The aim of this paper is to bring recent work on metaphysical grounding to bear on the phenomenon of social construction. It is argued that grounding can be used to analyze social construction and that the grounding framework is helpful for articulating various claims and commitments of social constructionists, especially about social identities, e.g., gender and race. The paper also responds to a number of objections that have been leveled against the application of grounding to social construction from Elizabeth Barnes, (...) Mari Mikkola, and Jessica Wilson. (shrink)
Abstract: Philosophers interested in Kant's relevance to contemporary debates over the nature of mental content—notably Robert Hanna and Lucy Allais—have argued that Kant ought to be credited with being the original proponent of the existence of ‘nonconceptual content’. However, I think the ‘nonconceptualist’ interpretations that Hanna and Allais give do not show that Kant allowed for nonconceptual content as they construe it. I argue, on the basis of an analysis of certain sections of the A and B editions of the (...) Transcendental Deduction, for a ‘conceptualist’ reading of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. My contention is that since Kant's notion of empirical intuition makes essential reference to the categories, it must be true for him that no empirical intuition can be given in sensibility independently of the understanding and its categories. (shrink)
The goal of this paper is to make headway on a metaphysics of social construction. In recent work, I’ve argued that social construction should be understood in terms of metaphysical grounding. However, I agree with grounding skeptics like Wilson that bare claims about what grounds what are insufficient for capturing, with fine enough grain, metaphysical dependence structures. To that end, I develop a view on which the social construction of human social kinds is a kind of realization relation. Social kinds, (...) I argue, are multiply realizable kinds. I depart from the Wilson by further arguing that an appeal to grounding is not otiose when it comes to social construction. Social construction, I claim, belongs to the “big-G” Grounding genus, but it is the specific “small-g” relation of realization at work in cases of human kind social construction. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with the relation between two important metaphysical notions, ‘truthmaking’ and ‘grounding’. I begin by considering various ways in which truthmaking could be explicated in terms of grounding, noting both strengths and weaknesses of these analyses. I go on to articulate a problem for any attempt to analyze truthmaking in terms of a generic and primitive notion of grounding based on differences we find among examples of grounding. Finally, I outline a more complex view of how truthmaking (...) and grounding could relate. On the view explored, truthmaking is a species of grounding differentiated from other species of grounding by the unique form of dependence it involves. (shrink)
This paper introduces a new approach to the theory of truthmaking. According to this approach, there are multiple forms of truthmaking. Here, I characterize and motivate a specific version of this approach, which I call a ‘Pluralist Theory of Truthmaking.’ It is suggested that truthmaking is a plural, variegated phenomenon wherein different kinds of truths, e.g., positive truths, negative truths, counterfactual truths, etc., are made true in different ways. While the paper only aims to lay the groundwork for a Pluralist (...) Theory of Truthmaking, I show how the theory can be applied to positive and negative truths. The upshot of this application is that truthmaking pluralism allows us to provide negative truths with ‘non-suspicious’ truthmakers. Finally, it is argued that Truthmaker Maximalists would do well to endorse truthmaking pluralism, as it offers a new strategy for upholding Maximalism while diminishing controversial ontological commitments. (shrink)
Identifying plausible truthmakers for negative truths has been a serious and perennial problem for truthmaker theory. I argue here that negative truths are indeed made true but not in the way that positive truths are. I rely on a distinction between “existence-independence” and “variation-independence” drawn by Hoffman and Horvath to characterize the unique form of dependence negative truths exhibit on reality. The notion of variation-independence is then used to motivate a principle of truthmaking for contingent negative truths.
A prominent way of explaining how race is socially constructed appeals to social positions and social structures. On this view, the construction of a person’s race is understood in terms of the person occupying a certain social position in a social structure. The aim of this paper is to give a metaphysically perspicuous account of this form of race construction. Analogous to functionalism about mental states, I develop an account of a ‘race structure’ in which various races (Black, White, Asian, (...) etc.) are functionally defined social positions. Individual persons occupy these social positions by ‘playing the role’ characteristic of those positions. The properties by which a person plays a race role, are the realizers for one’s race. I characterize the social construction of a person’s race in terms of a realization relation that satisfies a ‘subset’ condition on the social powers of raced persons. Races, on this view, are functionally defined, multiply realizable social kinds. The final section of the paper outlines some explanatory benefits of the account. (shrink)
Many are committed to the idea that the present generation has obligations to future generations, for example, obligations to preserve the environment and certain natural resources for those generations. However, some philosophers want to explain why we have these obligations in terms of correlative rights that future persons have against persons in the present. Attributing such rights to future persons is controversial, for there seem to be compelling arguments against the position. According to the “nonexistence” argument, future persons cannot have (...) rights (and so should not be attributed rights) because they do not exist. According to the “no-satisfaction” argument, future persons cannot have a right to resources that do not exist at the time of their existence because such a right could not, in principle, be satisfied. In this paper, I will argue that an eternalist ontology of time provides the resources for satisfactorily responding to both the nonexistence and the no-satisfaction arguments. (shrink)
In this commentary piece, I argue that Asay’s accounts of truth and truthmaking in A Theory of Truthmaking give no role to the idea that truth depends on being. In fact, some of the positions taken in the book are in tension with this idea that has been central to truthmaker theory. I consider how three aspects of Asay’s account relate to the idea that truth depends on being.
A recent presentist strategy has been to deny that truths about the past need presently existing truthmakers. These presentists do not deny that such truths need grounding; they hold that each truth about the past is true because of how the world was, not how it is. This paper argues that this position faces two problems, one of which can be overcome by adopting a certain view of the property of truth for propositions about the past. The second problem cannot (...) be solved. The upshot is that this form of presentism is not a theory of truthmaking for propositions about the past. Rather, it is a theory about why such truths need no present grounding that is motivated by a novel theory of truth. (shrink)
This article considers three recent attempts by David Armstrong, Ross Cameron, and Jonathan Schaffer to provide truthmakers for negative existential truths. It is argued that none of the proposed truthmakers are up to the task of making any negative existential truth true and, it will turn out, for the same reason.
Ásta’s Categories We Live By is a superb addition to the literature on social metaphysics. In it she offers a powerful framework for understanding the creation and maintenance of social categories. In this commentary piece, I want to draw attention to Ásta’s reliance on explanatory individualism – the view that the social world is best explained by the actions and attitudes of individuals. I argue that this reliance makes it difficult for Ásta to explain how many social categories are maintained (...) and why certain categories are reliably available to us and so resistant to change. These explanatory deficiencies could be overcome, I argue, by eschewing explanatory individualism and positing social structures to figure in structural explanations of the maintenance and availability of social categories. (shrink)
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that aims to give a theoretical account of what there is and what it is like. Social justice movements seek to bring about justice in a society by changing policy, law, practice, and culture. Evidently, these activities are very different from one another. The goal of this article is to identify some positive connections between recent work in metaphysics and social justice movements. I outline three ways in which metaphysical work on social reality can (...) make a contribution to movements seeking social justice, viz., (1) by providing basic categories and concepts useful for clarifying and defending claims made by social justice movements; (2) by offering accounts of the natures of social categories, structures, and institutions that these movements seek to change; and (3) by contributing to “unmasking” or “debunking” projects that reveal putatively natural arrange- ments to be social in nature and hence subject to moral critique, alteration, and possibly eradication. (shrink)
This paper concerns the ontological status of ontological categories (e.g., universal, particular, substance, property, relation, kind, object, etc.). I consider E.J. Lowe’s argument for the view that ontological categories do not exist and point out that it has some undesirable consequences for his realist ontology. I go on to argue that the main premise in Lowe’s argument—that ontological categories cannot be categorized—is false and then develop a conception of ontological categories as formal ontological kinds.
This paper considers the prospects for a theory of intergenerational rights in light of certain ontologies of time. It is argued that the attempt to attribute rights to future persons or obligations to present persons towards future persons, faces serious difficulties if the existence of the future is denied. The difficulty of attributing rights to non-existent future persons is diagnosed as a particularly intractable version of the ‘problem of cross-temporal relations’ that plagues No-Futurist views like presentism. I develop a version (...) of the problem of cross-temporal relations regarding cross-temporal normative relations. I then consider and reject various solutions to the problem available to No-Futurists. The upshot of the discussion is that which ontology of time we choose sets constraints on the kinds of explanations we may offer for our future-directed obligations. (shrink)
Erratum to: Synthese 192:317–335 DOI 10.1007/s11229-014-0570-7The second sentence on page 317 reads “The challenge is that, prima facie, it is hard to see how a negative truth, e.g., \ of something could be made true by the existence of some entity”.This sentence should read “The challenge is that, prima facie, it is hard to see how a negative truth, e.g., \ that is concerned with the non-existence of something could be made true by the existence of some entity”.