PUBLICATION

Why We Shouldn't Compare Transracial to Transgender Identity (with Robin Dembroff

Unlike gender inequality, racial inequality primarily accumulates across generations. Transracial identification undermines collective reckoning with that injustice. (Boston Review, Nov. 18th 2020)

CURRENT RESEARCH

The abstracts of a few of my papers are  listed here. Please email  me for the full drafts: d.payton@rutgers.edu

[title redacted for blind review]

A paper about how properties are socially constructed.

Quite plausibly, there are many socially constructed properties. For example, in the literature on social construction, the property of being money is standardly taken to be socially constructed, as well as the properties of being cool and being married, among many others. In this paper I propose a view about how the social construction of properties works. On this view, which I call Definitional Construction, a property F is socially constructed just in case there is at least one social factor in the essence of F. I argue that Definitional Construction satisfies all of the basic desiderata on any relation of social construction, and it also offers us insight into how properties might be socially constructed to varying degrees. In addition, Definitional Construction helps us to see certain relationships between entities in the social world, some (but not all) of which it would be difficult to examine otherwise. For these reasons, I argue that we should add Definitional Construction to our metaphysical toolkit of relations of social construction.

Constructing Properties with Words

A paper about the relationship between social properties and the words we use to talk about them.

It is common to think that predicates like ‘cool’ express socially constructed properties. In other words, the meaning of ‘cool’ is a socially constructed property. Consider two questions in this area: first, what makes it true that ‘cool’ expresses the property it does? And second, what makes it true that a given individual has the property ‘cool’ expresses? This paper begins with the observation that, in the social metaphysics literature, these two questions are often answered in the same way. I then suggest that this observation may lend us some insight into the nature of sociality more generally, by highlighting one special feature of social properties.

[title redacted for blind review] 

A paper about the importance of distinguishing race and gender properties from race and gender terms.

What is it to be a woman? What is it to be Black? These are central questions in the philosophy of gender and the philosophy of race, respectively. In these literatures, questions about gender and race are often taken to be questions about the meanings of terms. We ask: what does ‘woman’ mean? What, if anything, do our race terms refer to? In this essay I argue that when we understand these questions as being exclusively about terms, we miss that there are other questions to be asked here, too—questions about people, and the ways those people actually are. For the purposes of this essay, I’ll talk in terms of properties when I’m describing the ways people actually are (properties like the property of being a woman, or the property of being Black). Overlooking this distinction between terms and properties can cause problems in the philosophies of gender and race, and I highlight some of those issues here.