Hi all! It's a great pleasure to welcome Sally Haslanger to the Soup for a stint as Featured Philosopher. As Sally does a great job summarizing some of her recent work below, I'm going to lay off here. Suffice it to say, we're all very excited, and looking forward to a lively discussion!
I'm delighted to have the opportunity to discuss my work – or anything else! – on PEA Soup. Last year a collection of my papers was published by Oxford University Press: Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique.
The book is divided into three main sections. The first section discusses the phenomenon of social construction; the second is focused on social constructionist accounts of gender, race, and to a lesser extent, family; and the third takes up issues in epistemology and philosophy of language that I take to be important for those exploring social construction and social critique. Many of the papers in the volume can be found on my website under the "research" tab
. I'm happy to talk about any of the topics in the book, or answer questions you might have.
More recently, I've been interested in three sets of issues:
1) Social structure and structural explanation:
At the 2012 Pacific APA I gave the Carus Lectures: "Doing Justice to the Social," and have been giving talks on related themes for the past year. You can find the handouts for the Carus Lectures here, here
. I'm interested especially in structural explanation of social phenomena and critiques of individualistic explanations. A valuable resource for this work has been Alan Garfinkel's book Forms of Explanation,
that my fabulous colleague Brad Skow
introduced to me. I would love to hear what people think about how structural explanations work – both in explaining social phenomena and in the natural sciences – and why it is that people continue to be so tempted to explain social phenomena individualistically. On a related theme, I have been working with a theory of social structure within the social science tradition including Giddens, Sewell, and practice theorists more generally. The general outlines are sketched in my Carus handouts, especially the first. What do people think are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to social structure?
(It may be worth noting here that my paradigm of social phenomena are neither social institutions (a la Searle) nor friends going on a walk (a la Gilbert) and collective intentionality is not, for me, at the center. In my work the paradigm social phenomena are races, genders, families, etc. And my concerns arise first and foremost from feminist and antiracist theory, including the work of Marilyn Frye, Iris Young, Charles Mills, Catharine MacKinnon, and more distantly, Marx.)
2) The invisibility of "the social" in philosophy:
In my view, most philosophers systematically ignore the social domain. Ethics tends to be about how individuals
should act, feel, etc. Political philosophers tends to be about how states
(treated as big individuals) should act, etc. Even if one accepts that there is a sense in which social phenomena supervene on individual phenomena, why is the social ignored? Don't we need accounts of how to live together, how to organize ourselves collectively, how to create sustaining communities, what social norms to live by, etc. that address the huge domain between individual one-on-one relationships and the state? Why do analytic philosophers, especially, seem to overlook the issues that arise here? (Some of these issues come up in the handout for my second Carus lecture.) Relevant to this are questions about how "social meanings" are encoded and internalized (this arises in my third Carus lecture and a paper I've recently drafted called "Studying While Black: Trust, Disrespect and Opportunity"
based on that lecture) and the internalization of social schemas resulting in implicit bias.
3) Philosophical method:
I am not a believer in traditional conceptual analysis because I think it presupposes falsehoods about the epistemology of concepts. I'm not a believer in (certain forms of) experimental philosophy because I am not that interested in what most people think and/or the sociology of our concepts (though, of course, I'm being hyperbolic here). But this leaves me uncertain about how to characterize what I'm doing and how I'm doing it in a way that could be called philosophical method. So this leaves me with lots of questions about the normative aspects of philosophical method, and how a naturalized method might offer radical possibilities. In this I'm always inspired by Elizabeth Anderson
's work. (Again, the second Carus lecture is relevant, as is earlier work such as "Language, Politics and "the Folk""
and "What are we talking about? The semantics and politics of social kinds
I look forward to your questions and comments!