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February 2: Megan Stotts (McMaster University)

3:30 pm to 5:00 pm in KTH B124

“A Behavioural Metaphysics for Social Institutions”

Abstract:  It is a commonplace observation that social institutions are deeply dependent on humans.  That is, the existence of social institutions such as the government of Canada, the Catholic Church, and the English language depends on humans in a way in which the existence of forests, oceans, and solar systems does not.  A well-established view in the literature is that, in particular, the existence of social institutions depends on collective acceptance—that is, on our shared mental states.  I will argue that the collective acceptance approach to social institutions is untenable.  A natural response to the problems that the collective acceptance approach faces is to portray social institutions as grounded in other kinds of human mental states, but even then, there is cause for concern.  I argue that instead, we need an entirely non-mental account of the metaphysics of social institutions.  My positive proposal is to ground social institutions in a certain kind of copying behaviour among humans.  This view respects the insight that social institutions are deeply dependent on humans, but with a twist:  the existence of social institutions depends on what we do, not on what we think.


To view the full roster of speakers, please visit our Speaker Series page.

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Date(s) - February 2, 2018
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

McMaster University, Kenneth Taylor Hall B124


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