Norm and Object: A Normative Hylomorphic Theory of Social Objects

Philosophers' Imprint 21 (25):1-21 (2021)
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This paper is an investigation into the metaphysics of social objects such as political borders, states, and organizations. I articulate a metaphysical puzzle concerning such objects and then propose a novel account of social objects that provides a solution to the puzzle. The basic idea behind the puzzle is that under appropriate circumstances, seemingly concrete social objects can apparently be created by acts of agreement, decree, declaration, or the like. Yet there is reason to believe that no concrete object can be created in this way. The central idea of my positive account is that social objects have a normative component to them, and seemingly concrete social objects have both normative and material components. I develop this idea more rigorously using resources from the Aristotelian hylomorphic tradition. The resulting normative hylomorphic account, I argue, solves the puzzle by providing a satisfying explanation of creation-by-agreement and the like, while also avoiding the difficulties facing extant accounts of social objects.

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Asya Passinsky
Central European University


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