The Social Construction of Human Kinds

Hypatia 28 (4):716-732 (2013)
Social construction theorists face a certain challenge to the effect that they confuse the epistemic and the metaphysical: surely our conceptions of something are influenced by social practices, but that doesn't show that the nature of the thing in question is so influenced. In this paper I take up this challenge and offer a general framework to support the claim that a human kind is socially constructed, when this is understood as a metaphysical claim and as a part of a social constructionist debunking project. I give reasons for thinking that a conferralist framework is better equipped to capture the social constructionist intuition than rival accounts of social properties, such as a constitution account and a response-dependence account, and that this framework helps to diagnose what is at stake in the debate between the social constructionists and their opponents. The conferralist framework offered here should be welcomed by social constructionists looking for firm foundations for their claims, and for anyone else interested in the debate over the social construction of human kinds
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