Oslo Mind Group Seminar: Davide Zappulli, A Meta-Metasemantic Defence of the Kripke–Putnam Theory of Natural Kind Terms

We will be discussing a draft of ‘A Meta-Metasemantic Defence of the Kripke–Putnam Theory of Natural Kind Terms’ by Davide Zappulli.

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Abstract: I identify two central claims in the theory of natural kind terms proposed by Kripke and Putnam. The first is what I call ‘metasemantic externalism’, the idea that the meaning of natural kind terms is largely determined by mind-external and mind-independent factors. The second is the claim that the world is full of objective essences, which successful introductions of natural kind terms pick out and constitute sufficient and necessary conditions for kind-membership.

While the theory of Kripke and Putnam is a very popular one, it has been subjected to strong criticisms, especially coming from the philosophy of biology and chemistry in recent years. One central criticism of its opponents is that the theory is incompatible with how natural kind terms are treated in science. In this paper, focusing on biology, I argue that Kripke and Putnam’s theory can successfully respond to this objection.

My defense is based on a distinction between three distinct levels: the semantic level, the metasemantic level, and the meta-metasemantic one. I will start by defining these notions. Then, I will present the theory of Kripke and Putnam and the arguments moved against it. Having put all the pieces on the table, I will argue that the theory of Kripke and Putnam can respond to those objections. Finally, I will consider some objections to the proposed solution.

Note: this is a ‘read-ahead’ seminar and will take place via Microsoft Teams.

A copy of the paper for discussion will be made available in advance via the ‘Seminar’ channel of the Oslo Mind Group team, which is open to all University of Oslo members, or is available upon request from the organizer for non-UiO users (see below). All are welcome to attend.


Keith Wilson
Published Dec. 7, 2020 9:52 AM - Last modified Dec. 7, 2020 10:04 AM