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date: 28 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Paradigmatically, natural kinds are the kinds of thing or stuff that are classified by the natural sciences. The periodic table provides perhaps the best example of the potential importance of natural kinds for science. In the philosophy of psychiatry, debates over whether mental disorders can be natural kinds emerge because kinds of mental disorder are manifestly different from chemical kinds in various ways. While chemical kinds are precise, psychiatric kinds are fuzzy. While chemical kinds are objective, the identification of psychiatric kinds is value-laden. Psychiatric classification involves classifying people, and unlike chemical elements, those people can respond to being classified in various ways. This chapter goes through these differences, one-by-one, and argues that despite them, mental disorders may be natural kinds.

Keywords: natural kinds, classification, science, explanation, Ian Hacking, functionally defined kinds

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