In this paper I will argue that critical theory needs to make its socio-ontological commitments explicit, whilst on the other hand I will posit that contemporary socialontology needs to amend its formalistic approach by embodying a critical theory perspective. In the first part of my paper I will discuss how the question was posed in Horkheimer’s essays of the 1930s, which leave open two options: (1) a constructive inclusion of socialontology within social philosophy, (...) or else (2) a program of social philosophy that excludes socialontology. Option (2) corresponds to Adorno’s position, which I argue is forced to recur to a hidden socialontology. Following option (1), I first develop a metacritical analysis of Searle, arguing that his socialontology presupposes a notion of 'recognition' which it cannot account for. Furthermore, by means of a critical reading of Honneth, I argue that critical theory could incorporate a socioontological approach, giving value to the constitutive socio-ontological role of recognition and to the socio-ontological role of objectification. I will finish with a proposal for a socio-ontological characterization of reification which involves that the basic occurrence of recognition is to be grasped at the level of background practices. (shrink)
Performative accounts of personhood argue that group agents are persons, fit to be held responsible within the social sphere. Nonetheless, these accounts want to retain a moral distinction between group and individual persons. That: Group-persons can be responsible for their actions qua persons, but that group-persons might nonetheless not have rights equivalent to those of human persons. I present an argument which makes sense of this disanalogy, without recourse to normative claims or additional ontological commitments. I instead ground rights (...) in the different relations in which performative persons stand in relation to one another. (shrink)
Socialontology is the study of the nature and properties of the social world. It is concerned with analyzing the various entities in the world that arise from social interaction. -/- A prominent topic in socialontology is the analysis of social groups. Do social groups exist at all? If so, what sorts of entities are they, and how are they created? Is a social group distinct from the collection of people (...) who are its members, and if so, how is it different? What sorts of properties do social groups have? Can they have beliefs or intentions? Can they perform actions? And if so, what does it take for a group to believe, intend, or act? -/- Other entities investigated in socialontology include money, corporations, institutions, property, social classes, races, genders, artifacts, artworks, language, and law. It is difficult to delineate a precise scope for the field (see section 2.1). In general, though, the entities explored in socialontology largely overlap with those that social scientists work on. A good deal of the work in socialontology takes place within the social sciences (see sections 5.1–5.8). -/- Socialontology also addresses more basic questions about the nature of the social world. One set of questions pertains to the constituents, or building blocks, of social things in general. For instance, some theories argue that social entities are built out of the psychological states of individual people, while others argue that they are built out of actions, and yet others that they are built out of practices. Still other theories deny that a distinction can even be made between the social and the non-social. -/- A different set of questions pertains to how social categories are constructed or set up. Are social categories and kinds produced by our attitudes? By our language? Are they produced by causal patterns? And is there just one way social categories are set up, or are there many varieties of social construction? -/- The term ‘socialontology’ has only come into wide currency in recent years, but the nature of the social has been a topic of inquiry since ancient Greece. As a whole, the field can be understood as a branch of metaphysics, the general inquiry into the nature of entities. (shrink)
ABSTRACTBrian Epstein’s The Ant Trap is a praiseworthy addition to literature on socialontology and the philosophy of social sciences. Its central aim is to challenge received views about the social world – views with which social scientists and philosophers have aimed to answer questions about the nature of social science and about those things that social sciences aim to model and explain, like social facts, objects and phenomena. The received views that (...) Epstein critiques deal with these issues in an overly people-centered manner. After all, even though social facts and phenomena clearly involve individual people arranged in certain ways, we must still spell out how people are involved in social facts and phenomena. There are many metaphysical questions about social properties, relations, dependence, constitution, causation, and facts that cannot be answered just be looking at individual people alone. In order to answer questions about how one social entity depends for its existence on another, we need different metaphysical tools. Epstein thus holds that social ontological explanations would greatly benefit from making use of the theoretical toolkit that contemporary analytical metaphysics has to offer. He focuses specifically on two metaphysical instruments: grounding and anchoring. This paper examines Epstein’s understanding and use of these tools. I contend that Epstein is exactly right to say that contemporary metaphysics contains many theoretical instruments that can be fruitfully applied to social ontological analyses. However, I am unconvinced that Epstein’s tools achieve what they set out to do. In particular, I will address two issues: How is grounding for Epstein meant to work? Is anchoring distinct from grounding, and a relation that we need in socialontology? (shrink)
The existence of a social world raises both the metaphysical puzzle: how can there be a “reality” of facts and objects that are genuinely created by human intentionality? and the epistemological puzzle: how can such a product of human intentionality include objective facts available for investigation and discovery by the social sciences? I argue that Searle’s story about the creation of social facts in The Construction of Social Reality is too narrow to fully solve either side (...) of the puzzle. By acknowledging different forms of rules for constructing social reality paralleling rules for creating ‘make-believe’ truths, we can build a more comprehensive socialontology and allow for a more appropriate range of discovery for the social sciences. Nonetheless, I argue that despite the parallels between methods for constructing make-believe and social facts, it would be mistaken to treat talk about social reality as involving a mere pretense to refer. (shrink)
In this article I consider the relevance of Tomasello’s work on social cognition to the theory of communicative action. I argue that some revisions are needed to cope with Tomasello’s results, but they do not affect the core of the theory. Moreover, they arguably reinforce both its explanatory power and the plausibility of its normative claims. I proceed in three steps. First, I compare and contrast Tomasello’s views on the ontogeny of human social cognition with the main tenets (...) of Habermas’ theory of communicative action. Second, I suggest how to reframe the role of language in the theory of communicative rationality in order to integrate the two theories. Third, I show how this affects socialontology, supporting the view that the construction of social reality is normatively constrained by the bounds of reason. (shrink)
I will argue that socialontology is constituted as hierarchical and interlocking conventions of multifarious kinds. Convention, in turn, is modeled in a manner derived from that of David K. Lewis. Convention is usually held to be inadequate for models of social ontologies, with one primary reason being that there seems to be no place for normativity. I argue that two related changes are required in the basic modeling framework in order to address this (and other) issue(s): (...) (1) a shift to an intentional model—among other reasons, in order to account for normativity—and (2) moving away from the belief-desire, propositional attitude, framework for understanding the intentional realm toward an interactive, pragmatic model of intentionality. These shifts provide natural approaches to: (1) understanding the normativities of social realities; (2) the sense in which socialontology is often constituted in implicit relations among the participants rather than elaborated and iterated explicit beliefs and desires; (3) and language. (shrink)
Dewey’s socialontology could be characterized as a habit ontology, an ontology of habit qua second nature that offers us an account of intentionality, social statuses, institutions, and norms in terms of habituations. Such an account offers us a promising alternative to contemporary intentionalist and deontic approaches to socialontology such as Searle’s. Furthermore, it could be the basis of a socialontology better suited to explain both the maintenance and the (...) transformation of social reality. In the first part I will characterize Dewey’s model as a socialontology based on the notion of habit, and present it as an alternative to intentionalist approaches to social reality. In the second part I will argue that habit ontology offers us an account of social norms that is based on a peculiar understanding of the notion of ‘status’, and represents an alternative to deontic accounts. In the third part I will claim that Dewey’s notion of “public” offers us a dynamic understanding of social institutions and a ‘reactive’ notion of collective intentionality as an achievement rather than as a presupposition of social practices. In the final section I will summarize some advantages of the Deweyan over the Searlean socialontology concerning our understanding of acceptance, maintenance and transformation of statuses, and of the role played by the ‘background’. (shrink)
In this paper recognition is taken to be a question of socialontology, regarding the very constitution of the social space of interaction. I concentrate on the question of whether certain aspects of the theory of recognition can be translated into the terms of a socio-ontological paradigm: to do so, I make reference to some conceptual tools derived from John Searle's socialontology and Robert Brandom's normative pragmatics. My strategy consists in showing that recognitive phenomena (...) cannot be isolated at the level of human interaction, and are, rather, in part proper to animal interaction as well. Furthermore, it is argued that recognitive powers are constitutive powers more basic than deontic ones and play a role much broader than the one they in fact assume in Searle and in Brandom. (shrink)
In assembling the contributions to Recognition and SocialOntology, the editors aim to bring together "two contemporary, intensively debated fields of inquiry: Hegel-inspired theories of recognition (Anerkennung) and analytic socialontology" (1). Considering the difficulty of this goal, the collection does rather well overall. Robert Brandom, whose own work deeply embodies the analytic engagement with Hegel, provides the lead contribution. Brandom's chapter in turn provokes critical reactions in several subsequent chapters. A number of chapters attempt to (...) show how Hegel can inform analytic social philosophy. And chapters that do not explicitly focus on Hegel nonetheless contribute to the analysis of mutual recognition. (shrink)
Within the interactivist, process approach to metaphysics, Bickhard (Social life and social knowledge: toward a process account of development. Lawrence Erlbaum, New York, 2008a; Topoi 27: 139–149, 2008b; New Ideas Psychol, in press) has developed a socialontology of persons that avoids many well-known philosophical difficulties concerning the genesis, development, and application of the rational and moral capabilities and responsibilities that characterize persons. Interactivism positions developing persons inside sets of social conventions within which they participate (...) in their own constitution as rational and moral agents who constantly transform themselves and their world. Following a description of Bickhard’s socialontology and an evaluation of its philosophical merits, two suggestions are offered with the intention of extending the explanatory reach of an interactivist ontology of persons. One of these suggestions concerns a recommended shift from processes of interaction and constructivism to processes of coordination and constitutionism. A second, related recommendation concerns the need for a more precise detailing of processes of coordinated constitution that explain the developing person’s embodied and enactive transformation from a social to a psychological being. (shrink)
In _"I that is We, We that is I"_ leading scholars analyze the many facets of Hegel’s formula for the intersubjective structure of human life and explores its relevance for debates on socialontology, recognition, action theory, constructivism, and naturalism.
For much of the first fifty years of its existence, analytic philosophy shunned discussions of normativity and ethics. Ethical statements were considered as pseudo-propositions, or as expressions of pro- or con-attitudes of minor theoretical significance. Nowadays, in contrast, prominent analytic philosophers pay close attention to normative problems. Here we focus our attention on the work of Searle, at the same time drawing out an important connection between Searle’s work and that of two other seminal figures in this development: H.L.A. Hart (...) and John Rawls. We show that all three thinkers tend to assume that there is but one type of normativity within the realm of social institutions – roughly, the sort of normativity that is involved in following the results of chess – and that they thereby neglect features that are of crucial significance for an adequate understanding of social reality. (shrink)
Mental, mathematical, and moral facts are difficult to accommodate within an overall worldview due to the peculiar kinds of properties inherent to them. In this paper I argue that a significant class of social entities also presents us with an ontological puzzle that has thus far not been addressed satisfactorily. This puzzle relates to the location of certain social entities. Where, for instance, are organizations located? Where their members are, or where their designated offices are? Organizations depend on (...) their members for their existence, but the members of an organization can be where the organization is not. The designated office of an organization, however, need be little more than a mailbox. I argue that the problem can be solved by conceptualizing the relation between social entities and non-social entities as one of constitution, a relation of unity without identity. Constituted objects have properties that cannot be reduced to properties of the constituting objects. Thus, my attempt to solve the Location Problem results in an argument in favor of a kind of non-reductive materialism about the social. (shrink)
Even though sign-systems are a crucial part of society, critical realism, as developed by Roy Bhaskar, does not yet have an adequate theory of signs and semiosis. The few suggestions that Bhaskar offers can be advanced through the semiotics of C.S. Peirce. In doing so, however, it becomes necessary to reconsider Bhaskar's ontological domains of the real, the actual, and the subjective, and expand the last domain into one of semiosis. This new understanding of ontological domains, incorporating Peirceian semiotics, provides (...) the basis for rethinking the ontology of society: the customary dyad structures/agents becomes the triad structures/agents/discourses, each of which possesses material, sociological, and meaningful aspects. (shrink)
A peculiar socio-ontological approach is to be found in Dewey’s writings of the twenties—mainly in Human Nature and Conduct, Experience and Nature, and The Public and Its Problems. According to Dewey, it is proper of social and political facts to be dependent on human activity and still exhibit an “objective reality.” Such facts exist out there, have causal consequences, and have objectively knowable properties : they are, to use John Searle’s phrase, “epistemologically objective”.1 When it comes to understanding how (...)social facts are constituted through interaction, Dewey thinks that we have to take human association as a primitive phenomenon that is proper of our... (shrink)
Social groups—like teams, committees, gender groups, and racial groups—play a central role in our lives and in philosophical inquiry. Here I develop and motivate a structuralist ontology of social groups centered on social structures (i.e., networks of relations that are constitutively dependent on social factors). The view delivers a picture that encompasses a diverse range of social groups, while maintaining important metaphysical and normative distinctions between groups of different kinds. It also meets the constraint (...) that not every arbitrary collection of people is a social group. In addition, the framework provides resources for developing a broader structuralist view in socialontology. (shrink)
If our metaphysical concept of a person is influenced by irrelevant external factors, including political factors, being intellectually responsible requires considering multiple theories in multiple domains and coming to some kind of picture that coheres with as many intuitions about persons in as many domains as possible. Theories that do not meet this standard ought to be rejected. An example of a theory that does not respect this constraint is the Integrated Self Theory, which is influenced by irrelevant political factors, (...) and does not cohere with intuitions about persons in the political and ethical domain. This is because having an integrated self depends upon one’s political standing, i.e., whether one is privileged or not, and therefore, whether one has enough control over the effects of the social and political forces that act upon the self. And, as we know, not everyone has this privileged political standing. Having an integrated self is just not a state that just anyone can have. The Integrated Self Theory is, therefore, not politically neutral. Assuming that the integrated self is the ideal of a normally functioning individual, leads counting those without a privileged political standing as somehow failing to be persons, or fully realized persons, at least. This seems like an unfair political consequence of the Integrated Self Theory. For these reasons, the Integrated Self Theory ought to be discarded, and not only relative to this particular context. It ought to be rejected as any kind of ideal model altogether. (shrink)
Whitehead claims there is only one type of individual in the universe—the actual entity—but there are necessarily multiple tokens of this type. This turns out to be paradoxical. Nevertheless, a type of individuality that is necessarily plural because, for each token, relations to other tokens are constitutive is something familiar from ordinary language, everyday politics, and, not least, 19th century German social thought. Whitehead’s actual entity generalizes the notion of species-being we find in Fichte, Feuerbach, and Marx. The rationale (...) for the concept of species-being brings to light important social and political implications of Whitehead’s cosmology. (shrink)
Through a critical engagement with Merleau-Ponty’s discussion of the concepts of nature, life, and behavior, and with contemporary accounts of animal groups, this article argues that animal groups exhibit sociality and that sociality is a fundamental ontological condition. I situate my account in relation to the superorganism and selfish individual accounts of animal groups in recent biology and zoology. I argue that both accounts are inadequate. I propose an alternative account of animal groups and animal sociality through a Merleau-Pontian inspired (...) definition of behavior. I criticize Merleau-Ponty’s individualistic prejudice, but show that his philosophy contains the resources necessary to overcome this bias. I define behavior as a holistic, ongoing, meaningful and Umwelt-oriented intrinsically configured expression of living forms of existence. By looking at cases of animal groups drawn from contemporary studies in zoology and behavioral ecology, I show that animal groups, in the fact that they behave, manifest themselves to be a fundamental form of existence, namely, the social form of existence. (shrink)
This comment discusses Kaidesoja and raises the issue whether his analysis justifies stronger conclusions than he presents in the book. My comments focus on four issues. First, I argue that his naturalistic reconstruction of critical realist transcendental arguments shows that transcendental arguments should be treated as a rare curiosity rather than a general argumentative strategy. Second, I suggest that Kaidesoja’s analysis does not really justify his optimism about the usefulness of causal powers ontology in the social sciences. Third, (...) I raise some doubts about the heuristic value of Mario Bunge’s socialontology that Kaidesoja presents as a replacement for critical realist ontology. Finally, I propose an alternative way to analyze failures of aggregativity that might better serve Kaidesoja’s purposes than the Wimsattian scheme he employs in the book. (shrink)
This article addresses Tuukka Kaidesoja’s critique of the philosophical presuppositions of Roy Bhaskar’s theories of critical realism. The article supports Kaidesoja’s naturalistic approach to the philosophy of the social sciences, including the field of socialontology. The article discusses the specific topics of fallibilism, emergence, and causal powers. I conclude that Kaidesoja’s book is a valuable contribution to current debates over critical realism.
Mainstream game theory explains cooperation as the outcome of the interaction of agents who permanently pursue their individual goals. Amartya Sen argues instead that cooperation can only be understood by positing a type of rule-following behaviour that can be out of phase with the pursuit of individual goals, due to the existence of a collective identity. However, Sen does not clarify the ontological preconditions for the type of social behaviour he describes. I will argue that Sen's account of collective (...) identity can be best interpreted in the light of John Searle's notion of collective intentionality, while Sen's explanation of rule-following behavior and agency is best understood using the critical realist transformational model of social activity. (shrink)
This paper offers an account of the social foundations of a theory of democracy. It purports to show that a socialontology of democracy is the necessary counterpart of a political theory of democracy. It notably contends that decisions concerning basic social ontological assumptions are relevant not only for empirical research, but bear a significant impact also on normative theorizing. The paper then explains why interactionist rather than substantialist social ontologies provide the most promising starting (...) point for building a socialontology of democracy. It then introduces and examines the three notions of habits, patterns of interaction, and forms of social organization, conceived as the main pillars of an interactionist socialontology of democracy and briefly discusses some major implications of this approach for democratic theory. (shrink)
This article is a plea for a realist view of deliberative bodies against a nominalist view. They cannot be reduced to the changing collection of the individuals who compose it. The deliberative bodies are real collective entities insofar as we are able to precise their criteria of identity. These are the differentiation between an interior and an exterior linked by functions or ends; thus these collective entities are adaptive systems. There are three kinds of such adaptive systems: technical systems, organisms (...) and human organizations. The specificity of human organizations is related to the nature of the relations between parties, which are normative, and to the way their ends are determined. Deliberative bodies are organizations of which the specific characteristics have been listed. The mode of being of these collective entities is adverbial. This means that the existence of a deliberative body is subordinated to the nature of the activity of its members and to the manner they are oriented toward its instituted ends. (shrink)
Moral and social philosophers often assume that humans beings are and ought to be autonomous. This tradition of individualism, or atomism, underlies many of our assumptions about ethics and law; it provides a legitimating framework for liberal democracy and free market capitalism. In this powerful book, David Weissman argues against atomistic ontologies, affirming instead that all of reality is social. Every particular is a system created by the reciprocal causal relations of its parts, he explains. Weissman formulates an (...) original metaphysics of nature that remains true to what is known through the empirical sciences, and he applies his hypothesis to a range of topics in psychology, morals, sociology, and politics. The author contends that systems are sometimes mutually independent, but many systems—human ones especially—are joined in higher order systems, such as families, friendships, businesses, and states, that are overlapping or nested. Weissman tests this schematic claim with empirical examples in chapters on persons, sociality, and value. He also considers how the scheme applies to particular issues related to deliberation, free speech, conflict, and ecology. (shrink)
Tuukka Kaidesoja’s new book is a welcome addition to the literature on critical realism. He shows good judgement in defending Roy Bhaskar’s argument for causal powers while criticising its framing as a transcendental argument. In criticising Bhaskar’s concept of a real-but-not-actual ontological domain, however, he discards an essential element of a realist ontology, even a naturalised one: a recognition of the transfactual aspect of causal power.
Examining the ontological commitments that Marx and later Marxists inherited from Aristotle, this book shows why ontological commitments are important. It also explains the Aristotelian reading of Marx, linking this to a critique of analytical Marxism and the philosophy of later Lukacs.
This paper sets out an organizing framework for the field of socialontology, the study of the nature of the social world. The subject matter of socialontology is clarified, in particular the difference between it and the study of causal relations and the explanation of social phenomena. Two different inquiries are defined and explained: the study of the grounding of social facts, and the study of how social categories are “anchored” or (...) set up. The distinction between these inquiries is used to clarify prominent programs in social theory, particularly theories of practice and varieties of individualism. (shrink)
In Totality and Infinity Levinas presents the 'face to face' as an account of intersubjectivity, but one which maintains the absolute difference of the Other. This essay explores the genesis of the 'face to face' through a discussion of Levinas in relation to Buber. It is argued that Levinas' account of subjectivity shares much in common with Fichte's theory of subjectivity. It is further argued that while the 'face to face' clarifies and opposes traditional problems in socialontology, (...) the 'face to face' is unable to avoid the traditional problems of socialontology that it seeks to avoid. (shrink)
For a long time, under the influence of traditional Western philosophy, Orthodox interpreters have distorted Marx’s philosophy as the ontology of matter, thereby concealing the essence of Marx’s philosophy, and eliminating the fundamental difference between Marx’s philosophy and traditional philosophy. This paper proposes that Marx’s philosophy is not the ontology of matter, but on the contrary, by examining the ontology of matter, Marx put forward his own ontological theory, i.e., the ontology of the praxis-relations of (...) class='Hi'>social production, by which Marx linked the realms of phenomenon and essence, revealing the content and essence of his philosophy. (shrink)
Current debates in socialontology are dominated by approaches that view institutions either as rules or as equilibria of strategic games. We argue that these two approaches can be unified within an encompassing theory based on the notion of correlated equilibrium. We show that in a correlated equilibrium each player follows a regulative rule of the form ‘if X then do Y’. We then criticize Searle's claim that constitutive rules of the form ‘X counts as Y in C’ (...) are fundamental building blocks for institutions, showing that such rules can be derived from regulative rules by introducing new institutional terms. Institutional terms are introduced for economy of thought, but are not necessary for the creation of social reality. (shrink)
Individualists about socialontology hold that social facts are “built out of” facts about individuals. In this paper, I argue that there are two distinct kinds of individualism about socialontology, two different ways individual people might be the metaphysical “builders” of the social world. The familiar kind is ontological individualism. This is the thesis that social facts supervene on, or are exhaustively grounded by, facts about individual people. What I call anchor individualism (...) is the alternative thesis that facts about individuals put in place the conditions for a social entity to exist, or the conditions for something to have a social property. Examples include conventionalist theories of the social world, such as David Hume’s theories of promises, money, and government, and collective acceptance theories, such as John Searle’s theory of institutional facts. Anchor individualism is often conflated with ontological individualism. But in fact, the two theses are in tension with one another: if one of these kinds of individualism is true, then the other is very unlikely to be. My aim in this paper is to clarify both, and argue that they should be sharply distinguished from one another. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to explore the problem of socialontology. The form that the exploration will take is a development of the argument that I presented in The Construction of Social Realty. I will summarize some of the results of that book and then develop the ideas further.
This article delineates a new type of socialontologysite ontologyand defends a particular version of that type. The first section establishes the distinctiveness of site ontologies over both individualist ontologies and previous societist ones. The second section then shows how site ontologies elude two pervasive criticisms, that of incompleteness directed at individualism and that of reification leveled at societism. The third section defends a particular site ontology, one that depicts the social as a mesh of (...) human practices and material arrangements. The article concludes by outlining what is involved in giving site-ontological analyses of social things. Key Words: socialontology sociality individualism wholism social facts Heidegger social practices. (shrink)
Analytic socialontology has been dominated by approaches where institutions tend to come out paradigmatically as being relatively harmonious and mutually beneficial. This can however raise worries about such models potentially playing an ideological role in conceptualizing certain politically charged features of our societies as marginal phenomena or not even being institutional matters at all. This article seeks to develop a nonideal theory of institutions, which neither assumes that institutions are beneficial or oppressive, and where ideology is understood (...) as a structuring and stabilizing phenomenon that helps maintain specific distributions of rights and duties by conferring perceived legitimacy onto them. (shrink)
The essay probes the limits of socialontology as a grounding project for interpretation and explanation in the social sciences. The argument proceeds by challenging the exemplary and influential ontology of John Searle by means of Jim Bohman’s hermeneutic approach. While both share the interest in establishing the validity basis of social-scientific claims, Bohman reconstructs in this regard the situated standpoint of the hermeneutic interpreter, in contrast to Searle’s building block approach to social reality. (...) A careful analysis of Bohman’s argumentation reveals the need for differentiating a variety of interpretive stances, which leads back to important revisions of the intentionality-based socialontology of Searle. The discussion results in the need to ground methodological pluralism in a universal hermeneutics of interpretive capabilities to safeguard the social sciences against relativistic as well as metaphysical challenges. (shrink)
Despite a recent resurgence of interest in socialontology, the standard conceptualization of social/cultural objects reiterates dichotomies such as nature and culture, subjectivity and objectivity: the objective components of a social/cultural environment are usually divided into their material substratum, natural or manufactured, and their imposed or assigned social import. Inert materiality and subjectively or intersubjectively assigned meanings and functions remain distinct as constitutive aspects of a reality that is intuitively experienced as a whole. In contrast—by (...) means of examining a broad range of natural/cultural entities—I propose an experiential or visceral ontology of the social, which addresses the comprehensive nature of our experience of cultural objects, as well as their perpetual transmutability within the space between nature and culture, objectivity and subjectivity. This perspective allows for a cathexis of meaning in the material constitution of cultural entities—in contrast to a mere imposition of detachable layers of meaning—and suggests a reconsideration of our unexamined perception of social/political action as editorial supervision and correction. Moreover, I point out the centrality of the concept of practice for recovering the lived sense of social things, since practice, by virtue of its inalienable informality, constitutes the field of Protean renewal of this sense. I understand my approach as complementary to the body-turn in contemporary social theory, since I extend the postulation of meaningfulness in the objective aspect of subjective existence towards its lived surroundings, which are here perceived as engaged in a process of meaningful practiced reciprocations with corporeal subjectivities. (shrink)
This paper summarizes some of the major concepts of Raimo Tuomela’s socialontology as it is articulated and defended in his most recent major works and provides a set of objections to it. It also suggests some ways to plausibly revise Tuomela’s analysis of social groups in order to evade our concerns.
There is an underlying assumption in the social sciences that consciousness and social life are ultimately classical physical/material phenomena. In this ground-breaking book, Alexander Wendt challenges this assumption by proposing that consciousness is, in fact, a macroscopic quantum mechanical phenomenon. In the first half of the book, Wendt justifies the insertion of quantum theory into social scientific debates, introduces social scientists to quantum theory and the philosophical controversy about its interpretation, and then defends the quantum consciousness (...) hypothesis against the orthodox, classical approach to the mind-body problem. In the second half, he develops the implications of this metaphysical perspective for the nature of language and the agent-structure problem in socialontology. Wendt's argument is a revolutionary development which raises fundamental questions about the nature of social life and the work of those who study it. (shrink)
How should critical realism affect the practice of social science? This paper responds to this and related questions by suggesting some methodological implications of the realist theory of emergence. Given that critical realism understands causation as the interaction of emergent causal powers, and that the theory of emergence describes the type of structural relations that underpins such powers, we can practise socialontology by seeking to identify these structural relations in the social domain. Such methods, however, (...) cannot stand or fall purely on philosophical grounds; their validity also depends on whether they work. Hence this paper briefly illustrates the application of the method to socialontology, using examples from the theory of social institutions. (shrink)