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Title: Categories We (Aim to) Live By
Authors: Dembroff, Robin
Advisors: Dasgupta, Shamik
Leslie, Sarah-Jane
Contributors: Philosophy Department
Keywords: Feminist Philosophy
Sexual Orientation
Social Ontology
Subjects: Philosophy
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: We want to know who should be counted as belonging to various social categories. Who should be counted as black? a woman? gay? In both everyday and academic contexts, it is widely assumed that these questions turn on metaphysical analyses of what makes someone black, a woman, and so on. That is, it is assumed that we should count someone as (e.g.) a woman just in case they satisfy sufficient conditions for having the property woman. My dissertation argues that this assumption is wrong: whether someone should count as a woman turns not on whether they satisfy the correct metaphysical analysis of what it is to be a woman, but on political and ethical considerations about how we ought to treat each other. I begin by examining the case of gender, and argue that looking to metaphysical theories of gender to settle questions about who should be counted as a man or a woman misses the point. What matters for determining ethical gender ascriptions are normative questions about how we ought to treat others, and not facts about who is a man or a woman. From here, I develop an important theoretical upshot of this view: that there can be metaphysical truths the assertion of which tends to both implicate and reinforce social injustices. These truths highlight places where we can both critique and improve our social categories. In my final chapter, I apply this method to sexual orientation. There, I argue that common understandings of sexual orientation are metaphysically ambiguous and ethically problematic, and I propose a novel and revisionary account of sexual orientation.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Philosophy

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