Social ontology is the field of philosophy that investigates the nature of the social world and how it works. Among the topics addressed in social ontology are:
The few years have seen a surge of interest in these topics. Philosophers and scholars in a variety of fields increasingly endorse the idea — radical a quarter century ago but almost mundane today — that it is intellectually respectable to take social properties seriously. Collective actions and intentions, for example, are now widely understood to be distinct from the corresponding actions and intentions of individual people, without being ghostly or mystical.
Social ontology is also gaining prominence in more traditional philosophical venues. Philosophers investigating the nature of the world are realizing that they need to move beyond the stock examples they have traditionally used. Instead, more and more they are looking to the larger world, including artifacts, groups, and institutions. Meanwhile, political imperatives are leading other philosophers to take a more serious look at the metaphysics of social categories, such as race and gender. Social ontology has also benefited from the breakdown of boundaries across philosophical styles, as a new generation of philosophers has grown up for whom disciplinary boundaries and programmatic allegiances mean less than they once did.The field of social ontology is large, and encompasses a variety of topics and domains of inquiry. In addition to these domains, social ontologists also investigate foundational topics and applications. These include the following: