One important thesis Ásta defends in Categories We Live By is that social properties and categories are somehow dependent on our thoughts, attitudes, or practices—that they are inventions of the mind, projected onto the world. Another important aspect of her view is that the social properties are related to certain base properties; an individual is placed in a category when the relevant base properties are thought to hold of them. I see the relationship between the social and the base as (...) connected to the problem of explaining how the social properties are sufficiently stable so as to be taken seriously, both in theoretical endeavors as well as in practical matters of how we relate to each other. In this light, I identify stability constraints for an adequate account of social categories. I argue that certain distinctive aspects of Ásta's conferralist view of social categories, such as the radical contextualism in her account of gender, undermine the stability of categories and are at odds with taking social categories seriously. I end with the suggestion that a distinctive “sheltered” form of normativity might help us do justice to Ásta's insights while avoiding some of the destabilizing elements of conferralism. (shrink)
The theme of this year’s Spindel Conference was Social Ontologies of Race. This editorial introduction serves as both a general introduction to the topic of racial ontology and an introduction to this volume’s contributions. I will first explain some central ideas for discussions of ontology in general. I will then make some basic taxonomic distinctions common to discussions of racial ontology and suggest some clarifications. I will then go on to discuss the five contributions to this volume.
We are women, we are men. We are refugees, single mothers, people with disabilities, and queers. We belong to social categories and they frame our actions, self-understanding, and opportunities. But what are social categories? How are they created and sustained? How does one come to belong to them? -/- Ásta approaches these questions through analytic feminist metaphysics. Her theory of social categories centers on an answer to the question: what is it for a feature of an individual to be socially (...) meaningful? In a careful, probing investigation, she reveals how social categories are created and sustained and demonstrates their tendency to oppress through examples from current events. To this end, she offers an account of just what social construction is and how it works in a range of examples that problematize the categories of sex, gender, and race in particular. The main idea is that social categories are conferred upon people. Ásta introduces a 'conferralist' framework in order to articulate a theory of social meaning, social construction, and most importantly, of the construction of sex, gender, race, disability, and other social categories. (shrink)