Structural explanations and norms: comments on Haslanger

Amie Thomasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sally Haslanger undertakes groundbreaking work in developing an account of structural explanations and the social structures that figure in them. A chief virtue of the account is that it can show the importance of structural explanations while also respecting the role of individual autonomy in explaining many decisions, by demonstrating the way in which social structures may set up a ‘choice architecture’ in which these choices are made. This paper gives an overview of this achievement, and goes on to consider why there may be need to broaden the role of social structural explanations beyond those that involve explicit choice within a choice architecture. It develops the idea, familiar from work by Heidegger and Ingarden, that social artifacts, roles, and nodes in social structures may be constitutively defined by norms. It closes by suggesting that attention to the role of norms in social structures may enable us to broaden the account to include structural explanations of other kinds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-139
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Haslanger
  • Norms
  • Social structure
  • Structural explanation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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