Social Ontology and Theories of Persistence

Project Details


The aim of this project is to shed new light on the ontological (existential) status of the entities figuring in the social sciences. How are putatively “socially constructed” objects such as corporations, states and dollar bills related to the physical, mind-independent aspects of reality? Can social objects be reduced to physical entities that have acquired a certain status function? Or are they irreducible objects that exist somehow “on top” of physical entities, supervening on them and on human attitudes? Or are they fictitious objects with no genuine existence at all, although we commonly take them to be real in daily life? The working hypothesis of the project is that the answer partly hinges on what theory of persistence is true. Three influential theories of persistence – the endurance theory, the perdurance theory and the stage theory – will be applied to social and physical objects in order to investigate how this affects the relationship between them. The approach has hitherto not been utilized in social ontology. This is surprising considering the positive results that have been achieved in the theory of material constitution when the various theories of persistence have been applied to physical objects. Remedying this oversight is likely to be of significant service to the theoretical development in social ontology.

Layman's description

How are social objects (social constructions) such as states, universities and corporations related to the mind-independent aspects of reality? Are they reducible, supervenient or fictitious entities? The original working hypothesis of the project is that the answer hinges on what theory of persistence (the endurance/perdurance/exdurance theory) is true.
Effective start/end date2012/01/012015/12/31

UKÄ subject classification

  • Humanities