How is the social realm structured vis-à-vis the rest of reality in general? And how are specific social items constructed out of others in particular? These are the two main foundational questions in social metaphysics. In the last few years, research by a new generation of analytic metaphysicians has approached these traditional questions from a novel perspective, in at least two respects. First, they have critically applied to the social realm certain notions taken from general metaphysics, notably grounding (as well as its types and alternatives), with a special sensitivity for methodological questions. Second, they have newly focused on particularly significant case studies, notably gender, race, and sexuality, whose social character would arguably have specific debunking and emancipatory effects.

The aim of this project is to contribute to this movement by fostering and consolidating extant research of this sort in Barcelona and its broad surrounding area, as well as strengthening our international links to some of the main philosophers leading this movement.

More specifically, the project is organized into three general and two specific workpackages:

  • A1: Grounding, Alternatives, and Additions
  • A2: Values, Emotions, and Actions
  • A3: Terminological/Conceptual Ethics/Engineering
  • B1: Gender, Race, and Sexuality
  • B2: Law

A1 concerns the structure of social reality and social construction, and critically explores the prospects of a general account stated in terms of grounding, investigating whether this is preferable to—and genuinely in competition with—alternative accounts stated in terms of essence, real definitions, anchoring, and realization.

A2 concerns the nature of some of the main relatively basic elements from which the social is built, and critically explores how values, emotions, and actions may be interconnected in a way that is partly constitutive of social groups, collectives, rules, conventions, and institutions.

A3 concerns the methodology of the present kind of metaphysical enterprise, and critically explores the extent to which this enterprise concerns normative questions as to which concepts would best fit the purposes at hand, as well as further normative questions as to how to resolve significant verbal disputes, where it turns out that matters of significance depend on how words are used.

B1 concerns the controversial nature of the particularly significant cases of gender, race, and sexuality, and critically examines recent social constructivist views thereof and their debunking and emancipatory effects, as well as the intersectional interrelations between such categories, which in turn promise to provide complicated but illuminating case studies for the more general discussions of A1 and A2.

B2 concerns the nature of the paradigmatically social phenomenon of law. Besides its intrinsic (theoretical as well as practical) interest, the study of law plays two further roles in the project. First, given its manifestly social character, law may provide clearer test cases for applying the general findings of A1 and A2 than the significant but less obviously social phenomena discussed in B1. Second, and relatedly, legal cases provide paradigm examples for illustrating the issues of conceptual and terminological ethics explored in A3, including ‘marriage’, ‘war criminal’, and ‘sexual orientation’.