Social Organisms: Hegel's Organisational Theory of Social Functions

In Social Functions in Philosophy: Metaphysical, Normative, and Methodological Perspectives (forthcoming)
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A widespread view about early social functionalism is that its account of functional explanation was underpinned by an analogy between biological organisms and societies that suggested pseudo-explanations about the latter. I will challenge this view through a case study of the use G.W.F. Hegel made of the organismic analogy for the purpose of concept development in his theory of the state. My claim will be that the dismissal of this analogy is premature for two reasons. First, to claim that the organismic analogy figured among the premises of an analogical argument and, thus, as explanans in an explanation misses its point. For Hegel made use of the analogy to model the apparent close cooperation among the parts of the state and, thus conceptualize its characteristic structure in terms of organization: the mutual dependence among distinct structures generated by the state as a whole. Second, the organizational view of social functions thus suggested by the organismic analogy has not obviously been made obsolete by evolutionary theory. Instead, reconsidering the organismic analogy in light of contemporary philosophy of biology puts an account of social functions that has fallen from view (and from grace) in the contemporary discussion back in focus: the organizational account.
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Archival date: 2019-12-13
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