Research

My main research in the coming years concerns the possibility and nature of kinds in biology and the social sciences. Much as we are weary of generalizations in social sciences and in public policy we depend on generalizing across individual human beings in terms of their belonging to certain social, cultural, and psychiatric groups (consider, for example, the various generalizations that are made about the financial behaviour of homeowners, and the assistance that is required by people with Alzheimer’s disease). More controversially still, social scientists group according to gender, class and ethnicity. My research inquiries into the extent to which the human sciences rely on kinds in the same way as some have suggested that the natural sciences rely on natural kinds. I have proposed that because many – but not all – human kinds are historical, biologically or culturally reproduced, kinds there is at least a similar dependence on kinds in the social sciences as there is in biology.

I am currently exploring how this historical ontology matters for the science as well as for the politics concerning human and biological kinds. I have a contract with Routledge Focus series to write a monograph about human kinds. Questions that I am currently considering include: How we might determine what groups are suitable as subjects for generalization & scientific investigation? Should we research and generalize over already stigmatized groups or is social classification in fact a crucial asset in detecting and fighting injustice?

These questions have led me to examine a broad range of case studies to study these questions, including species (Godman and Papineau forthcoming, Godman under review), gender (Godman forthcoming 2018), psychiatric kinds and the foundations of psychiatric classification (Godman 2013, 2016), and what I call “cultural homologues” such as religions and other belief systems (Godman 2015). I am also exploring whether we should be treating certain psychiatric groups (e.g. individuals with psychopathy) differently in our social interventions and in law (Godman and Jefferson 2017, Godman forthcoming 2018).