WIP Series with Jesús Zamora Bonilla (UNED): "Reflections on the Ontology of Social Problems"

April 18

The next presentation in UVienna's Work-In-Progress series will be given by Jesús Zamora Bonilla (Visiting Scholar from UNED).

When? Thursday, April 18, 17:15 - 18:45
Where? Hörsaal 3A (NIG, Universitätsstraße 7)

Title: "Reflections on the ontology of social problems"


Abstract:The aim of this talk is to explore the entangledness of social problems with both the positive and normative aspects of social reality and social ideas, and connect it with a variety of debates within the social ontology literature. Despite the broad scope of this field, 'social problems' are conspicuously missing as an independent category. This omission is intriguing since many of the listed topics (like Group Agency, Organizations, Money, Race, Gender, and Disability, etc.) are inherently linked to various kinds of social problems. This dearth of attention to social problems is also reflected in academic databases like The Philosopher's Index, which yield zero results when searching for "ontology" and "social problem" together. The neglect of social problems within the academic field of social ontology is not due to a lack of significance attached to them by social scientists themselves: disciplines like economics and sociology recognize the centrality of social problems and have dedicated a lot of work to their study. Some arguments in favour of the centrality of social problems are the following: first, in many philosophical theories, from pragmatism to existentialism, ‘reality’ is not merely a question of, say, ‘brute existence’, but something that emerges in front of humans as a kind of resistance (or, as Heidegger would have put it, as a kind of Unzuhandenheit). In this sense, problems would probably be the ‘most real’ things for humans (and perhaps for living beings in general), and social problems would count amongst the ‘hardest’ social facts we can encounter as inhabitants of the social world. Second, something similar happens at the level of the social sciences, whose main direct motivation is very likely the attempt of understanding the social world in order to help to solve some of the problems that afflict the members of the societies to which social scientists themselves belong. These arguments point to the conclusion that the most reasonable approaches to the ontology of social problems will have to pay considerable attention to items and ideas coming from phenomenology.

Everyone is most cordially invited to join us for dinner or drinks afterward. If possible, please let us know in advance by email.

You can write to wip.philosophie@univie.ac.at if you have any questions or would like to present for the Work-in-Progress series. Calendar and event information can be found at: https://vd-philosophy.univie.ac.at/phd-program/doctoral-training/wip-series