The metaphysical issues in the social sciences and how social scientists debate them

Synthese 200 (6):1-20 (2022)
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Abstract

Most philosophical work on social ontology continues to be done without much connection to social scientific concerns. This special issue, however, calls for attention to a naturalized metaphysics, one based on the best science we have. It follows that a naturalized social metaphysics should begin with the best social science available. In contrast with the physical sciences, however, the best social science is not so clear. Thus, this paper acquaints professional philosophers with some of the prominent metaphysical views extant in the social sciences; the ways that more philosophically oriented social scientists engage them; and how professional philosophers might contribute.In particular, the paper covers several arguments especially relevant to a naturalized social metaphysics. One argument suggests that folk intuitions cannot be excluded from consideration. In fact, in the social sphere, it may be that scientific concepts not only cannot always trump folk conceptions but actually must be constrained by them. The paper further introduces arguments defending not only metaphysically real levels of being but also the metaphysical reality of the categories of social science. Finally, the paper will introduce an argument that beyond culture and individual agency, social being also includes structure as a distinct category.

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Douglas Porpora
Drexel University

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References found in this work

What do philosophers believe?David Bourget & David J. Chalmers - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (3):465-500.
What is a (social) structural explanation?Sally Haslanger - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (1):113-130.
Real patterns.Daniel C. Dennett - 1991 - Journal of Philosophy 88 (1):27-51.
Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized.James Ladyman & Don Ross - 2007 - In James Ladyman, Don Ross, David Spurrett & John Collier (eds.), Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized. Oxford University Press.

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