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Natural Kinds, Causal Profile and Multiple Constitution

Max Kistler
From the journal Metaphysica


The identity of a natural kind can be construed in terms of its causal profile. This conception is more appropriate to science than two alternatives. The identity of a natural kind is not determined by one causal role because one natural kind can have many causal roles and several functions and because some functions are shared by different kinds. Furthermore, the microstructuralist thesis is wrong: The identity of certain natural kinds is not determined by their microstructure. It is true that if A and B have the same microstructural composition then a sample of a chemical substance A is of the same chemical substance as a sample of B. However, the reverse does not hold. It is not the case that if a sample of a chemical substance A is of the same chemical substance as a sample of B then A and B have the same microstructural composition. This is because a macroscopic NK can be “multiconstituted” by different microstructures.


Research for this paper has benefited from funding by ANR (grant ANR-12-BSH3-0009). Thank my auditors at Lille and Newark, and in particular A. Barberousse, for their critical remarks.

A French version of this paper has been published in Lato Sensu.

M. Kistler, « Espèces naturelles, profil causal et constitution multiple », Lato sensu, Vol. 3, No 1 (2016), p. 17–30.


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Published Online: 2018-2-3
Published in Print: 2018-3-26

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