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Excerpted from bigthink.com:

Secondly, people claim that incest creates ‘deformed’ children. This is not entirely true. There is a greater risk of various handicaps, true, due to a closer sharing of genetics. But there is a danger in every form of child creation that the child might be handicapped. There might be a difference in degree of risk in incestuous sex acts but certainly not in kind.

What does in kind mean in this paragraph?

I found two meanings in an online dictionary:

  1. If you do something in kind, you do the same thing to someone that they have just done to you.

  2. (of ​payment) given in the ​form of ​goods or ​services and not ​money.

but neither make sense to me in this context.

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See, these two prepositional phrases parallel each other:

There might be a difference in degree of risk in incestuous sex acts compared with other sex acts, but certainly not in the kind of risk.

Both incestuous and non-incestuous sex carry a risk of detrimental mutations. The risk is of the same kind. But incestuous sex, when it results in conception, carries a higher risk of detrimental mutations in the newborn. Thus, the degree of risk is different for incestuous sex compared with non-incestuous sex.


The author tries to counter this argument:

incest creates ‘deformed’ children.

First off, he says "this is not entirely true". Then he explains his position in more detail by saying that all kinds of sex carry some risks, but that does not make these kinds of sex radically different (different in kind).


30% vodka and 40% vodka both consist of grain alcohol mixed with water. There might be a difference in degree of alcohol between them, but certainly not in kind.


In a more sober vein, a quote from Adler's Philosophical Dictionary:

Two entities differ in degree if both have the same defining traits, but one has more and one has less of the same trait.

  • So "certainly not in kind" is just the repetition of "There might be a difference in degree of risk in incestuous sex acts compared with other sex acts"? – CYC Dec 19 '15 at 14:22
  • @CYC Incestuious sex acts and other sex acts are different in degree as concerns the risk of resulting bad mutations. But they are not different in kind. The risk is of the same kind, only it's higher for incestuous sex acts. – CowperKettle Dec 19 '15 at 14:24
  • @CYC Maybe I failed to explain it clearly. Feel free to wait before accepting the answer, it's the usual practice. (0: I googled for examples but found mostly trainloads of philosophical treaties on degree/kind, not a simple read really. – CowperKettle Dec 19 '15 at 14:44
  • Is "There might be a difference in degree ... but certainly not in kind." some kind of refute to "But there is a danger in every form of child creation that the child might be handicapped."? Meaning the author imagined that someone who disagree with incest might using "Though they all have risks, they are still not the same" statements to refute "all kind of sex have risks". (Of course the author then refute this argument back in the end of the paragraph) – CYC Dec 19 '15 at 14:56
  • @CYC - No, this is a refute to "incest creates ‘deformed’ children". The author agrees that incestual conception carries the risk of mutations. Then he says: "but that risk of mutations exists in other kinds of sex too". So we have a difference in degree, not in kind. This makes consensual incest between adults more acceptable, in the author's view. – CowperKettle Dec 19 '15 at 15:01

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