Real Kinds in Real Time: On Responsible Social Modeling

The Monist 102 (2):236-258 (2019)
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There is broad agreement among social researchers and social ontologists that the project of dividing humans into social kinds should be guided by at least two methodological commitments. First, a commitment to what best serves moral and political interests, and second, a commitment to describing accurately the causal structures of social reality. However, researchers have not sufficiently analyzed how these two commitments interact and constrain one another. In the absence of that analysis, several confusions have set in, threatening to undermine shared goals for the responsible modeling of social kinds of humans. This essay first explains the source and substance of these confusions. Then, by distinguishing different value-laden investigative questions into the classification of social kinds of humans, it sets out specific relations of dependence and constraint between empirically-driven investigations and value-driven investigations into social kinds of humans. The result is a more detailed and fruitful framework for thinking about the classification of social kinds that respects both normative interests and mind-independent causal regularities.
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