Sex as a Biological Kind: A Case of Strategic Conceptual Engineering

  • Author / Creator
    Rosario, Esther M
  • This dissertation is a novel application of conceptual engineering that intersects the history and philosophy of science, metaphysics, value theory and metaphilosophy. It argues for the dual thesis that human sex is a biological kind and that humans are in need of a new sex concept. This dissertation offers a metaphysical account of sex as a biological kind, arguing that sex development is an emergent biological process. It also takes a conceptual engineering approach to sex as a concept, advocating for a new concept of sex decoupled from gender. This new sex concept is called ‘nonbaptismal sex,’ which ascribes sex in terms of ranges of properties and their relations. This concept is deflationary and is engineered to satisfy social and epistemic aims. I contrast my deflationary view of sex with what I call ‘strong biological realist’ and ‘strong social constructionist’ views. I take a moderate realist/moderate social constructionist view. In so doing, I contend that although sex has an unequivocal biological basis, sex is both constituted and caused by biological and social properties and relations that have real effects. This dissertation contains six chapters. Chapter I surveys kinds of kinds, particularly natural kinds and social kinds, in order to situate my claim that sex is a biological kind. Chapter II offers my analysis of biological kinds where I specify how their biological features interact with social features. Chapter III provides a conceptual history of the biology of sex. Chapter IV presents and critcizes what I call the ‘layer cake’ model of sex development. Chapter V offers my account of sex as a biological kind. Chapter VI presents my nonbaptismal sex concept for social and epistemic aims. This dissertation aims to show that sex exists independently from gender and both can and should be conceptualized differently for ameliorative purposes.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.