What is social philosophy?
Social philosophy is the philosophical study of the social world.
Philosophy matters because it consists of thinking about what matters most to us. And right now, social issues are what matter to many people. Gender identity, trans rights, the effects of racism, disability, or cultural history and how we display it publicly: these are all social philosophical issues.
At its best, social philosophy contributes to meaningful social change. It is continuous with gender studies, black studies, and disability studies. But it is also continuous with traditional areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory. When we think about race, gender, or disability, we want to know what it is, whether it really exists; how it relates to underlying biological reality; and whether discrimination is a constituent or maybe a consequence of its continued existence.
These are abstract questions, but we don’t ask them idly. We investigate them better to understand our shared social world, and to improve it. This means our answers are important: we have to get it right. And, just as importantly, we have to communicate our answers clearly and effectively to those who are best placed to bring about change. That’s why we started the Nottingham Centre for Social Philosophy.
Some questions social philosophers think about include:
- How should we live together in a society?
- How do we come to know about each other, and to know about things together?
- How do our social practices work to create categories of people, and why does this matter?
Some of our work focuses on the categories that are produced by the way we organise society, such as race, gender, sexuality, disability and class. Understanding these categories – what they are, how they exist, how they affect what we can know and what we should do – is important for social justice movements.
In the centre we are currently focusing on questions relating to:
- Policing and carceral institutions
- Recreational subjectivities
- Making and unmaking social categories
- Liberatory models