Authority and Natural Kind Essence
Received: 27 July 2016 / Accepted: 14 December 2016 / Published online: 24 December 2016
Ó Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract If natural kinds have microstructural essences they have them indepen-
dently of rules for the application of kind terms. This suggests that what those rules
are should make no difference to the essences being discoverable. I present two
thought-experiments that suggest otherwise, however. Each shows an authority’s
application of rules creates the appearance of there being kind essences; absent
those rules, the appearance vanishes. This suggests natural kind essences are not
independent of authority-sanctioned rules.
Keywords Natural kinds Á Conventionalism Á Anti-realism
Due largely to Kripke and Putnam there is a familiar story about the metaphysics of
natural kinds, and the semantics and meta-semantics of natural kind terms.
central tenets of this story include the following:
(i) Discovering the essential properties of natural kinds is one goal of
(ii) The essential properties of natural kinds are microstructural.
& Jonah Goldwater
The College of William and Mary, 131 Blair Hall, Williamsburg, VA 23187, USA
Although there are good reasons to distinguish Kripke from Putnam on these matters (Williams 2011;
Hacking 2007a), I will follow orthodoxy in referring to a ‘‘Kripke-Putnam’’ account.
‘Microstructure’ and ‘microstructural’ have become catchall terms, encompassing both microcompo-
sition, e.g. the chemical formula H
O, and microstructure, i.e. the speciﬁc spatial arrangement of atoms or
Axiomathes (2018) 28:1–12