only to our ideas, then ‘natural kind’ on Locke’s account seems to be a contradiction in terms, kinds being per definition the products of human convention and decision, not of nature. In recent scholarship this conclusion has seriously been questioned, for such thorough-going conventionalism seems to leave unexplained why we do see stable, well-delineated and objective differences and similarities in nature. These similarities can be explained by assuming an underlying structure (Locke’s real essence) that individuals of the same species have in common. In this paper I will discuss some recent interpretations to see whether such a realist reading of natural kinds can be attributed to Locke.