Emotions, concepts and the indeterminacy of natural kinds

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A central question for philosophical psychology is which mental faculties form natural kinds. There is hot debate over the kind status of faculties as diverse as consciousness, seeing, concepts, emotions, constancy and the senses. In this paper, I take emotions and concepts as my main focus, and argue that questions over the kind status of these faculties are complicated by the undeservedly overlooked fact that natural kinds are indeterminate in certain ways. I will show that indeterminacy issues have led to an impasse in the debates over emotions and concepts. I examine possible ways to resolve this impasse, and argue against one of them. I then suggest a different method, which places more emphasis on a close analysis of predictive and explanatory practices in psychology. I argue that when we apply this method, a new position emerges: that it is indeterminate whether concepts or emotions are natural kinds. They are neither determinately natural kinds, nor determinately not natural kinds. Along the way, we will see that natural kinds have been put to two completely different theoretical uses, which are often been blurred together, and that they are ill-suited to fulfil one of them.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Early online date11 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2018


  • natural kinds
  • psychology
  • emotions
  • concepts
  • indeterminacy
  • homeostatic property clustrers


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