Social Kinds, Social Objects, and Vague Boundaries

Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Ontology of Social, Legal and Economic Entities (SoLEE) (2021)
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Abstract

In this paper, I argue against what I call “natural realism” about social kinds, the view according to which social categories have natural boundaries, independent of our thought. First, I draw a distinction between two different types of entity realism, one being about the existence of the entity, “ontological realism”, and the other one being about the direct mind-independence of the entity, “natural realism”. After endorsing ontological realism, I present the natural realist argument according to which there would be certain social kinds, such as economic recessions and racism, even if we had no clue about their existence and nature. I claim that the argument fails insofar it mistakes the single instances for the kinds themselves. I then argue against natural realism by showing how the vagueness characterizing the boundaries of social kinds puts the realist in front of a dilemma: either she accepts the vagueness of these boundaries as ontic, a metaphysically problematic thesis, or she accepts that most or all social kinds remain unknown, an epistemologically problematic thesis. Thus, I argue that antirealism, according to which social kinds are constructed, is a better alternative to the realist account.

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Francesco Franda
University at Buffalo (PhD)

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