Anchoring in Ecosystemic Kinds

Matthew H. Slater, Bucknell University


The world contains many different types of ecosystems. This is something of a commonplace in biology and conservation science. But there has been little attention to the question of whether such ecosystem types enjoy a degree of objectivity—whether they might be natural kinds. I argue that traditional accounts of natural kinds that emphasize nomic or causal–mechanistic dimensions of “kindhood” are ill-equipped to accommodate presumptive ecosystemic kinds. In particular, unlike many other kinds, ecosystemic kinds are “anchored” to the contingent character of species and higher taxa and their abiotic environments. Drawing on Slater (2015a), I show how we can nevertheless make room for such contingent anchoring in an account of natural kinds of ecosystems kinds.