The Wedding the Carp and the Rabbit: A Realist Stand for an Ontology of Social Facts and Organizational Objects

Frédéric Nef
Institut Jean Nicod
The paper wishes to define and defend a moderate version of realism which we call modal realism. The difference between ontology and epistemology is first pointed out and we focus on the ontological side. We think it is often neglected because ontological issues are often assimilated to epistemological ones. We try to fill this gap in literature by defining an ontological level of reasoning. We then offer a test for the opposing camps in ontology: that of constructionism and that of realism by taking an example that can be interpreted both ways: the controversial merger of Snecma and Sagem into Safran, a French conglomerate. A merger raises ontological questions, merging being in itself an ontological process of two becoming one. Dwelling on the importance of this ontological issue, we then offer a presentation of modal realism. We once again depart from the merger case to show how this realism allows for a flexible and dynamics vision of reality, accounting for the “vague” and multilayered dimensions of social objects. It proposes a scale of beings, relations and combinations via “layered dimensions” in a modal ensemble. Throughout the example of the different levels of commitment, we hope to present a thorough description of modal realism as a matter-of-fact approach aimed at capturing the subtle dimensions of social objects such as organisations.
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