In the first Centre for Social Ontology seminar of 2014/15, Daniel Chernilo (Reader in Social and Political Thought at Loughborough University) discussed his work on philosophical sociology. This was the basis for a recent paper in the British Journal of Sociology.
In this presentation, I introduce the idea of philosophical sociology as an enquiry into the relationships between implicit notions of human nature and explicit conceptualizations of social life within sociology. Philosophical sociology is also an invitation to reflect on the role of the normative in social life by looking at it sociologically and philosophically at the same: normative self-reflection is a fundamental aspect of sociology’s scientific tasks because key sociological questions are, in the last instance, also philosophical ones. The idea of philosophical sociology is then sustained on three main pillars and I use them to structure this article: (1) a revalorization of the relationships between sociology and philosophy; (2) a universalistic principle of humanity that works as a major regulative idea of sociological research, and; (3) an argument on the social and pre-social sources of social life. As invitations to embrace posthuman cyborgs, non-human actants and material cultures proliferate, philosophical sociology offers the reminder that we still have to understand more fully who are the human beings that populate the social world.
Since 2008, what began with an initial collapse of the financial system has catalysed into an economic and political crisis of global dimensions. Lurking in the shadows of the financial crisis and occasionally breaching daylight is the ecological crisis. Global warming and climate change hangs like a sword of Damocles over the future of humanity. This is to say nothing of business as usual: growing inequality and impoverishment, continuing discrimination and exploitation, all of which functions to foster moral, psychological and existential crises. Current orthodoxy suggests that such crises are only temporary deviations from an otherwise well-functioning system. Prevailing pessimism suggests that it is easier to imagine global catastrophe and the destruction of the world rather than a change in the status quo able to avert such an outcome.
…to the ontology of human flourishing
In light of the global poly-crisis two questions are now before us; ‘how are we to understand our current situation?’ and ‘what are we to do?’ Albert Einstein is widely accredited as answering this by suggesting “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” This new thinking is what critical realism aspires to provide. Certainly, if we are not only to survive but flourish as human beings we require a robust theory and practice able to move us beyond modest business as usual to the possibilities of something more. The 17th Annual Conference of the International Association of Critical Realism (IACR) will explore the different issues connected with this crisis.
Wednesday 16 – Thursday 17 July
Pre-conference workshop on critical realism
Led by Roy Bhaskar, originator of the philosophy of critical realisim (and metaReality) and Alan Norrie, president of IACR
Friday 18 July
Educating for the future
– The ecological crisis
– Forms of realism
Book launch with drinks reception
Saturday 19 July
The political-economic crisis
– Ethics, emancipation and metaReality in action
– Dialectic and critical realism
Sunday 20 July
Ontology of flourishing
– Love, sexuality and feminism in the 21st century
– Religion, spirituality and secularism
IACR Annual General Meeting
Monday 21 July
Where do we go from here?
– Educating for a better future
– Concrete eutopianism
ICCR Annual General Meeting and a workshop on the philosophy of metaReality
Tuesday 22 July
Symposium on integrative metatheories
Priscilla Alderson (Institute of Education)
Richard Andrews (Institute of Education)
Margaret Archer (L’Ecole Polythechnique Federale de Lausanne)
Alison Assiter (University of Western England)
Roy Bhaskar (Institute of Education)
Berth Danermark (Orebro, Sweden)
Hans Despain (Nichols College, Massachussets)
Sean Esbjörn-Hargens (Meridian, California)
Lena Gunnarsson (Orebro, Sweden)
David Graeber (London School of Economics)
Mervyn Hartwig (IACR/ICCR)
Nick Hostettler (Queen Mary, University of London)
Chris Husbands (Institute of Education)
Bob Jessop (Lancaster University)
Petter Næss (Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Oslo)
What’s the Point of Social Ontology?
PhD Workshop at the University of Warwick
18th June 2014, 10am – 5:30pm
Ontology can often prove a contested and confusing issue within social research. Everyone has an ontology, explicit or otherwise, but the process of drawing this out and thinking through its implications for research can often be a confusing part of the PhD process. This participatory workshop explores the practical significance of ontological questions for social research, inviting participants to reflect on their own research projects in a collaborative and supportive context. It aims to help participants negotiate the sometimes abstruse matter of social ontology, linking theory to practice in the context of their own research projects. The main focus throughout the day will be on how ontological questions are encountered in social research, the questions posed by such encounters and how engaging explicitly with social ontology can often help resolve such issues.
All participants will offer a brief (5 minute) presentation of their research project and the ontological questions which have been or are expected to be encountered within it. Those still early in the PhD process are welcome to substitute this for a discussion of their research interests and potential project. We’d like to ask all participants to reflect in advance on their own social ontology and how it pertains to their project. Uncertainty here is not a problem, in fact it will be a useful contribution to discussions on the day!
We also invite two more substantial presentations (10 mins) for the first afternoon session, reflecting on your engagement with ontological questions in your own project in order to help begin a practical engagement which encompasses the entire group. If you would be interested in leading the discussion in this way then please make this known when registering.
To register please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of your research and your interest in social ontology (500 words or less) by May 15th. The event is free but places are limited. Travel bursaries are available, please ask for more details.
The latest CSO workshop was held in January 2014, in Magdalen College at the University of Oxford. The papers from the workshop will be published in 2015 as the third volume of the Social Morphogenesis series. These were the papers presented:
Monday 6th January
Philip Gorski – Causal Mechanisms: lessons from the Life Sciences
Colin Wight – Mechanisms, Metaphors and some examples from International Relations
Pierpaolo Donati – Social Mechanisms and their Feedbacks: Mechanical versus Relational Emergence of new Social Formations
Emmanuel Lazega – Dynamics of multilevel networks in social processes: hardwired social control, institutional enterpeneurship and morphogenesis
Tuesday 7th January
Margaret Archer – Don’t Forget the Double Morphogenesis
Tony Lawson – The Modern Corporation as an Out-of-Control Mechanism of Social Change
Andrea Maccarini – Turbulence and Relational Conjunctures: The Emergence of Morphogenetic Environments
Wolfgang Hofkirchner – ‘Mechanisms’ around information society
Wednesday 8th January
Douglas Porpora – Why Don’t Things Change?
Ismael Al-Amoudi and John Latsis – Death Contested: Morphonecrosis and Conflicts of Interpretation
In January 2013, the Center for Social Ontology held its annual workshop with the theme ‘Morphogenic Society’ as a potential new social formation?. The papers presented have been published as Late Modernity: Trajectories Towards Morphogenic Society. The program of papers was as follows:
‘Morphogenic Society’ as a potential new social formation? 16th-18th January 2013
Wednesday 16th January: Papers
Margaret Archer: The Generative Mechanisms Re-configuring Late modernity
Douglas Porpora: What are the forms of change and stability in today’s world and what are the mechanisms?
Colin Wight: Morphogenesis and other mechanisms of qualitative change in international relations
Thursday 17th January: Papers
Andrea Maccarini: Social Change and social qualities in a ‘Morophenic Society’: Symbols, Forms of Life and Individuality
Ismael Al-Amoudi: Morphogenesis and Normativity: problems the former creates for the latter
Emmanuel Lazega: Dynamics of multilevel networks in the organizational society: ‘Morphogenesis Unbound’ from a neo-structural perspective
Thursday 18th January
Wolfgang Hofkirchner: The validity of describing ‘Morphogenic Society’ as a system and justifiability of thinking about it as a social formation
Kate Forbes-Pitt: ‘Relations between relations’: different or similar in the Natural and Social orders?