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:
The International Social Ontology Society (ISOS) brings together philosophers, social theorists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, economists, political scientists, legal scholars, anthropologists, and other scholars interested in the field of social ontology. The field of social ontology address such questions as: What are social groups? What are corporations and institutions? What is money, language and the law? What is it for a group act together as opposed to individually? What is shared intention? What is collective belief, hope, guilt, and responsibility?
We are in the process of adding features to this website to make it resource center for those interested in social ontology.
Among the features we would like to add are:
If you are not currently a member, we would like to invite you to join, or to renew your membership. Membership includes a discount for the conference fees, voting rights at ISOS Assembly meetings, access to member only pages on the web site, and it helps to support the social ontology research community.
Minutes of Assembly and Steering Committee meetings are posted on the website on a members only page.
A list of the officers of ISOS included at the "Contact Us" tab on the website.
ISOS Member News
Brian Epstein's 2015 book The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences (OUP) won the 2016 Lakatos Award for "an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science," and the American Philosophical Association's 2016 Gittler Award for "for an outstanding scholarly contribution in the field of the philosophy of one or more of the social sciences."
A new volume of critical essays on Raimo Tuomela'swork with his replies, edited by Gerhard Preyer and Georg Peter (eds.) has just been published, Social Ontology and Collective Intentionality by Springer (2017).
Kirk Ludwig published From Individual to Plural Agency: Collective Action 1 (OUP Dec. 13, 2016). A second volume titled From Plural to Institutional Agency: Collective Action 2, is due out in fall 2017.
Alessandro Salice and Hans Bernhard Schmid(eds.) The Phenomenological Approach to Social Reality: History, Concepts, Problems (Springer 2016).
Raimo Tuomela has published Social Ontology: Collective Intentionality and Group Agents (OUP 2013). Social Ontology and Collective Intentionality above focuses on this book.