Three Kinds of Social Kinds

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Abstract

Could some social kinds be natural kinds? In this paper, I argue that there are three kinds of social kinds: 1) social kinds whose existence does not depend on human beings having any beliefs or other propositional attitudes towards them (e.g. recession, racism); 2) social kinds whose existence depends in part on specific attitudes that human beings have towards them, though attitudes need not be manifested towards their particular instances (e.g. money, war); 3) social kinds whose existence and that of their instances depend in part on specific attitudes that human beings have towards them (e.g. permanent resident, prime minister). Although all three kinds of social kinds are mind-dependent, this does not make them ontologically subjective or preclude them from being natural kinds. Rather, what prevents the third kind of social kinds from being natural kinds is that their properties are conventionally rather than causally linked.

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