How Many Kinds of Glue Hold the Social World Together

In Mattia Gallotti & John Michael (eds.), Social Ontology and Social Cognition (2014)
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Abstract

In recent years, theorists have debated how we introduce new social objects and kinds into the world. Searle, for instance, proposes that they are introduced by collective acceptance of a constitutive rule; Millikan and Elder that they are the products of reproduction processes; Thomasson that they result from creator intentions and subsequent intentional reproduction; and so on. In this chapter, I argue against the idea that there is a single generic method or set of requirements for doing so. Instead, there is a variety of what I call “anchoring schemas,” or methods by which new social kinds are generated. Not only are social kinds a diverse lot, but the metaphysical explanation for their being the kinds they are is diverse as well. I explain the idea of anchoring and present examples of social kinds that are similar to one another but that are anchored in different ways. I also respond to Millikan’s argument that there is only one kind of “glue” that is “sticky enough” for holding together kinds. I argue that no anchoring schema will work in all environments. It is a contingent matter which schemas are successful for anchoring new social kinds, and an anchoring schema need only be “sticky enough” for practical purposes in a given environment.

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Brian Epstein
Tufts University

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