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Department of Philosophy

Forthcoming Research Seminars and Lectures

Dr Joe Saunders
Research Seminar Coordinator

(For past seminars and lectures see here)

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08th February 2018: Professor Stephen Mumford (Durham) - Are There Negative Kinds?

(14 September 2017)

Weekly Research Seminar

This Weekly Research Seminar will commence at 11:30am in room 005, 48/49 Old Elvet, Durham. Refreshments will be available from 11:00am with the talk commencing at 11:30am.

Title: Are There Negative Kinds?


There are reasons why we might think there are negative kinds, e.g. non-horses, non-electrons. They could be indispensable in some causal explanations, accounting for false negative statements, and they might be needed to delineate the boundaries of the ‘positive’ kinds. Against this is the ‘unity problem’: an objection that negative kinds would not have the homogeneity we expect of natural kinds. However, it is hard to see how the unity problem can be posed in a non-question-begging way. More to the point, then, might be our general metaphysical concerns about the existence of negative entities. They do not seem a genuine part of reality, which would be divided into two – a positive side and a negative side – if we admitted negative entities. Some progress would be made if we understood how the problem of negatives arises. It is suggested that there is an historic affirmation bias that leads us to assert the existence of something negative in preference to the denial of something positive. Denial that something is of a (positive) kind would lead to none of the problems we have with negatives. This shows the way to a solution but might not solve all the problems. Can a positive existent include its own boundaries, for instance? But the solution at least has the backing of work in philosophical logic that takes denial to be prior to negation.


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