Stijn Conix & Pei-Shan Chi
It has recently been argued that the concept of natural kinds should be eliminated because it does not play a productive theoretical role and even harms philosophical research on scientific classification. This paper argues that this justification for eliminativism fails because the notion of ‘natural kinds’ plays another epistemic role in philosophical research, namely, it enables fruitful investigation into non-arbitrary classification. It does this in two ways: first, by providing a fruitful investigative entry into scientific classification; and second—as is supported by bibliometric evidence—by tying together a research community devoted to non-arbitrary classification. The question of eliminativism then requires weighing off the benefits of retaining the concept against its harms. We argue that the progressive state of philosophical work on natural kinds tips this balance in favour of retaining the concept.