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Natural Kinds and Nominal Kinds*

S T E P H E N P. SCHWARTZ

There is an important and often overlooked distinction between


natural kind terms and nominal kind terms, as I have argued

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elsewhere.1 Some familiar examples of natural kind terms are
'gold', 'water', and 'tiger'. According to Putnam and Kripke
natural kind terms are rigid designators. Putnam holds that this
is due to their indexicality. In the ideal case, the extension of a
natural kind term is not determined by descriptive concepts or
lists of non-trivial necessary and sufficient conditions. A natural
kind term is meant to refer to whatever has a common underlying
trait or essence, even though this underlying trait may be unknown
to us. When we speak of water, we believe that there is a chemical
nature that makes some stuff water, independently of its superficial
characteristics. We believe that we know what this nature is in
the case of waternamely, being H a O. This is an empirical
matter, however, and thus we might be wrong. There is no (even
loose) analytical specification of what it is to be water. It is my
view that nominal kind terms differ from natural kind terms in
that the extension of a nominal kind term is not gathered by an
underlying trait. Perhaps the best examples of nominal kind
terms are the names of common artifacts such as 'pencil', 'bottle',
and 'chair'. Underlying traits play no role in the semantics of such
terms. The essence of a nominal kind is not a natural essence,
rather nominal kinds, at least in the ideal case, do have a linguistic
essence. This linguistic essence is the definition of the nominal
kind term. The extension of a nominal kind term is determined
by an analytical specification of superficial features such as
phenomenal properties, and/or form, function, or origin. In this
paper I will suggest a useful criterion for distinguishing between
natural kind terms and nominal kind terms.
A general term is indexical, according to Putnam, if and only
if its extension is determined by a similarity relation pegged to
I would like to thank Eric Lerner and Walter Horn for helpful comments
on earlier drafts of this paper.
i See my 'Putnam on Artifacts', The Philosophical Reviao, October, 1978,
pp. 366-574.
183
NATURAL KINDS AND NOMINAL KINDS 183

a paradigm. In other words, the extension of the term is not


determined by descriptions semantically associated with the term
but by an ostensive ceremony in which one points out some stuff
or things that one takes to be paradigmatic and says, 'Everything
of the same kind as this is in the extension'. Of course, the
'pointing' can be done by descriptions that are used to fix the
reference (but not define the term). In general, any descriptions
associated with an indexical term serve merely to fix the reference.

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Once a term has been indexically introduced what counts as of
the 'same kind' as the paradigm will be a matter of empirical
research and scientific theorizing. Putnam seems to hold that
virtually all of the general terms in our language are indexical.
It seems that there is a strong tendency for words which are
introduced as 'one-criterion' words to develop a 'natural kind*
sense, with all the concomitant rigidity and indexicality.1
He says that his indexical analysis applies to 'the great majority
of all nouns, and to other parts of speech as well' (p. 160).
Despite what Putnam says, it does not seem to me at all
plausible that the great majority of nouns are indexical. Consider
for example the term 'sloop'. Allowing for vagueness, open
texture, and clustering, we can give an analytical specification of
what it is to be a sloop. 'A boat having a single mast with a
mainsail and jib is a sloop.'2 The extension of 'sloop' is not
determined by a similarity relation pegged to a paradigm, nor is
the extension determined by an underlying trait that is the subject
of empirical research. There might be many areas of empirical
research involving sloops, but we do not conduct scientific
inquiries into what a sloop is or what makes something a sloop
as we do into what makes something a tiger or some metal gold.
The definition of 'sloop' cjed above does not function as a
description used to fix the reference but rather it tells us what a
sloop is, what kind of boat it is. The reason we cannot give an
analytical specification of what it is to be gold or a tiger has
nothing to do with vagueness, open texture, or clustering. So the
fact, if it is a fact, that our analytical specification can be attacked
as open textured, vague, or (if completely stated) involving a
cluster of descriptions does not show that the term we are
1 Hilary Putnam, 'The Meaning of "Meaning"', in Language, Mind, and
Knowledge, edited by Keith Gunderson (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1975), p. 162.
2 Chapman, 1972 edition, p. 14.
184 STEPHEN P. SCHWARTZ:

attempting to define is indexical. I think that what I have said


about 'sloop' holds also for vastly many other general terms. Does
it seem at all plausible that terms such as 'foreigner', 'breakfast',
'fraud', 'game', 'joke', 'neighbourhood', 'obstacle', 'tale', and
'freight' are indexical? And among the terms for kinds of artifacts,
tools, parts of machines, types of food, articles of clothing, ranks,
ceremonies, legal procedures, and so on, are many more terms
like these. Such terms are not indexical. They are nominal kind

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terms.1
Given that there is a distinction between nominal kind terms
and natural kind terms, how do we tell which a given general
term is? The criterion that I will propose for distinguishing
natural kind terms from nominal kind terms utilizes our intuitions
about proposed counterexamples to claims about the kind in
question.
It has been pointed out by Kripke and Putnam that certain
generalizations involving natural kind terms are necessary if true
and yet a posteriori and synthetic. Some often quoted examples
are 'Water is H 2 O', 'Gold is the element with atomic number 79',
and 'Tigers are animals'. These are not analytic because they
are not true by definition, and they are not a priori because they
are the results of empirical research, and they are not incorrigible
because we can imagine discovering them to be false. If they are
true, however, then they are necessarily true. One way of putting
this point is to say that these generalizations are metaphysically
necessary if true and yet epistemically contingent. Another way
of putting this is that such generalizations as 'Water is H 2 O' or
'Tigers are animals' are not subject to falsification by counter-
example, even though they are corrigible. If we came upon some
liquid that was not H2O but that resembled water in all its
superficial properties, we would not say that some water is not
H 2 O. Rather, we would say that this water imposter is not water.
Likewise, if we discovered a robot in the form of a tiger, we would
not say that we have found a counterexample to the claim that
all tigers are animals. The generalization that all tigers are animals
cannot be falsified by a single counterexample. This does not
mean, of course, that 'Tigers are animals' is incorrigible. We
might discover that all the tigers are robots. It is also the case
that analytic propositions cannot be refuted by counterexample,
1 For more detailed argument and discussion on this issue see my 'Putnam
on Artifacts'.
NATURAL KINDS AND NOMINAL KINDS 185

but this is because they are incorrigible. What I am suggesting is


that there are some corrigible propositions that are not falsifiable
by counterexample. 'All tigers are animals' is synthetic and
corrigible, yet there could not be an isolated counterexample to
this claim.
It is important to focus for a moment on this feature of 'not
being falsifiable by counterexample* because it is easily misunder-
stood. I do not want to deny the logical law that any statement

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of the form 'All S is P ' is falsified if there is a single S that is
not P, nor do I want to deny that sometimes the appearance of
even a single 5 that is not P can cause the overthrow of any
synthetic generalization of the form of 'All S is P'. Nevertheless
there are some synthetic generalizations of this form such that
it is a metaphysical impossibility that there be an S that is not P.
In order to help us discern this feature of these generalizations
I will describe a test that I call 'the counterexample test'.
Suppose we have a statement of the form 'All S is P'. We
conduct the counterexample test by assuming that there are lots
of S's, and then we ask 'Could it be the case that every S but one is
PV If the answer is 'No, given the assumption that there are lots
of S's, it could not be the case that there could only ever have
been one 5 that was not P ' then the statement passes the counter-
example test. Otherwise it fails. That a statement passes the
counterexample test implies that it is metaphysically necessary,
but not that it is incorrigible or epistemically necessary. This has
led to a lot of confusion since if one simply asks, as philosophers
do, a question of the form 'Can we conceive of an S that isn't P '
one can get different answers depending on the operative
assumptions. If we ask 'Can we conceive of a tiger that isn't an
animal?' and mean by this question 'Is "Tigers are animals"
corrigible? That is, can we conceive of the falsity of "Tigers are
animals"?' it seems to me that the answer is rYes.' On the other
hand 'Tigers are animals' passes the counterexample test. 'There
are lots of tigers. You are all familiar with them. All the known
tigers are animals. This we are sure of. Given this, could another
tiger be produced or turn up that isn't an animal? That is, could
every one of the many tigers be animals but one?' Put this way,
the answer is obviously 'No'. 'Tigers are animals' passes the
counterexample test. Because they fail to make the operative
assumptions explicit when they ask 'Could there be an 5 that
isn't P?' some have been led to believe that 'Tigers are animals'
l86 STEPHEN P. SCHWARTZ:

and statements like it are analytic. In one sense there could not
be a tiger that isn't an animal (given that all the other tigers are
animals), and in another sense there could be (we can imagine
discovering that all the tigers are some sort of robot). Clearly,
however, 'Tigers are animals' cannot both be analytic and
corrigible. In any case, when I say that a generalization is not
falsifiable by counterexample or that it is not refutable by counter-
example I mean only that it passes the counterexample test.

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'Tigers are animals' is necessary if true, since it passes the counter-
example test, and is corrigible.
In order to facilitate discussion, I will call generalizations that
are corrigible but pass the counterexample test 'stable generaliza-
tions'. Examples of stable generalizations are 'Water is H 2 O',
'Tigers are animals', and 'Gold is an element'. Stable generaliza-
tions are just those generalizations that Kripke and Putnam
demonstrated to be necessary if true, synthetic, and yet a
posteriori. Thus stable generalizations are generalizations that are
necessary if true, synthetic, a posteriori, corrigible, and that pass
the counterexample test.
Let us consider some examples of non-stable generalizations
and compare them to stable ones. Consider the claim that all the
tigers live in India. This is a non-stable generalization. All we need
to do in order to falsify it is to produce one single tiger that does
not live in India, which is clearly possible, even though every
other tiger lives in India. Consider a presumably true general-
izationthe claim that all tigers live on earth. This is not stable
either because this claim fails the counterexample test. Clearly
we could discover that sometime ago a space ship from some
distant planet came to earth and kidnapped one of our tigers
and that the kidnapped tiger is now living on the distant planet.
It is not impossible that many tigers live on earth, and that one
does not live on earth. When we compare these non-stable
generalizations to the stable ones cited above with respect to how
they fare under the counterexample test we see that there is a
genuine difference between stable and non-stable generalizations.
So far all the examples of stable generalizations that we have
considered are presumed to be true, but even a statement that
is presumed to be false could be stable. For example, the
generalization 'Whales are fish' is stable. It is corrigible and passes
the counterexample test. Assume that there are lots of whales.
Could they all be fish but one? If there was one mammalian whale-
NATURAL KINDS AND NOMINAL KINDS 187

like creature and all the rest of the whales were fish, we would say
that this whalelike mammal was not a whale. I think the same
holds for 'Tigers are robots', "Water is xyz', and 'Gold is a
compound'.
The reason that I have emphasized that stable generalizations
pass the counterexample test is because this is often an easily
discernible feature of a generalization. It is," as it were, the
epistemic correlate of the fact that stable generalizations are

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metaphysically necessary if true. Whether a generalization is
refutable by counterexample is readily testable by thought
experiment. Thus we can use the stability or non-stability of
generalizations to formulate a usable criterion for distinguishing
natural kind terms from nominal kind terms. A natural kind term
occurs as the subject term of stable generalizations, whereas there
are no stable generalizations with a nominal kind term as subject.
Thus a term is a natural kind term if and only if it occurs as the
subject term in some stable generalizations. A term is a nominal
kind term if and only if it does not occur in any stable
generalizations.
This criterion for distinguishing natural kind terms from
nominal kind terms depends on the fact that natural kind terms
function differently than nominal kind terms. Since the extension
of a natural kind term is gathered by an underlying trait every
member of the extension must have the trait and any features
that follow from having the trait. That the extension of a natural
kind term is governed by an underlying trait may be a linguistic
fact, but the particular trait in question must be discovered
empirically. Thus any statements that purport to be about the
nature of a natural kind will be necessary if true but corrigible.
They will pass the counterexample test because in applying this
test we assume that some feature is part of the nature of the kind
named by the subject term of the generalization under con-
sideration, then we ask if a member of the kind could be found
that lacked the feature. The answer must be 'No' since an
individual that lacked the feature would be excluded from the
extension of the term. That the feature in question is part of
the nature of the kind is an empirical claim, of course, and is
corrigible.
Stable generalizations do not occur with nominal kind terms as
subject because nominal kind terms do not get their extensions via
underlying traits that are to be empirically discovered. This means
188 STEPHEN P. SCHWARTZ:

any given property is either analytically associated with the term as


part of its meaning (and I include here properties that logically
follow from those in the meaning) or it will be a contingent fact
that members of the extension of the nominal kind have or fail to
have the property. Thus every generalization with a nominal kind
term as subject will either be analytic or contingent. None could
be necessary arid corrigible. The analytic generalizations are
incorrigible, and the contingent ones cannot be necessary even if

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true. Thus there will in no case be stable generalizations with
nominal kind terms as subjects.
That there are no stable generalizations with a nominal kind
term as subject term implies that natural kind terms can never be
used in the analytical specification of what it is to be a member
of some nominal kind. Suppose it were a semantic requirement
that, say, boats are intended to be used on water. We are supposing
that anything that was not so intended could not correctly be
called a boat. Thus being intended for use on water would be part
of the definition of boat. Then since *Water is H 2 O' is a stable
generalization, 'All boats are intended to be used on H 2 O' would
be also. We might learn that water is not, in fact, H 2 O, so that
boats are intended for use on H2O cannot be incorrigible and
thus cannot be analytic. On the other hand 'All boats are intended
for use on H 2 O' will be necessarily true if water is necessarily
H 2 O. Which it may well be. Thus if being intended for use on
water is semantically associated with 'boat' then 'boat' will be
the subject of a stable generalization. This would also imply that
'Sloops are intended for use on H a O' is stable, since sloops are
defined to be a type of boat.
Consider another case. Suppose it were a semantic requirement
that bachelors be male human beings, then since 'Human beings are
animals' is stable, 'Bachelors are animals' will also be stable.
'Bachelors are all human beings' will be analytic and thus 'All
bachelors are animals' will follow. 'All bachelors are animals' will
not however be incorrigible or contingent. Itwill bejust as corrigible
as 'Human beings are animals', and just as necessary if it is true.
I have used 'sloop' and 'bachelor' as examples of nominal kind
terms, so such a result would be disastrous for my proposed
criterion.
It may seem at first that the definitions "boat' and 'bachelor'
must contain reference to water and human beings, and thus that
I must abandon my criterion, but in fact they do not. Consider
NATURAL KINDS AND NOMINAL KINDS 189
'boat' first. Putnam has us imagine a distant planet called Twin
Earth.1 Twin Earth is just like Earth except that what passes for
water on Twin Earth isn't H 2 O. It is some complicated chemical
call it XYZthat mimics all the phenomenal properties of water
but isn't water. Now the oceans, lakes and rivers of Twin Earth
are filled with XYZ, not water. Surely the Twin Earthians can
have boats that sail upon these oceans, lakes, and rivers. This is not
ruled out by the very meaning of 'boat'. But then being intended

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for use on water is not a semantic requirement connected with
twat'. This same argument shows that 'water' does not occur in
the definitions of such terms as 'ocean', 'lake', 'river', 'harbour',
'tide', and ao on. There can be oceans of mercury, or XYZ, or
whatever you like. There can be harbours and tides in these
oceans, and so on. Nor is the notion of liquid semantically involved
with these terms. We can correctly speak of a lake even though
its entire contents are frozen solid. Perhaps there could be oceans
of dust, harbours on these oceans, and boats that sail across them.
It seems to me that the definition of 'boat' need only involve
superficial features, although stated in such terms it may be
vastly complex. The claim that boats are intended to be used on
water is at best a true contingent claim. It is not analytic. I see
no reason not to suppose that every truth about boats will either
be analytic or contingent. Very similar arguments can be used
to show that it is not a semantic requirement that bachelors be
human beings. Surely there might be another planet on which
there are humanoid beings (that is, creatures having a human
form but which are non-human). They may have marriage
customs similar to our own, in which case we should be able to
identify the bachelors. If'we required by definition that bachelors,
husbands, children, aunts, uncles, and so on be human then we
could not even describe the customs of these non-humans. But,
clearly, we can. We may require that bachelors be persons, but
I see no reason to believe that 'person' is a natural kind term.
Clearly, it is possible that there be non-human, and even non-
animal, persons. This is not ruled out by the meaning of 'person'.
If one is tempted to think that some natural kind term occurs in
the definition of another term, just imagine a world like our own
in which that natural kind does not exist, but its place is taken
1 Hilary Putnam, 'Meaning and Reference', in Naming, Necessity, and
Natural Kinds, edited by Stephen P. Schwartz (Ithaca: Cornell University
Press, 1977), pp. 121-12^. Putnam introduces Twin Earth for a different
purpose from that for which I am using it.
190 STEPHEN P. SCHWARTZ:

by something else with the same superficial properties. Would the


term still apply to the things corresponding in that world to the
things it applies to in the actual world? If so, then the natural
kind is not semantically connected to the term in question.
All this is not to say that natural kind terms never occur in
definitions. They just never occur in the definitions of nominal
kind terms. Thus if a natural kind term occurs in a definition,
then the term being defined must be a natural kind term. Although

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some natural kind terms such as 'gold' and 'tiger' have no features
semantically associated with them others do. Consider, for
example, 'vixen'. A vixen is a female fox. Being a fox and being
female are semantic requirements for vixens, but 'fox' is a natural
kind term. Vixens are, as it were, defined to be members of a
certain subset of a natural kind. So whatever is a vixen must have
the underlying trait, whatever it is, that makes foxes foxes. This
means that there will be stable generalizations about vixens, and
thus by my criterion for natural kind term 'vixen' is a natural
kind term. This is as it should be. Nevertheless 'vixen' is a hybrid
term that uses both semantically associated properties and an
underlying trait to gather its extension. If an underlying trait is
even part of what determines the extension of some term then
it is a natural kind term. Underlying traits play no role in
determining the extensions of nominal kind terms.1
Does the criterion that I am proposing actually serve to dis-
tinguish natural kind terms from nominal kind terms? I take it
that both 'sloop' and 'bachelor' are nominal kind terms. This
means that neither is the subject term in any stable generalization.
Thus any generalization about sloops or about bachelors will
either be incorrigible, because it is analytic, or fail the counter-
example test, because it is contingent. No examples of stable
generalizations about bachelors or sloops immediately spring to
mind. 'All bachelors are unmarried' is straightforwardly analytic.
So is the definition of 'sloop' cited above. The difficult case will
be the true generalization about bachelors that does not follow
from the definition. Let us suppose that we discover an underlying
1 Unlike pure natural kind terms, hybrid natural kind terms are not fully
indexical since they have descriptions associated with them. Nevertheless,
hybrid terms obviously can have a strong indexical dimension. Thus it
is not quite correct to say that nominal kind terms are just the non-
indexical general nouns, whereas the natural kind terms are just the
indexical nouns. Nominal kind terms are all non-indexical, but the
division between indexical and non-indexical terms is too sharp. It seems
that there are intermediate cases of natural kind terms that are not fully
indexical.
NATURAL KINDS AND NOMINAL KINDS 191
trait, say a gene, that all bachelors have. Let us call this gene B.
Now all bachelors and no others have gene B. Is this a stable
generalization? If anything is a candidate for a stable generalization
about bachelors, 'All bachelors have gene B' is. Nevertheless, I
think it should be evident that 'All bachelors have gene B' is not
a stable generalization. I agree that it is corrigible, but it fails
the counterexample test. Clearly, it could be the case that we
discover an isolated exception to the claim that all bachelors have
gene B. Certainly his lacking this gene would not constitute his

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being married or his being female, and as things now stand, it
would not make him unmarriageable. What I am saying is that
even if every tested bachelor had gene B, and many were tested,
and we believed that every bachelor had gene B, we could still
discover a bachelor that lacked gene B. It is imaginable that every
bachelor but one have gene B. Notice also that the discovery of
the exceptional bachelor does not falsify the claim that all the
other bachelors have gene B.
In order to make the point about non-stability even stronger,
let us consider the generalization that husbands lack gene B. I
would argue that 'husband' is a nominal kind term, and thus that
husbands lack gene B is not a stable generalization. Clearly, it is
possible for one of the former bachelors to marry. If he does, then
he will be a husband, and thus there will be a husband with
gene B. The idea here is that we can 'create' an isolated counter-
example. Contrast this with trying to 'create' an isolated counter-
example to the claim that tigers are animals. Consider a similar
case about sloops. Let us suppose that we discover that every
sloop has been made by, say, Wilbur A. Morse of Friendship,
Maine. It will still be the case that I could construct a sloop, and
since I am not Wilbur A. Morse, my sloop would be the
exceptional sloop. The sloop I build will not be a genuine
Friendship sloop, but it will be a sloop nevertheless. My only
claim is that 'sloop' is a nominal kind term. Since I could build a
sloop, there could be an isolated counterexample to the claim that
all sloops are Morse's. My sloop could be the only non-Friendship
sloop in the entire history of the world.
It is also important to consider more realistic examples. I
presume that it is true that all barbed wire fencing is made of
metal. 'Barbed wire' is an artifact term, and thus I would argue
a nominal kind term. So 'Barbed wire is metal' should be non-
stable, and indeed it is. We can easily imagine coming across the
192 STEPHEN P. SCHWARTZ:
only two or three feet of barbed wire manufactured out of some
new Dupont non-metallic fibre, even though all the other barbed
wire is metal. Contrast this with a stable generalization about a
natural kind. Consider the generalization, for example, that sugar
is carbohydrate. Suppose someone claimed that they have dis-
covered some pure protein sugar. All other sugar is carbohydrate,
but this stuff is protein. I think that we would be willing to admit
that the stuff in question is white, sweet, and granular, but not

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that it is sugar, even if it came from the sugar cane. We might say
that it is a natural sugar substitute or that it is a sugar mimic, but
not that it is sugar.
Of course, we cannot canvass all possible examples, but the
indications are strong that no generalizations about nominal
kinds are stable, at least some generalizations about natural kinds
are stable, and that we have fairly strong intuitions about which
generalizations are stable and which are not.
It is important not to confuse stability of generalizations with
centrality in Quine's sense. Since Quine attacks the analytic/
synthetic distinction, he would deny the very basis on which the
distinction between stable and non-stable generalizations is drawn.
I hold that a stable generalization is straightforwardly synthetic.
It is not in some supposed grey area between analytic and syn-
thetic or any such thing. I think that if anything is synthetic then
'Gold is atomic number 79' is, and yet it is a stable generalization.
Furthermore, stable generalizations need not be central in any
sense. They may be generalizations about little known organisms
based on very little evidence, but if they are believed to give the
underlying trait of a natural kind, they will not be subject to
refutation by counterexample. On the other hand, centrality does
not imply stability. It is probably a central feature of our empirical
understanding of the world that pencils are all artifacts, neverthe-
less this is a non-stable generalization. As I have argued elsewhere,
it is possible that a pencil spring forth ex mhilo or some such
thing.1 Of course, if someone claimed to have a non-artifactual
pencil we would disbelieve him. If he presented evidence we
would seek to explain the apparent non-artifactuality of the pencil.
Perhaps we would never, no matter what, come to believe that
it was non-artifactual. We would always harbour a belief that the
apparently exceptional pencil had a secret or hidden artifactuality,
that there was some kind of hoax involved. But then I would say
1 See 'Putnam on Artifacts', p. 571.
NATURAL KINDS AND NOMINAL KINDS 193

that our very recalcitrance shows that we know what an exception


would be and that it is possible. Nothing like this kind of
behaviour occurs when confronted with a putative exception to a
central stable generalization. When confronted with a robot tiger,
we would not search for its hidden animality in order to preserve
our generalization that all tigers are animals. We just say that it
isn't a tiger.
I will conclude by applying the suggested criterion for natural

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kind terms to an example of Putnam's in order to show that the
criterion is useful in disentangling confusions. Putnam says the
following:
Couldn't it turn out that pediatricians aren't doctors but
Martian spies? Answer 'yes', and you have abandoned the
synonymy of 'pediatrician' and 'doctor specializing in the
care of children'. It seems that there is a strong tendency for
words to develop a 'natural kind' sense, with all the con-
comitant rigidity and indexicality ('The Meaning of
"Meaning"', p. 163).
According to Putnam, pediatricians could turn out to be Martian
spies because the nature of the local examples that could serve as
paradigms is Martian spy rather than doctor. This would mean
that Tediatricians are doctors' is not analytic. If Putnam is right,
discovering that pediatricians are Martian spies (if they are) is
like discovering that water is H2Owe are discovering the nature
of the kind. This example is important because 'pediatrician' is
just the sort of term I would take to be a nominal kind term.
There are two separate claims involved in Putnam's example.
One is that pediatricians might not be doctors. The other is that
pediatricians might be Martian spies. There is also the (mild)
suggestion that the pediatricians not being doctors would follow
from their being Martian spies. I do not believe that it does
follow. We do not require that physicians be human beings
(assuming now that Martian spies are not human beings) although
we assume that they are. It is certainly possible that humanoid
Martians come to Earth, go to medical school, earn degrees, and
become pediatricians. On the side, they do some spying. It could
certainly turn out that all the doctors specializing in the care of
children are Martian spies. Thus, the propositions 'Pediatricians
are Martian spies' and 'Pediatricians are not doctors' are semanti-
cally independent. I will consider them separately.
194 STEPHEN P. SCHWARTZ:
I agree with Putnam that it could turn out that all the
pediatricians are Martian spies, but the relevant question we must
ask is, 'Is this a stable generalization?' If it is a non-stable
generalization, as I believe it is, then this would indicate that
'pediatrician' is a nominal kind term and thus is non-indexical,
rather than indexical as Putnam would have it. If, on the other
hand, it were a stable generalization, then 'pediatrician' would be
a natural kind term. Now it seems to me that even though there

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are lots of pediatricians all the pediatricians but one could be
Martian spies. Furthermore, even if it were the case that all the
pediatricians were Martian spies, and thus there were no excep-
tions, we could 'create' an exception. We could have a human
being set out to be a pediatrician. Notice that this does not mean
that he will set out to be a Martian spy, something that would be
impossible for a human being. Rather, he would go to medical
school, specialize in pediatrics, and so on. Clearly, then, he would
be the one pediatrician who is not a Martian spy. These con-
siderations show that 'Pediatricians are Martian spies' is a non-
stable generalization. Thus the fact that pediatricians could turn
out to be Martian spies does not show that 'pediatrician' is a
natural kind term or that it has a natural kind sense. It could
never be the nature of pediatricians to be Martian spies in the
way that it could be the nature of water to be H 2 O. At best it
could merely be a contingent fact about those that are pediatricians
that they are Martian spies.
This means that Putnam's claim that 'Pediatricians are doctors'
is not analytic is completely unsupported. He simply denies that
it is analytic. 'Couldn't it turn out that pediatricians aren't
doctors?' I do not think that it could. Consider what someone
would have to show in order to show that 'Pediatricians are
doctors' is not analytic. It would not be enough to claim that some
people could pose as pediatricians. That is, they hang out shingles
and so on but do not practise medicine. If this were the case,
these people are neither pediatricians nor doctors, although they
are pretending to be. Certainly no one would claim that 'Pedia-
tricians are doctors' fails the counterexample test. What Putnam
must have in mind is that the pediatricians as we knoto them might
all turn out not to be doctors. Of course, it could turn out that
none of the pediatricians have been to medical school or earned
M.D.s, but I do not think that these are semantic requirements
for being a doctor. In order for pediatricians not to be doctors,
NATURAL KINDS AND NOMINAL KINDS 195

it must turn out that none of the pediatricians, as we know them,


has ever practised medicine. This, I claim, is absurd.
In order to further convince ourselves that 'pediatrician' is a
nominal kind term, let us consider a presumably true general-
ization about pediatricians. Is the generalization 'Pediatricians
are human beings' stable as we would expect if 'pediatrician' is
indexical? Again, I think not. Couldn't it turn out that one of the
pediatricians is a Martian spy? He is sent here, attends medical

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school, and so on. It could turn out that among all the many
pediatricians one isn't a human being. If this non-human being is
to be a pediatrician, he must be a doctor specializing in the care
of children. He can't be simply posing as a doctor. But if he is
practising medicine for children, then he is a pediatrician in spite
of his not being human. Thus every indication shows that
'pediatrician' is a nominal kind term. Likely candidates turn out
to be non-stable generalizations, and there seems to be an analytical
specification of what it is to be a pediatrician.

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