The Ant Trap : Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences
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. Epstein shows 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, and shows 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 group members.
- Hardback | 312 pages
- 156 x 238 x 23mm | 564g
- 30 Apr 2015
- Oxford University Press Inc
- New York, United States
Other books in this series
04 Nov 2020
Table of contents
conclusions. The book is praised as beautiful and engaging, original and ambitious, exemplary in its clarity, and extremely enjoyable to read. * Selectors for the 2016 Lakatos Award by the London School of Economics and Political Science * More important, however, is Epstein's account of the social world in terms of 'grounding,' 'framing,' and 'anchoring'; it seems to offer hope of providing a better, more useful understanding of the social world. This is an important book; the author is well versed in recent literature, careful, and clear ... Recommended * Choice * Brian Epstein has produced an ambitious, innovative approach to the analytical explanation of social facts and entities, including small and large social groups, collective actions, public artifacts, organizations, etc. Throughout, he urges a deep openness to unexplored methodological and ontological possibilities not exemplified in current social science practice or theory and systematically demonstrates how new analytical tools address what he sees as lacunae or
confusions in current theory. * J.K. Swindler, Philosophy in Review * For anyone interested in social ontology, The Ant Trap should be the very next book you read. It not only fashions sharper tools for the analysis of social phenomena, it provides a new perspective on the debates in social ontology, and shines a bright and not very flattering light on the current consensus. It does what the best philosophical works can do: It improves the questions we are asking. * Mark Risjord, Metascience * This book is one of the most thought-provoking contributions to the philosophy of the social sciences I have read in years. Beautifully written and packed with insights, it is an essential read for anyone interested in the foundations of the social sciences. * Christian List, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, London School of Economics, and Fellow of the British Academy * The Ant Trap is a powerful book that challenges individualist assumptions that have guided social theory and philosophy of social science over the past several decades. It also shows why good metaphysics matters. It is a must-read both for those working in the foundations of social science, and for anyone in philosophy interested, quite broadly, in ontology and explanation. The book demonstrates clearly how interdisciplinary philosophical work can inform, and
transform, inquiry in several fields, including philosophy itself. * Sally Haslanger, Ford Professor of Philosophy, MIT *
About Brian Epstein
philosophy of music, and the philosophy of economics. Between degree programs, he worked at a number of technology startups and consulting firms.