Philosophy | Seminar in Metaphysics & Epistemology
P760 | 25678 | Schmitt

Topic: Social Metaphysics

Social metaphysics studies the nature of sociality and its relation
to individual human beings (and more broadly, the world). It overlaps
the foundations of social theory, philosophical social theory, the
philosophy of social science, and the metaphysical foundations of
social and political philosophy. There are at least two components to
social metaphysics. One is the study of sociality and especially
collectivity: the nature of social actions, social relations, common
belief and knowledge, joint agents and actions, joint intentions and
beliefs, social groups and group mentality and activity, society and
culture, social organizations, institutions, and institutional facts,
social roles, norms, and practices, and social and linguistic
conventions. One basic question here is how social relations and
collectivities relate to the individual human beings who instantiate
or constitute them. Do collectivities amount to anything over and
above these individuals? The other component of social metaphysics is
the flip side of collectivity. One question here is whether
individual human beings are already social in a way that precludes
any sensible reduction of collectivities to individuals. In this
vicinity, we find such questions as whether solitary individuals are
possible, whether language and mental representation are inherently
social, whether a private language is possible, etc. A broader issue
is whether nature is already in some sense social. This is the issue
of social constructionism. In this course, we will focus on issues
about collectivities and their relation to individuals. The most
substantial book written on this subject is Margaret Gilbertís On
Social Facts. We will need to devote close attention to it. We will
also read John Searle's The Construction of Social Reality. Other
authors treated will include Michael Bratman, Seumas Miller, David-
Hillel Ruben, and Philip Pettit. If there is any time left after
considering issues about collectivities, we may move on to questions
about whether individuals are already social, or to social
constructionism. For those who need more information about the sorts
of issues we will discuss, the introduction to my collection
Socializing Metaphysics gives a fairly detailed review of the
territory. This course will presuppose no knowledge of metaphysics or
social theory.

Margaret Gilbert, On Social Facts, Princeton University Press,
paperback. ISBN 0-691-02080-9.

John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, Simon & Schuster,

Frederick F. Schmitt (editor), Socializing Metaphysics: The Nature of
Social Reality, Rowman & Littlefield, paperback. ISBN 0-7425-1429-3.

Michael Bratman, Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and
Agency, Cambridge University Press, paperback. ISBN 0-521-63727-9.