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Social Constructions in Ethics and Metaphysics

The subject of social constructions has received considerable attention in the past few dec-

ades, yet its area of application is ever increasing. Originally, the subject was most promi-

nently debated in relation to social categories such as race and gender, but its scope has

broadened considerably and now includes many areas of traditional metaphysics and


The intuitive idea behind social constructions can be grasped by way of the following exam-

ple. When we categorize various animals by genus, we seem to be doing something signifi-

cantly different than when we categorize various household items by the rooms in which they

belong. If everyone had categorized the domestic housecat under the genus





, then we would have made some sort of objective mistake. But if everyone had

categorized bottle openers as a dining utensil rather than a kitchen utensil then we need not

have made any such mistake. The categorizations of household items by rooms in which

they belong are socially constructed whereas the categorizations of animals by genus, argu-

ably, are not.

In this working group, we will be investigating the form and applications of social construc-

tions. The first week is devoted to investigating social constructions: What are they, and

what is their ontological status? How do social constructions relate to fictions? Do social

constructions need to be internally consistent? And why believe that certain domains are so-

cially constructed? The second week will be focused on applications of social construction in

metaphysics and metaethics: Are metaphysical modalities such as possibility and necessity

socially constructed? Are ordinary objects? Are ethical properties such as value, obligation,

and wrongness? Are social categories such as race and gender? And if they are, does that

have practical implications for how we should deal with them?

Prof. Dr. Stan Husi

Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee / USA

Prof. Dr. Joshua Spencer

Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee / USA

Studierende der Philosophie, aber auch interessierte Studierende und Doktoranden

außerhalb der Philosophie sind prinzipiell willkommen


ab dem 5. Semester und Doktoranden


20. August bis 2. September 2017