Workshop on Social Metaphysics  Add To Calendar

  • Dates: 21 – 22 Sep, 2018
At the UIC Humanities Institute. The event begins on Friday, Sept 21 at 2pm and will continue on Saturday, Sept 22 at 10am. The speakers are Ron Mallon (Wash U, St Louis), Michael Hardimon (UCSD), Charlotte Witt (UNH), Bernhard Nickel (Harvard), and Robin Dembroff (Yale). More info can be found here. Talk titles and abstracts are below the flyer.


Charlotte Witt
Title: A Tale of Two Esentialisms

Abstract: In my book The Metaphysics of Gender I argue that gender is uniessential to social individuals.  There are three terms in this claim that require explanation, but here I focus on just one of them: unessentialism. I begin by distinguishing two essentialisms: kind essentialism and uniessentialism. The two essentialisms differ in terms of what each is intended to explain or to accomplish. I think that the two essentialisms address different questions rather than supplying different answers to the same question. Kind essentialism addresses the issue of the classification of individuals into kinds. Uniessentialism addresses an entirely different issue, which is the metaphysical question of what grounds the unity of individuals with parts.

Robin Dembroff
Title: Beyond Binary: Genderqueer as Critical Gender Kind

Abstract: We want to know what gender is. But metaphysical approaches to this question solely have focused on the binary gender kinds men and women. By overlooking those who identity outside of the binary--the group I call `genderqueer'--we are left without tools for understanding these new and quickly growing gender identifications. This metaphysical gap in turn creates a conceptual lacuna that contributes to systematic misunderstanding of genderqueer persons. In this paper, I argue that to better understand genderqueer identities, we must recognize a new type of gender kind: critical gender kinds, or kinds whose members resist dominant gender ideology. After developing a model of critical gender kinds, I suggest that genderqueer is best modeled as one such kind. In particular, I propose that its members are united by resisting `the binary assumption', or the prevalent assumption that they must comply with binary gender classification.

Ron Mallon
Title: Extended Human Kinds: The Case of Race

Abstract: In this talk I explore a certain sort of case for the reality of constructed human kinds in the social sciences, and how it leads us to think about the characteristics of the kinds in question.   By way of a case study, I consider race.  Racial kinds figure in generalizations across the social sciences, which suggests that in some sense they are real.  But what explains this?  I consider possibilities for understanding the causal role of racial kinds, and I then go on to consider what the case of race might reveal about the possibilities of constituting human kinds. While I take races to be socially constructed kinds, I draw on theories of natural kinds and consider parallels with developments in thinking about biological kinds.

Bernhard Nickel
Title: "A Conception of Kinds for Generics (and cp-laws?)"

AbstractGeneric sentences in English, such as “ravens are black” or “tigers have stripes” are non-strict generalizations: some members of the kind fall outside of the scope of the generalization, such as albino ravens or tigers, respectively. This is a prima facie surprising fact, since in various forms of inquiry, we tend to adjust the extension of our kind terms so that we can formulate universal generalizations about them. This is why jadeite is distinguished from nephrite, gold from fools’ gold, and so on. In this talk, I’ll propose a theory of kinds according to which kinds in arenas of inquiry that characteristically articulate non-strict generalizations are formed not in order to support inductive inference, but to serve an explanatory need.