Meaning and Reality in Social Context
Human beings are social beings. We live and thrive as individuals, but more importantly as groups. Gender, race, age, abilities, religious beliefs, political affiliation and sexual orientation, among others, are some representative ways of categorizing people. But what exactly is the nature of such labeling and the resulting social groups and how should we respond to their implications? This conference aims to probe into the nature of groups in a social context, particularly from the perspective of language and cognition.
Investigating into the underpinning of social groups and their ramifications has important theoretical and practical significance. The way we understand and represent ourselves and others can condition our expectations, inform our preferences, guide or drastically alter our behavior. For one thing, individuals often reason in terms of their social identities and social roles, and consequently act as group agents towards the common good for their group. For another, large gender gaps in educational and career choices may be traced back to cultural stereotyping; furthermore, research has shown that the language young children hear can shape their perception of social groups, which may lead to stereotyping and prejudice.
Topics pertinent to the theme of the conference include, but are not limited to, the following issues:
- Do groups have essences? Are social groups defined by natural characteristics, social features, or a combination of both?
- What is the connection between self-identification and group membership? Is self-identification necessary to and/or sufficient for being in a group?
- What is the mechanism of group intention and action? How do individuals form collective intentionality, act as group agents, and perform coordinated actions?
- How do we understand the semantics of social groups? How do we analyze statements containing reference to groups, e.g., generics? If generic statements are potentially dangerous in inflicting implicit bias, how should we deal with them?