Sally Haslanger (2006) is concerned with the debate between so-called social constructionists and error theorists about a given category, such as race or gender. For example, social constructionists about race claim that race is socially constructed, that is, the kind or property that unifies all instances of the category is a social feature (not a natural or physical feature, as naturalists about race would hold). On the other hand, error theorists about race claim that the term ‘race’ is an empty (...) term, that is, nothing belongs to this category, since the conditions that something should satisfy in order to fall under ‘race’ are not satisfied by anything. What kind of evidence could we use in order to support one or another of these theories? It seems that this debate is in part semantic: what makes the case that a category is an empty one (and therefore error theory about it holds), as opposed to it being socially constructed, has to do with the meaning of the corresponding expression. In particular, in the case of race, some people have argued that our concept RACE is such that something will fall under it only if it is a natural property that can explain certain features. Arguably, there are no natural properties of human beings that can do the explanatory work that races are supposed to do, and therefore, error theorists have concluded that ‘race’ is an empty term, that is, there are no races (Appiah (1996)). (Some theorists have introduced new terms for a new property that is very similar to that of race and can do part of the explanatory work that races were supposed to do, but it does not have to satisfy all the conditions that races are supposed to satisfy. For instance, Appiah (1996) has introduced the notion of ‘racial identity’ to that effect.) These considerations suggest that if we want to find out whether a certain category is socially constructed, or whether an error theory about it is correct, we have to engage in.... (shrink)
Taking up a recent critique of Nancy Fraser by Sally Haslanger, this paper defends the primary thesis of Marxist-Feminist unitarytheory that the systematic reproduction of modern forms of racial and gendered oppression is due to their co-articulation with thereproduction of capitalist social relations against three criticisms oﬀered by Haslanger. It develops its defense of Fraser’s articulation of unitary theory by acknowledging a social ontological deﬁcit in that theory insofar as it does not contain a theory of thesocial construction of human (...) kinds and amending this deﬁcit by drawing on revised aspects of Haslanger’s own work. It arguesthat the global reproduction of race and gender as hierarchical social relations is a consequence of the reproduction of capitalism although local gender and race kinds are asymmetrically co-constituted by non-capitalist social practices. (shrink)
The theme of this year’s Spindel Conference was Social Ontologies of Race. This editorial introduction serves as both a general introduction to the topic of racial ontology and an introduction to this volume’s contributions. I will first explain some central ideas for discussions of ontology in general. I will then make some basic taxonomic distinctions common to discussions of racial ontology and suggest some clarifications. I will then go on to discuss the five contributions to this volume.
This chapter is an extended version (almost 2x in length) of an essay first published in Australasian Philosophical Review. -/- Abstract: In On Female Body Experience, Iris Marion Young argues that a central aim of feminist and queer theory is social criticism. The goal is to understand oppression and how it functions: know thy enemy, so as to better resist. Much of Sally Haslanger’s work shares this goal, and her newest article, “Cognition as a Social Skill,” is no exception. In (...) this essay, I will specify what I believe is special and insightful about Haslanger’s theory of oppression and her most recent addition to it. However, I also explore what it is missing, namely, an account of what Young calls “individual [embodied] experience, subjectivity, and identity.” Echoing a chorus of critical voices, I argue that this omission undermines Haslanger’s ability to effectively theorize group oppression and how to resist it. The core problem is this. Haslanger privileges a third-person methodology that prioritizes social structures over all else. I conclude by amplifying a collective call to action: any adequate theory of oppression must attend to both the lived experiences of individuals and to social structures, that is, to the broad institutional and cultural underpinnings of oppression. A theory that does only one, or the other, will fail. Through this analysis, the chapter contributes to an overall aim of this volume, namely, to advance our understanding of racial and gender-based group oppressions by paying closer attention to facts about embodiment. (shrink)
In Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique, contemporary feminist philosopher Sally Haslanger claims that the reality of race and gender is built on unjust social structures and must be resisted. Meanwhile, contemporary social theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak extends the term ‘subaltern’ to Third World Asian women who were rendered inarticulate by centuries of oppressive masculinist, imperialist, and colonial rule. This article examines how a metaphysics of resistance, culled from philosophy and postcolonial studies, can contribute to expanding postcolonial feminist theologizing.
The metaphysics of gender and race is a growing area of concern in contemporary analytic metaphysics, with many different views about the nature of gender and race being submitted and discussed. But what are these debates about? What questions are these accounts trying to answer? And is there real disagreement between advocates of differ- ent views about race or gender? If so, what are they really disagreeing about? In this paper I want to develop a view about what the debates (...) in the metaphysics of gender and race are about, namely, a version of metaphysical deflationism, according to which these debates are about how we actually use or should use the terms ‘gender’ and ‘race’ (and other related terms), where moral and political considerations play a central role. I will also argue that my version of the view can overcome some recent and powerful objections to metaphysical deflationism of- fered by Elizabeth Barnes (2014, 2017). (shrink)
In response to commentaries by Esa Díaz León, Jennifer Saul, and Ra- chel Sterken, I develop more fully my views on the role of structure in social and metaphysical explanation. Although I believe that social agency, quite generally, occurs within practices and structures, the relevance of structure depends on the sort of questions we are asking and what interventions we are considering. The emphasis on questions is also relevant in considering metaphysical and meta-metaphysical is- sues about realism with respect to (...) gender and race. I aim to demon- strate that tools we develop in the context of critical social theory can change the questions we ask, what forms of explanation are called for, and how we do philosophy. (shrink)
This paper provides an account of social practices that reveals how they are constitutive of social agency, enable coordination around things of value, and are a site for social intervention. The social world, on this account, does not begin when psychologically sophisticated individuals interact to share knowledge or make plans. Instead, culture shapes agents to interpret and respond both to each other and the physical world around us. Practices shape us as we shape them. This provides resources for understanding why (...) social practices tend to be stable, but also reveals sites and opportunities for change. (shrink)
Social constructionism is often considered a form of anti-realism. But in contemporary feminist philosophy, an increasing number of philosophers defend views that are well-described as both realist and social constructionist. In this paper, I use the work of Sally Haslanger as an example of realist social constructionism. I argue: that Haslanger is best interpreted as defending metaphysical realism about social structures; that this type of metaphysical realism about the social world presents challenges to some popular ways of understanding metaphysical realism.
Kirk Ludwig presents a philosophical account of institutional action, such as action by corporations and nation states, arguing that it can be understood exhaustively in terms of the agency of individuals and concepts constructed out of materials that are already at play in our understanding of individual action. He thus argues for a strong form of methodological individualism. The book provides a new account of the logical form of grammatically singular group action sentences (e.g. 'Company laid off 10,000 workers'), and (...) features new analyses of the concepts of a constitutive rule, status function, status role, collective acceptance, and proxy agency. He also provides an analysis of the structure of corporate action, including the status of corporations as legal persons, and of the nature of state action in relation to its citizens. This is the companion volume to From Individual to Plural Agency (OUP 2016), extending the multiple-agents account of collective action set out in the earlier volume. (shrink)
Recent critiques of the category religion discuss the category as socially constructed, but the nature of this social construction remains underdeveloped. The work of Sally Haslanger can supplement existing discussions of ‘religion’ while also offering a new perspective on the connection between social construction and social critique. Her analysis of race provides resources for developing a philosophical account of the social construction of religion and can help scholars of religion conceptualize racialized religious identities. I offer an example of this approach (...) by using Haslanger’s work on race to consider historical and contemporary intersections of race and Muslim identity. I conclude that the ongoing ideological work of ‘religion’ means that the concept remains an analytically useful term, but that scholars should aim at the gradual abolition of ‘religion’. (shrink)
Sally Haslanger undertakes groundbreaking work in developing an account of structural explanations and the social structures that figure in them. A chief virtue of the account is that it can show the importance of structural explanations while also respecting the role of individual autonomy in explaining many decisions, by demonstrating the way in which social structures may set up a ‘choice architecture’ in which these choices are made. This paper gives an overview of this achievement, and goes on to consider (...) why there may be need to broaden the role of social structural explanations beyond those that involve explicit choice within a choice architecture. It develops the idea, familiar from work by Heidegger and Ingarden, that social artifacts, roles, and nodes in social structures may be constitutively defined by norms. It closes by suggesting that attention to the role of norms in social structures may enable us to broaden the account to include structural explanations of other kinds. (shrink)
There has been a significant amount of research, from a variety of disciplines, targeting the nature and political status of human categories such as woman, man, Black, and Latino. The result is a tangle of concepts and distinctions that often obscure more than clarify the subject matter. This incentivizes the creation of fresh terms and distinctions that might disentangle the old, but too often these efforts just add to the snarl. The process iterates, miscommunication becomes standard, and insufficiently vetted concepts (...) can gain central theoretical status. Over the last two decades, Sally Haslanger ’s work in this area – conveniently consolidated in the volume “Resisting Reality: Social construction and social critique” – has been a much needed corrective to this process; Haslanger ’s terms and distinctions really do disentangle. This review organizes and explicates central themes from Haslanger ’s volume. It then offers some critical comments, arguing that some of Haslanger ’s distinctions and proposals are less successful than others. (shrink)
After a brief summary of the 17 essays in Sally Haslanger’s (2012) collection, Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique, I raise questions in two areas, the defense of constructionism and the definition of gender and race in terms of social oppression. I cite Robin Andreasen’s and Philip Kitcher’s essays arguing (in different ways) that races are both biologically real and socially constructed, and also Joshua Glasgow’s claim that constructionist arguments ultimately fail. I then cite Jennifer Saul’s critique that “oppression” (...) definitions of gender and race run into problematic counterexamples, and add some other points arising from the different histories of gender and racial categories and realities. As someone sympathetic to constructionism myself, my aim is not a critique of Haslanger but rather an inquiry as to how she thinks (we) constructionists should answer such challenges. (shrink)
Could some social kinds be natural kinds? In this paper, I argue that there are three kinds of social kinds: 1) social kinds whose existence does not depend on human beings having any beliefs or other propositional attitudes towards them ; 2) social kinds whose existence depends in part on specific attitudes that human beings have towards them, though attitudes need not be manifested towards their particular instances ; 3) social kinds whose existence and that of their instances depend in (...) part on specific attitudes that human beings have towards them . Although all three kinds of social kinds are mind-dependent, this does not make them ontologically subjective or preclude them from being natural kinds. Rather, what prevents the third kind of social kinds from being natural kinds is that their properties are conventionally rather than causally linked. (shrink)
Sally Haslanger is concerned with the debate between social constructionists and error theorists about a given category, such as race or gender. For example, social constructionists about race claim that the term “race” refers to a social kind, whereas error theorists claim that the term “race” is an empty term, that is, nothing belongs to this category. It seems that this debate depends in part on the meaning of the corresponding expression, and this, according to some theorists, depends in turn (...) on our intuitions as competent speakers. But then, what should we say if competent users of the expressions “race” and “gender” understand the terms so that being a natural or biological property is a necessary condition in order to fall under the term? If that were the case, then it would seem that a social constructionist view would be out of the question. Haslanger has argued that a social constructionist view could still be defended in that situation. In order to argue for this, she draws on the classical arguments for semantic externalism, which show that the intuitions of competent speakers concerning the nature of a given category, and the objective type that actually unifies the instances of that category, may come apart. In this paper I will argue that the arguments for semantic externalism concerning natural kinds do not really offer support for Haslanger’s claim that ordinary intuitions concerning social kinds are not relevant. (shrink)
[Sally Haslanger] In debates over the existence and nature of social kinds such as 'race' and 'gender', philosophers often rely heavily on our intuitions about the nature of the kind. Following this strategy, philosophers often reject social constructionist analyses, suggesting that they change rather than capture the meaning of the kind terms. However, given that social constructionists are often trying to debunk our ordinary (and ideology-ridden?) understandings of social kinds, it is not surprising that their analyses are counterintuitive. This article (...) argues that externalist insights from the critique of the analytic/synthetic distinction can be extended to justify social constructionist analyses. /// [Jennifer Saul] Sally Haslanger's 'What Good Are Our Intuitions? Philosophical Analysis and Social Kinds' is, among other things, a part of the theoretical underpinning for analyses of race and gender concepts that she discusses far more fully elsewhere. My reply focuses on these analyses of race and gender concepts, exploring the ways in which the theoretical work done in this paper and others can or cannot be used to defend these analyses against certain objections. I argue that the problems faced by Haslanger's analyses are in some ways less serious, and in some ways more serious, than they may at first appear. Along the way, I suggest that ordinary speakers may not in fact have race and gender concepts and I explore the ramifications of this claim. (shrink)
John R. Searle’s 1995 publication The Construction of Social Reality is the foundation of this collection of scholarly papers examining Searle's philosophical theories. Searle’s book sets out to reconstruct the ontology of the social sciences through an analysis of linguistic practices in the context of his celebrated work on intentionality. His book provided a stimulating account of institutional facts such as money and marriage and how they are created and replicated in everyday social life. The authors in this collection provide (...) a critical appraisal of these and other ideas presented in Searle’s original publication. The editors' introduction clearly outlines the main issues in the debate and provides a useful introduction to Searle's contributions to social science. (shrink)
Despite Searle''s claim of theoretical proximity between his concept of the Background and Bourdieu''s concept of the habitus, there is at least one substantial difference in the respective ways in which these concepts have been elaborated: the Background is conceived as a nonintentional neurophysiological reality whereas the habitus is fully intentional, or rather constitutes a nonrepresentational level of intentionality completely overlooked from Searle''s standpoint. Moreover, each concept implicates a distinct perspective on social reality: the former suggests that significance is superimposed (...) yet essentially external to this reality; the latter indicates that significance is immanent. I elaborate on the comparison between the two concepts/perspectives from different angles in order to highlight the existing differences as well as explore possible underlying affinities, which depend upon reconsidering the conventional understanding of intentionality as an exclusive attribute of mental phenomena. I show that Searle''s analysis of the Background is inundated with indications of the undeniably intentional character of something he attempts to define as a nonintentional reality. Finally, I discuss the connection between the immanence of significance in Bourdieu''s account of social reality and the conflict-centered orientation of this account. This dimension is noticeably absent from Searle''s theorizing of the social. (shrink)
It is always awkward when someone asks me informally what I’m working on and I answer that I’m trying to figure out what gender is. For outside a rather narrow segment of the academic world, the term ‘gender’ has come to function as the polite way to talk about the sexes. And one thing people feel pretty confident about is their knowledge of the difference between males and females. Males are those human beings with a range of familiar primary and (...) secondary sex characteristics, most important being the penis; females are those with a different set, most important being the vagina or, perhaps, the uterus. Enough said. Against this background, it isn’t clear what could be the point of an inquiry, especially a philosophical inquiry, into “what gender is”. (shrink)
Unlike feminist ethics, or feminist political philosophy, or even feminist epistemology and philosophy of science, feminist metaphysics cannot be said (yet!) to have standing as a full-fledged sub-discipline of either philosophy or feminist theory. Although one can find both undergraduate and graduate courses devoted to the other sub-fields just mentioned, a course in feminist metaphysics is a rare find; and there are few professional philosophers who would consider listing in their areas of specialization both feminist theory and metaphysics. There are (...) many reasons for this, some having to do with academic politics, e.g., women have not broken into the ranks of metaphysicians in anything like the numbers that can now be found in ethics or political philosophy, and some having to do with tensions between the methods and topics of standard feminist projects and standard metaphysical projects, e.g., feminism is typically taken to be a normative enterprise whereas metaphysics is not. (shrink)