Persons, language and holism : an inquiry into some issues of the ontology of the social world
The thesis pursued in this dissertation raises and examines a specific philosophical problem, essential to the study of the ontology of the social world. This problem has its origin in the question: 'how is is possible that the social world is constituted as a unified totality or complex whole?'. It is argued that the defining feature of a viable theory of social holism is that it is able to posit this metaphysical kind of problem. In this sense, the holist discourse that provides the terms for expressing the meaningfulness of this problem or the conditions of its legitimacy is, equivalently, an attempt to answer it, giving the form of the social world as an ontological domain. Thus this thesis discloses what is here proposed as the formal ontology of social reality and investigates the cluster of issues relevant to this. The study consists of three related stages (Parts). Part One spells out the formal mode of ontological inquiring and lays down the metatheoretical validity of holism. On the one hand, the principal idea is that the introduction of certain principles of relationality and of the "moment/whole" problematic establishes the basis of a non-extensional constitution of the social world; it is essential that individuals have the formal character of "entelechial Leibnizian monads" being in conceptual communication. On the other hand, the status of holist categories and commitments involves a transcendental mode of reasoning on the metaphysics of the social world. Part Two examines the three necessary moments of the conceptual communication in virtue of which individuals are constituted as essentially social persons. The first concerns the cluster of sociocultural concepts, the second the possibility of meaningful linguistic expression and the third the intentionality of thought. It is argued that by means of this notion of entelechial social personhood the categories of the 'individual' and the 'social' are integrated so that: a 'fact' about the individual's mind is not something enclosed within it, and the 'social' is not an empirically given environment 'containing' or causally influencing the mind. Part Three completes this holist non-extensional/non-atomic ontology by incorporating the semantics of the language of events characterizing the complex form of social states of affairs. Social events are shown to be complex wholes irreducible to their subjects. Furthermore, the temporal identity of the social world in the course of historical change depends on the reality of events; the interconnection of social events instantiates an intensional nexus of relations between ineliminable social properties.