Duke Hosts Social Metaphysics Workshop

Participants Group Photo

The 4th Annual Social Metaphysics Workshop was held on Duke's campus from June 1-3rd, 2023. It was another successful workshop at Duke, and I would like to share more about the workshop and its significance.

The Social Metaphysics Workshop is, well, a workshop about social metaphysics. The subject of social metaphysics includes questions like:

  • What is the nature of money, laws, nations, borders, corporations, property, etc?
  • What does it mean for a group to believe something? What does it mean for a group to be an agent?
  • What are social structures and institutions?
  • What are social or socially constructed kinds? What is race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc?

This year, we had a diverse lineup of speakers tackle these kinds of questions. Our very own Ásta discussed what it meant to do critical social ontology, the kind of social ontology that is informed by a concern for social justice. Sara Bernstein (Notre Dame), the second keynote, explained how social categories (like gender and race categories) have real causal effects.

The Social Metaphysics Workshop is mainly a pre-read workshop. Each paper is assigned two commentators. This intimate format allowed for deep discussions of the authors' work. The schedule also provided ample time for conference participants to network outside of sessions. There are few opportunities for those working in social metaphysics to get this kind of workshop experience.

The Social Metaphysics Workshop was initially cofounded by Asya Passinsky (Central European University) and I, in 2020. It was online for two years, but it has been held in-person, at Duke, for the last two years. We would like to thank the Duke University Philosophy Department for allowing us to host it. We would also like to thank Shanna Slank and Dylan Brown for helping with conference logistics. We hope to have Duke host the workshop again, in the future.

For more on the workshop, visit the workshop website here.