CFP: Social Kinds (Journal of Social Ontology)

Professor Mari Mikkola, co-editor of the Journal of Social Ontology, writes to share this note:

Call for Papers: SOCIAL KINDS

Journal of Social Ontology (JSO) will publish a special section devoted to social kinds. The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2015.

Social kinds include money and marriage, recessions and unemployment, as well as race and gender. It is often argued that social kinds depend in some way on people’s attitudes, activities, habits and practices. Actions and attitudes of individuals may both determine what social kinds exist and what the particular nature of different social kinds is, and may causally bring about and sustain social kinds. Even so, social reality is “stubbornly real” in that the extent to which individuals can change it is rather limited. This raises a number of questions concerning the ontology of social kinds.

Questions to be addressed in the special section include (but are not limited to):

– THE NATURE OF SOCIAL KINDS: Are social kinds uniform, or might ‘money’ and ‘gender’ for instance be fundamentally different kinds? Does essentialism apply to any social kinds? Should we adopt some form of realism about them? What kind of ontological dependence is at stake? On what does the existence and identity of social kinds depend on?

– SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION: Social construction plays a central role in the debate on social kinds. What is it? And what role do social practices play in it? Is social construction merely a causal process, or is it also a matter of constitution? How can notions such as bootstrapping, or looping effects contribute to our understanding of social kinds?

– KNOWLEDGE: It has been argued that the knowledge that those who do the construction have about their constructs is infallible. Is this indeed the case, and if so does it hold for all social kinds (including recession and unemployment) or only for some (perhaps money and marriage)? Do social kinds depend on collective intentionality? Which social kinds, if any, require common knowledge? If social kinds require collective acceptance, is this part of the very concept of a social kind? Can people be mistaken about any feature of institutions, or do some have a privileged status?

– FUNCTION: Which functions do social kinds fulfill? Is the function of some or all social kinds to solve coordination problems? In which sense (if any) is a status function a function? (How) can social kinds be dysfunctional? Does analyzing social kinds in terms of (regulative or constitutive) rules serve to shed light on social functions?

– NATURAL KINDS: How if at all do social kinds differ from natural kinds? Which insights from the philosophical study concerning natural kinds extend to the study of social kinds? If social kinds are homeostatic property clusters, what holds those properties together? How do theories concerning substantial kinds or primary kinds apply to social reality? How does the ontological nature of social kinds affect the theory of reference to social kinds? Do the social sciences rely on social kinds in the same way as some have suggested that the natural sciences rely on natural kinds?

– NORMATIVITY: Many if not all social kinds have a normative or evaluative dimension. What roles do norms and appraisals play in social kinds? What role do deontic powers play in institutions? Might some social classifications (like gender and race categories) uphold unjust practices? If so, does this pose special problems for social criticism? How can the normative dimension of such social constructions be justified or criticized? How if at all are ideologies implicated in social kinds?

We welcome any paper-length submissions (up to 8500 words) related to the topic of social kinds, and not restricted to these questions. All submissions should be suitable for anonymous review. The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2015. For further info, please contact arto.laitinen[at]; f.a.hindriks[at] or mari.mikkola[at]

3 thoughts on “CFP: Social Kinds (Journal of Social Ontology)

  1. I thought this idea was fascinating:

    “It has been argued that the knowledge that those who do the construction have about their constructs is infallible.”

    It could mean a few different things, some of which seem pretty radical (if not wildly implausible). Does anyone know of some seminal work on the point? Thanks.

  2. Amie Thomasson argues for the similar claim that competent grounders of a social kind term cannot be seriously wrong about the ontological nature of those kind terms in her 2007 book Ordinary Objects, as well as in her 2007 chapter “Artifacts and Human Concepts” (for Creations of the Mind: Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation), as well as in a few other places. Andrew Kania has also espoused a similar view in his defense of descriptivism in the ontology of music in “The methodology of musical ontology: Descriptivism and its implications”.

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