The STS Seminar Series returns to Athenaeum this week with the 14th annual Burian-McNabb Lecture. Please do join us!

Friday, Dec. 1, 1:303:30pm

Professor Laura Franklin-Hall (
Department of Philosophy
New York University

“The Animal Sexes and Natural Kinds”

Though biologists identify organisms as ‘male’ and ‘female’ across a broad range of animal species–in the pipefish, orb spider, quokka, and king quail–the particular traits enjoyed by males and females can vary almost without bound. This diversity has led some to conclude that the cross-animal sex categories—males, of whatever animal species, and females likewise—have “little or no explanatory power”(Dupré 1986: 447) and, as such, are not (in any substantive sense) natural kinds. This talk will explore possible reasoning for and against this conclusion, ultimately arguing that the cross animal sexes, despite their extreme diversity, are instances of type-level historical kinds, an unappreciated variety of natural kind that has an important scientific and explanatory calling.