The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences

Hardcover | March 26, 2015

byBrian Epstein

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We live in a world of crowds and corporations, artworks and artifacts, legislatures and languages, money and markets. These are all social objects - they are made, at least in part, by people and by communities. But what exactly are these things? How are they made, and what is the role ofpeople in making them? In The Ant Trap, Brian Epstein rewrites our understanding of the nature of the social world and the foundations of the social sciences. Epstein explains and challenges the three prevailing traditions about how the social world is made. One tradition takes the social world to be built out of people,much as traffic is built out of cars. A second tradition also takes people to be the building blocks of the social world, but focuses on thoughts and attitudes we have toward one another. And a third tradition takes the social world to be a collective projection onto the physical world. Epsteinshows that these share critical flaws. Most fundamentally, all three traditions overestimate the role of people in building the social world: they are overly anthropocentric. Epstein starts from scratch, bringing the resources of contemporary metaphysics to bear. In the place of traditional theories, he introduces a model based on a new distinction between the grounds and the anchors of social facts. Epstein illustrates the model with a study of the nature of law, andshows how to interpret the prevailing traditions about the social world. Then he turns to social groups, and to what it means for a group to take an action or have an intention. Contrary to the overwhelming consensus, these often depend on more than the actions and intentions of groupmembers.

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We live in a world of crowds and corporations, artworks and artifacts, legislatures and languages, money and markets. These are all social objects - they are made, at least in part, by people and by communities. But what exactly are these things? How are they made, and what is the role ofpeople in making them? In The Ant Trap, Brian Ep...

Brian Epstein received his PhD in philosophy from Stanford University, his master's in philosophy from Oxford University, and graduated summa cum laude with an AB in philosophy from Princeton University. His research interests include philosophy of social science, metaphysics, and philosophy of language, focusing in particular on issu...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:312 pages, 9.21 × 6.3 × 0.98 inPublished:March 26, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199381100

ISBN - 13:9780199381104

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPART ONE: FOUNDATIONS, OLD AND NEW1. Individualism: a recipe for warding off "spirits"2. Getting to the consensus view3. Seeds of doubt4. Another puzzle: a competing consensus5. Tools and terminology6. Grounding and anchoring7. Case study: laws as frame principles8. Two kinds of individualism9. Against conjunctivismPART TWO: GROUPS AND THE FAILURE OF INDIVIDUALISM10. Groups and constitution11. Simple facts about groups12. The identity of groups13. Kinds of groups14. Group attitudes: patterns of grounding15. Group action: more than member action16. Group intention17. Other theories I: social integrate models18. Other theories II: status modelsLOOKING AHEADAcknowledgementsBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"This book is one of the most thought-provoking contributions to the philosophy of social science I have read in years. To make progress in the social sciences, Brian Epstein argues, we need to clear up some metaphysical confusions about the nature of social objects, properties, and facts.Epstein proposes a new model of social reality, based on the distinction between 'grounding' and 'anchoring', which illuminates the relationship between social and non-social features of the world. Beautifully written and packed with insights, this book is an essential read for anyone interested inthe foundations of the social sciences." --Christian List, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, London School of Economics, and Fellow of the British Academy