On How to Achieve Reference to Covert Social Constructions
Keywords:social construction, theories of reference, externalism, race, gender
What does it mean to say that some features, such as gender, race and sexual orientation, are socially constructed? Many scholars claim that social constructionism about a kind is a version of realism about that kind, according to which the corresponding kind is a social construction, that it, it is constituted by social factors and practices. Social constructionism, then, is a version of realism about a kind that asserts that the kind is real, and puts forward a particular view about the nature of the kind, namely, that it is constituted by social factors and practices. Social constructivists about human kinds such as gender, race and sexual orientation often make an additional claim, namely, that these kinds are social constructions but they are typically believed to be biological kinds (that is, people are typically wrong about the nature of these kinds). Ron Mallon (2017) calls social constructions that are (falsely) taken to be biological kinds covert social constructions. This paper is about how we could have terms in our natural language that come to refer to covert social constructions.