My main research in the coming years concerns the possibility and nature of kinds in the life and 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, medical 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 these groups are real kinds in the sense of supporting scientific or taxonomic realism. Do the social sciences rely on social kinds in the same way as some have suggested that the natural sciences rely on knowledge of natural kinds?
In addition to these ontological and epistemic issues, I am also increasingly interested in how the practice of classification and the possibility of natural kinds in the social sciences relates to issues in political and moral philosophy. For example: how we might determine what groups are suitable as subjects for generalization & scientific investigation, e.g. should we research and generalize over already stigmatized groups? Might some social classifications (like gender and ethnic categories) even reinforce unjust practices? Does scientific realism in this domain support some form of naturalistic moral realism?
For my case studies so far I have looked at species (2016, under review), gender (under review), psychiatric kinds and the foundations of psychiatric classification (Godman 2013, 2016), and what I call “cultural homologues” (religions and other belief systems) (Godman, 2015).
I am also exploring what the normative implications of psychiatry are, such as whether we should be treating certain psychiatric groups (e.g. individuals with psychopathy) differently in our social interventions and in law (Godman and Jefferson forthcoming, and manuscript under preparation).
I currently have a book contract with Routledge Focus series with the preliminary title: Human Kinds a Philosophical defence.