Social Ontology

In Ricki Bliss & James Miller (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Metametaphysics (2020)
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Traditionally, social entities (i.e., social properties, facts, kinds, groups, institutions, and structures) have not fallen within the purview of mainstream metaphysics. In this chapter, we consider whether the exclusion of social entities from mainstream metaphysics is philosophically warranted or if it instead rests on historical accident or bias. We examine three ways one might attempt to justify excluding social metaphysics from the domain of metaphysical inquiry and argue that each fails. Thus, we conclude that social entities are not justifiably excluded from metaphysical inquiry. Finally, we ask how focusing on social entities could change the character of metaphysical inquiry. We suggest that starting from examples of social entities might lead metaphysicians to rethink the assumption that describing reality in terms of intrinsic, independent, and individualistic features is preferable to describing it in terms of relational, dependent, and non-individualistic features.

Author Profiles

Katherine Ritchie
University of California, Irvine
Rebecca Mason
University of San Francisco


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