Ron Mallon, "The Construction of Human Kinds" (Oxford UP, 2016)


Social constructionists hold that the world is determined at least in part by our ways of representing it. Recent debates regarding social construction have focused on categories that play important roles in the human social world, such as race and gender. Social constructionists argue that these categories are not biological or natural and that alleviating social injustice begins with recognizing they are not. At the same time, the case of Rachel Dolezal, a woman born of white parents who considers herself black, makes clear that even if race is not biological, it doesn't follow that race is a matter of personal choice. So how should we understand what social construction involves? In The Construction of Human Kinds (Oxford University Press, 2016), Ron Mallon articulates a view of social construction that draws on philosophy, psychology, and social theory. He identifies an element of essentialist thinking in some human kind concepts, and elaborates the mechanisms by which human categories and our representations of those categories form a constructivist loop.

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Carrie Figdor

Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.

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