mind language and society searle pdf

Mind language and society searle pdf

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Discussions with John R. Searle

Speech Acts, Mind, and Social Reality

This step, however, requires acknowledging the context and presuppositions, or default positions, that make possible key concept of this new branch of philosophy. In the first section, I address what the enlightenment vision implies. The second section focuses upon how consciousness and intentionality are biological tools that help us create and maintain the social world. In the third section, I explain the importance of the difference between subjectivity and objectivity. Finally, in the fourth section I elaborate upon the default positions: the existence of one world, truth as correspondence to facts, direct perception, meaning, and causation.

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The thesis is that this differentiation falls short because it supports a wrong ontological hierarchy. Social ontology is mistakenly, as I want to show, designed by Searle as a domain-specific ontology subjected to the ontology of nature. But this notion stands for a wrong objectification of the social, for it is highly questionable whether the social is really exhausted by being the content of our action plans and truth-apt thoughts.

The concept of social ontology is a relatively new one. It can be considered to mean at least two things. Social ontology can be the project of exhibiting the ontological status of the social world in which people live and according to which they understand themselves, others and their environment, for human Dasein and examining it in this way. The issue, then, is to bring out the firstly and mostly invisible lasting effectiveness of the living together with others and the membership in a cultural community for all of our everyday world- and self-relations.

Studies in the Social Ontology of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and Buber where the term is used for the first time as far as I can see 4. At question is, then, a characterisation of the creation and maintenance of the distinctive features of cultural institutions and social organisations as opposed to all those entities which are not part of human society.

As a representative of this, I just mention On Social Facts by Margaret Gilbert which came out in as well as several papers by Gilbert treating the same topic 5. What is the common link between all those institutions in which social interaction and conversation takes place? What makes a circle of friends, a music society, a sports club, a department of philosophy, a parliament and so on more than just the sum of its physically present and biologically existing members?

Social ontology, therefore, tells us which universal and more or less accurately determinable factors and forces make society a society and make it different from that what does not belong to the social. It provides a description, not to say a strict definition of — a set of non-trivial, essential necessary and sufficient conditions for — the fundamental nature and mode of existence of human social reality in comparison to and in distinction from everything else that is not by itself social.

As with all words in a language, its meaning depends among other things on the linguistic context, i. And the contrast that is relevant here is palpable in the new comparison of social and natural sciences. There is at least one understanding of the contrast between the social and the natural that is deeply unsatisfying. It is unsatisfying because it falls short. According to this distinction, the world of brute facts is not dependent on our agreements but pre-given to us, for it exists entirely without our help.

Among this Searle counts everything that falls within the subject matter of physics, chemistry, biology and the other natural sciences: the movement of atoms, the density of solids, the existence of different species of animals, their evolution etc.

This is different to the social sphere. The subject of the social sciences, the world of social and institutional facts, in the context of which Searle understands the latter as a subclass of the former, has its origin and development in human behaviour and interpersonal acceptance.

State presidents, works of art and good manners do not exist out of themselves. There must be people who believe that there are state presidents, works of art, and good manners and who demonstrate this regularly by their behaviour.

The basic characteristics of the world in which we live are those, according to Searle, about which the modern natural sciences like physics, chemistry and biology teach us. They take the ontological and consequently explanatory primacy. By contrast, for Searle the ontology of the social realm is a derived undertaking.

Social ontology is mistakenly, as I want to show, designed by Searle as a domain-specific ontology subjected to the doctrine of nature. But this notion stands for a wrong objectification of the social, for it is highly questionable whether the social is really exhausted by being the content of our conscious action plans and truth-apt thoughts. An overwhelming number of social phenomena is indeed characterised by the fact that people share their beliefs and purposes with each other, join forces and establish common practises and organisations.

There are social institutions, such as property or money, which exist only to the extent as by the descriptions and actions of the members of a cultural community they are referred to as property or money. The formation of social networks and the emergence of a social realm is explained by the smallest atoms society is composed of, i. It is, of course, not a historical reinvention of the current debate of social ontology, much less a reinvention of Searle. It has its predecessors and is, for example, already found in modern thinking alongside the founding fathers of sociology as an independent discipline during the 19 th and early 20 th century.

Max Weber, to mention just one, in his Soziologische Grundbegriffe focuses on the conceptual apparatus and the methodological foundations of sociology. Here it can be already studied what might be meant by saying that society is based on intentions. Weber begins by defining what it means that people act. Action is one of the basic concepts of all social events and thus one of the major categories of the social scientist. Society is only where actions take place and form a complex network of institutions, organisations and discourses.

Instead, for Weber meaning is the direction and the sense that an agent himself or herself actually attaches to his or her acting. So I can chop wood either because I need firewood, or to abreact, or as part of my morning sports programme.

One and the same externally observable behaviour has a different meaning each time. According to this, social actions are based on the past, present or expected behaviour of others. These others can be individuals and acquaintances or an infinite number of people and complete strangers. What matters is that not every encounter between people already has a social character.

Weber gives his prominent example: if two cyclists collide, this is just a mere event like a natural process. But their attempt to avoid each other, or the attempt to ram the other person together with the following name-calling, row or peaceful discussion would be a social event. And that is so because in the first case that is missing what is indeed found in the second case, and that is purposefulness Whether an action is to be qualified as social or not depends on the involved actors being specifically oriented at a purpose.

A simple uniform action by itself is not enough. If people in the street simultaneously open their umbrellas at the coming of a rainstorm or try to take cover in doorways or under trees, the action of each person is usually not based on that of the other persons around but is rather meant to seek protection from getting wet.

The relevant determination that makes an action a social one and thus a part of society is that at least one person is adjusting to others and that the meaning of his or her action specifies itself in relation to the actual or potential behaviour of at least one other person.

Weber, therefore, sees the basic fact of social life in the process of more or less conscious and purposeful behaviour, which unfolds either in one-sidedness or in reciprocity. In other words, Weber obviously gives a definition, i.

For it operates with the same or at least a similar model of intentionality to specify the distinguishing property of entities we rightly consider to be social ones. In The Construction of Social Reality and in many subsequent writings, including Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization , Searle deals with the question of social ontology in terms of consciousness and intentionality. He combines, however, his central idea of what he calls collective intentionality with the concept of the attribution of functions and the concept of constitutive rules and procedures.

For him, all three elements together define and explain the institutionalised sphere of society For Searle, intentions in general are mental states such as beliefs, hopes, desires, emotions, perceptions, action plans and lots of others, states, therefore, in which someone is when he or she is directed to something, may it be a rather theoretical or a rather practical attitude.

In this sense, being convinced that one person is a faster runner than another person or wanting a glass of cold water to quench ones thirst constitutes a case of aboutness, although not every intentional state has or has to have a whole proposition as its content To illustrate this crucial difference, Searle uses the example of a violinist playing in an orchestra; such a person plays her part only in the context of jointly performing the symphony, and her behaviour remains to be meaningfully related to that of others.

Every individual involved is aware that their actions are interlaced with a wider context involving other people; and it is this context what they have in mind insofar as they adjust their behaviour to it. Collective intentionality, though, is not limited to actual behaviour. The term also covers all the underlying intentions and attitudes shared by the actors concerned, i. Yet, it shall not be necessary, as Searle repeatedly asserts, to consciously have in mind the others and their intentions.

For having a collective intention the fact that others cooperate with me or share the same intention need not be an enduring component of the content of my intention such that I permanently know that you know und you permanently know that I know. The idea which is central for the notion of intentionality, i. Searle is primarily concerned with full-blown cooperation; the paradigmatic case of collective intentionality is the situation when people cooperate to jointly achieve a goal.

But this difference between cooperation and collective recognition, as important as it is, nevertheless remains biased. For it prefers situations of complementary courses of action and a consonance in thinking, feeling and willing of the actors involved. In any case, all the examples mentioned by Searle are of this sort. In contrast, by his conceptual apparatus Weber also wants to capture those elements of social life that take place by means of conflict, competition, hostility and struggle and that are certainly no less important in the history of human society.

And there are, as Weber emphasises, all kinds of continuous transitions, ranging from the bloody type of conflict which, setting aside all rules, aims at the destruction of the adversary, to the case of the battles of medieval chivalry, bound as they were to conventions, and to the strict regulations imposed on sport by the rules of the game Such cases of conflict, competition, hostility and struggle are certainly an essential part of the social world and must, therefore, not remain omitted in its analysis.

For what Searle means by collective intentionality as far as I can get into this concept here is exactly what Weber calls social relationship. Thus, the criterion for a social relationship is similar to what Searle holds for collective intentionality, and that is a minimum of mutual orientation of each person towards the other.

For Weber, however, the social space does not begin with such a reciprocity. As we have seen, he already recognises as a genuine social occurrence when the behaviour of only one actor is meaningfully oriented to that of another even if this other actor does not know about it.

It reduces the social world by abstracting from events that, properly seen, cannot be separated from it without loosing their meaning. The social world Searle draws is in the end much poorer than that of Weber because he does not recognise a myriad of activities that have quite obviously something social in themselves and are part of the social world.

I will come back to this again. But for an intention to be a social one it is necessary that it is somehow shared with other persons. Social facts in the sense of Searle are nothing else than commonly shared intentions and the actions caused by them whose content is any kind of a joint action. Or to have it even shorter in the words of Searle: society is built on collective intentions.

None of these is simply the same thing. For while social facts are based solely on what Searle calls collective intentionality, institutional facts require more, namely the collective attribution of functions and the collective acceptance of constitutive rules and procedures.

These may be natural objects or those that are specifically made to fulfil the function imposed upon them. Of course, we live in a world of artefacts like chairs and tables, houses and cars, lecture rooms, images, streets, gardens and so forth.

But even natural occurrences that were originally not created by humans, such as rivers or trees on a forested mountain, can play a functional role in our lives and be, therefore, judged on how well or badly they carry out this function. A river can be good for swimming in, a certain type of tree may be particularly suitable to build houses of and some mountains are better for climbing than others.

And for Searle this allocation of functions is done and reproduced as part of an intentional act. Functions […] are always observer relative. According to Searle, what characterises human action above everything else is not that it is deliberately done or that it functionally calls upon things in its execution, but that human action is in many respects dependent on special human institutions.

Searle describes these human institutions in terms of the conceptual distinction between regulative and constitutive rules. This distinction is not a new one, Searle has already developed the concept of constitutive rules in his philosophy of language and his philosophy of mind. In particular, in Speech Acts of 35 , he uses the difference between regulating and constituting rules introduced by Geoffrey Midgley in his essay Linguistic Rules According to this difference constitutive rules, roughly speaking, establish new behaviour patterns that would not exist without these rules; regulative rules, however, turn already existing practices in other directions.

By contrast, the rules of playing chess inaugurate this activity in the first place. Playing chess is constituted by playing according to the corresponding rules and, therefore, by using the pieces in the prescribed ways instead of many possible others.

Discussions with John R. Searle

Not a MyNAP member yet? Register for a free account to start saving and receiving special member only perks. We do not have an adequate theory of consciousness. Both dualism and materialism are mistaken because they deny consciousness is part of the physical world. False claims include i behaviorism, ii computationalism, iii epiphenomenalism, iv the readiness potential, v subjectivity, and vi materialism. Ontological subjectivity does not preclude epistemic objectivity. Observer-relative phenomena are created by consciousness, but consciousness is not itself observer relative.

Here readers will find one of the world's most eminent thinkers shedding light on the central concern of modern philosophy. Searle begins with a look at the twelve problems of philosophy of mind--which he calls "Descartes and Other Disasters"--problems which he returns to throughout the volume, as he illuminates such topics as the freedom of the will, the actual operation of mental causation, the nature and functioning of the unconscious, the analysis of perception, and the concept of the self. One of the key chapters is on the mind-body problem, which Searle analyzes brilliantly. He argues that all forms of consciousness--from feeling thirsty to wondering how to translate Mallarme--are caused by the behavior of neurons and are realized in the brain system, which is itself composed of neurons. But this does not mean that consciousness is nothing but neuronal behavior.


Searle: Mind, Language and Society: Philosophy in the Real World. New York: Basic Books, Show all authors. Patrik Aspers.


Speech Acts, Mind, and Social Reality

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4 comments

  • Lorea M. 01.04.2021 at 18:43

    PDF | Interview with John Searle. | Find, read and cite all the research you need on ResearchGate.

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  • Sankar M. 08.04.2021 at 04:13

    The thesis is that this differentiation falls short because it supports a wrong ontological hierarchy.

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