How Many Kinds of Glue Hold the Social World Together?

In Mattia Gallotti & John Michael (eds.), Social Ontology and Social Cognition (2015)

Brian Epstein
Tufts University
In recent years, theorists have debated how we introduce new social objects and kinds into the world. Searle, for instance, proposes that they are introduced by collective acceptance of a constitutive rule; Millikan and Elder that they are the products of reproduction processes; Thomasson that they result from creator intentions and subsequent intentional reproduction; and so on. In this chapter, I argue against the idea that there is a single generic method or set of requirements for doing so. Instead, there is a variety of what I call “anchoring schemas,” or methods by which new social kinds are generated. Not only are social kinds a diverse lot, but the metaphysical explanation for their being the kinds they are is diverse as well. I explain the idea of anchoring and present examples of social kinds that are similar to one another but that are anchored in different ways. I also respond to Millikan’s argument that there is only one kind of “glue” that is “sticky enough” for holding together kinds. I argue that no anchoring schema will work in all environments. It is a contingent matter which schemas are successful for anchoring new social kinds, and an anchoring schema need only be “sticky enough” for practical purposes in a given environment.
Keywords social ontology  artifacts  millikan  natural kinds
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