Slater, Matthew (2011) A Different Kind of Property Cluster Kind. [Preprint]
Richard Boyd (1988, 1991, 1999) has long campaigned for a view of natural kinds he calls the Homeostatic Property Cluster (HPC) account. This account has been particularly exciting for philosophers of biology unhappy with traditional essentialism about natural kinds and the views that biological kinds are, in one way or another, “historical entities”. Though defenders of HPC kinds have done much to further articulate the view (see, for example, Kornblith 1993; Griffiths 1997, 1999; Wilson 1999, 2005; Wilson et al. 2007; Chakravartty 2007), many questions about the account remain. One pressing question concerns the way in which HPC kinds are supposed to accommodate our inductive and explanatory practices via causal, homeostatic mechanisms. In addressing the question, I am led to an alternative conception of what a property cluster kind might be. I call my alternative, in deference to its Boydian origins, the Stable Property Cluster (SPC) account of natural kinds. Rather than emphasizing homeostasis or causal mechanism, the SPC account emphasizes the stability of a property cluster over the various ways stability may be maintained. In virtue of this modest change of emphasis, the SPC account does not advertise itself as an account of a kind of natural kind — it is, I think, an attractive candidate for a general natural kind concept, able to accommodate the diversity of natural kinds we find in the world.
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