Brian Epstein

Brian Epstein
Tufts University | Tufts · Department of Philosophy

PhD

About

39
Publications
11,647
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487
Citations
Additional affiliations
September 2009 - present
Tufts University
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
Education
September 1995 - June 2004
Stanford University
Field of study
  • Philosophy
September 1990 - June 1992
University of Oxford
Field of study
  • Philosophy
September 1986 - June 1990
Princeton University
Field of study
  • Philosophy

Publications

Publications (39)
Article
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This paper presents a systematic approach for analyzing and explaining the nature of social groups. I argue against prominent views that attempt to unify all social groups or to divide them into simple typologies. Instead I argue that social groups are enormously diverse, but show how we can investigate their natures nonetheless. I analyze social g...
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In The Ant Trap (Epstein 2015) and related articles. I argue that in addition to the widely discussed “grounding” relation, there is a different kind of metaphysical determination I name “anchoring.” Grounding and anchoring are distinct, and both need to be a part of full explanations of how facts are metaphysically determined. Jonathan Schaffer (2...
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This paper examines Steve Biko’s distinction between black and non-white as a project in the “amelioration” of social concepts and categories. Biko himself—it has been persuasively argued by Mabogo More and Lewis Gordon—writes in the tradition of existential phenomenology. More and Gordon explore Biko’s continuity with Frantz Fanon, and in this pap...
Article
Full-text available
This paper examines Steve Biko’s distinction between black and non-white as a project in the “amelioration” of social concepts and categories. Biko himself—it has been persuasively argued by Mabogo More and Lewis Gordon—writes in the tradition of existential phenomenology. More and Gordon explore Biko’s continuity with Frantz Fanon, and in this pap...
Article
INTRODUCTION PART ONE DL FOUNDATIONS, OLD AND NEW 1 Individualism: a recipe for warding off " 2 Getting to the consensus view 3 Seeds of doubt 4 Another puzzle: a competing consensus 5 Tools and terminology 6 Grounding and anchoring 7 Case study: laws as frame principles 8 Two kinds of individualism 9 Against conjunctivism PART TWO DL GROUPS AND TH...
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This article summarizes The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences. The book develops a new model for social ontology, applies it to groups and collective intentionality, and criticizes various forms of individualism. Part One of the book presents two traditional approaches to social ontology and unifies them into the “groundin...
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This article responds to comments by Francesco Guala and Mattia Gallotti on
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This paper sets out an organizing framework for the field of social ontology, the study of the nature of the social world. The subject matter of social ontology is clarified, in particular the difference between it and the study of causal relations and the explanation of social phenomena. Two different inquiries are defined and explained: the study...
Chapter
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In recent years, theorists have debated how we introduce new social objects and kinds into the world. Searle, for instance, proposes that they are introduced by collective acceptance of a constitutive rule; Millikan and Elder that they are the products of reproduction processes; Thomasson that they result from creator intentions and subsequent inte...
Book
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We live in a world of crowds and corporations, artworks and artifacts, legislatures and languages, money and markets. These are all social objects — they are made, at least in part, by people and by communities. But what exactly are these things? How are they made, and what is the role of people in making them? In The Ant Trap, Brian Epstein rewri...
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forthcoming in Rethinking the Individualism/Holism Debate: Essays in the Philosophy of Social Science, Finn Collin and Julie Zahle, eds. Dordrecht: Springer, 2014 Individualists about social ontology hold that social facts are "built out of" facts about individuals. In this paper, I argue that there are two distinct kinds of individualism about soc...
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In recent years, the project of providing microeconomic foundations for macroeconomics has taken on new urgency. Some philosophers and economists have challenged the project, both for the way economists actually approach microfoundations and for more general antireductionist reasons. Reductionists and antireductionists alike, however, have taken it...
Chapter
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in Institutions, Emotions, and Group Agents: Contributions to Social Ontology, edited by Anita Konzelmann Ziv and Hans Bernhard Schmid. Dordrecht: Springer, 2013. It is often seen as a truism that social objects and facts are the product of human intentions. I argue that the role of intentions in social ontology is commonly overestimated. I introdu...
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When can macroscopic data about a system be used to set parameters in a microfoundational simulation? We examine the epistemic viability of tweaking parameter values to generate a better fit between the outcome of a simulation and the available observational data. We restrict our focus to microfoundational simulations—those simulations that attempt...
Article
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The SAGE Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Sciences, edited by IanJarvie and JesúsZamora-Bonilla. SAGE Publications, 2011, xvii + 749 pages. - Volume 28 Issue 3 - Brian Epstein
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Review of Creations of the Mind, edited by Margolis and Laurence. The review focuses on the philosophical papers in the collection, particularly the papers by John Searle, Hilary Kornblith, Amie Thomasson, Crawford Elder, and Ruth Millikan. The review also argues that there are distinctive views of artifacts that are not discussed in this paper (or...
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In a recent article, Harold Noonan argues that application conditions and criteria of identity are not distinct from one another. This seems to threaten the standard approach to distinguishing sortals from adjectival terms. I propose that his observation, while correct, does not have this consequence. I present a simple scheme for distinguishing so...
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The SAGE Handbook of the Philosophy of Social Sciences is a valuable and well-organized collection, offering a fresh and comprehensive picture of this diverse field. Edited by Ian Jarvie, who also serves as editor of the journal Philosophy of the Social Sciences, and Jesús Zamora-Bonilla, philosopher of science at the National Open University of Sp...
Chapter
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Agent-based modeling is showing great promise in the social sciences. However, two misconceptions about the relation between social macroproperties and microproperties afflict agent-based models. These lead current models to systematically ignore factors relevant to the properties they intend to model, and to overlook a wide range of model designs....
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Many theorists have regarded genealogy as an important technique for social criticism. But it has been unclear how genealogy can go beyond the accomplishments of other, more mundane, critical methods. I propose a new approach to understanding the critical potential of history. I argue that theorists have been misled by the assumption that if a clai...
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Are the standards of reasoning and rationality in divination, religious practice, and textual exegesis different from those in the sciences? Can there be different standards of reasoning and rationality at all? The intense “rationality debate” of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s focused on these questions and the related problems of relativism across cu...
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The thesis of methodological individualism in social science is commonly divided into two different claims – explanatory individualism and ontological individualism. Ontological individualism is the thesis that facts about individuals exhaustively determine social facts. Initially taken to be a claim about the identity of groups with sets of indivi...
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My aim in this paper is to discuss a metaphysical framework within which to understand "standard linguistic entities" (SLEs), such as words, sentences, phonemes, and other entities routinely employed in linguistic theory. In doing so, I aim to defuse certain kinds of skepticism, challenge convention-based accounts of SLEs, and present a series of d...
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Models treating the simple properties of social groups have a common shortcoming. Typically, they focus on the local properties of group members and the features of the world with which group members interact. I consider economic models of bureaucratic corruption, to show that (a) simple properties of groups are often constituted by the properties...
Article
What are the conditions for fixing the reference of a proper name? Debate on this point has recently been rekindled by Scott Soames, Robin Jeshion, and others. In this paper, I sketch a new pragmatic approach to the justification of reference-fixing procedures, in opposition to accounts that insist on an invariant set of conditions for fixing refer...
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Chomsky and others have denied the relevance of external linguistic entities, such as E-languages, to linguistic explanation, and have questioned their coherence altogether. I discuss a new approach to understanding the nature of linguistic entities, focusing in particular on making sense of the varieties of kinds of "words" that are employed in li...
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Ruth Millikan's new collection of essays continues the project initiated with her remarkable 1984 book, Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories. That book was essentially three projects in one: a naturalistic account of the notion of a function; a theory, based on her treatment of functions, of the nature of linguistic items and semantic...

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