The metaphysics of social kinds

Philosophy Compass 11 (12):841-850 (2016)
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It is a truism that humans are social animals. Thus, it is no surprise that we understand the world, each other, and ourselves in terms of social kinds such as money and marriage, war and women, capitalists and cartels, races, recessions, and refugees. Social kinds condition our expectations, inform our preferences, and guide our behavior. Despite the prevalence and importance of social kinds, philosophy has historically devoted relatively little attention to them. With few exceptions, philosophers have given pride of place to the kinds studied by the natural sciences, especially physics. However, philosophical interest in social kinds is growing in recent years. I critically examine answers to a cluster of related questions concerning the metaphysics of social kinds. Are social kinds natural kinds? Do social kinds have essences? Are social kinds mind dependent? Are social kinds real?

Author's Profile

Rebecca Mason
University of San Francisco


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