Kinds of Kinds: A Workshop on the Philosophy of Kinds

February 14, 2023 - February 15, 2023
University of Bristol (UK)

Wills Reception Room
Clifton Hill House
Bristol BS8 1BX
United Kingdom


Oxford University
University of Birmingham
University of Leeds
New York University
CUNY Graduate Center
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
University College London


University of Bristol

Talks at this conference

Add a talk



In the sciences and everyday life, we divide particular objects into kinds of objects. Scientists for instance, are not particularly interested in particular electrons, molecules, genes, or organisms, but are interested in studying kinds of objects such as electron, molecule, gene, and organism. These kinds are said to be natural kinds - groupings of particulars that reflect the structure of the natural world - and theirexistence seems crucial for scientific classification and generating explanations and predictions. Other kinds, no less important, are taken to be social or conventional kinds, such as race, gender, and artefacts, and seem crucial for navigating and understanding the social world. 

Despite being ubiquitous inside and outside of the sciences, kinds raise several difficult questions:  

  • What kinds of kinds are there? There are many different ways of grouping objects into kinds. Are all of these on par? For instance, the kind molecule seems legitimate, but the kind small pebbles in my pocket seem less so.Why is this? Furthermore, some kinds are studied across different sciences, such as biochemical kinds which are studied by biologists and chemists. Are biochemical kinds distinct kinds in their own right, or are they ultimately chemical or biological kinds? Moreover, can biological objects belong to more than one kind? An important biological kind is biological individual, and many philosophers of biology draw a distinction between different kinds of biological individual such as organism, evolutionary individual, and developmental individual. How are these kinds of kinds related? Can an object belong to all these kinds at once? 
  • What makes a kind natural rather than social or conventional? Is this even a good distinction? The paradigmatic natural kinds studied by scientists are often taken to be useful for scientific goals. Evolutionary biologists, for instance, rely on the kinds organism and gene when making predictions about the spread of a trait in the population. What is the relationship between the kinds that scientists postulate and their explanatory interests or goals? If the kinds that scientists postulate are based on their interests, does that detract from their naturalness, or the natural vs social/conventional distinction? Furthermore, what is the relationship between higher level kinds, such as social kinds and kinds in the special sciences, and kinds in the more fundamental sciences? Is the relationship one of reduction, grounding, emergence Or are some emergent? 
  • Are kinds real features of the world? Might kinds merely be useful fictions or tools for doing science and navigating the social world? Should we be fictionalists about some kinds, but not about others? 

This two-day workshop willbring together philosophers of different disciplines to address these questions. The upshot will be an illuminating discussion about the role and nature of kinds in the sciences, across the sciences, and beyond. 

Full information and registration via Eventbrite link.

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)




January 26, 2023, 11:30pm EET

External Site

Who is attending?

No one has said they will attend yet.

Will you attend this event?

Let us know so we can notify you of any change of plan.

RSVPing on PhilEvents is not sufficient to register for this event.