Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization

Overview


There are few more important philosophers at work today than John Searle, a creative and contentious thinker who has shaped the way we think about mind and language. Now he offers a profound understanding of how we create a social reality--a reality of money, property, governments, marriages, stock markets and cocktail parties.
The paradox he addresses in Making the Social World is that these facts only exist because we think they exist and yet they have an objective ...
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Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization

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Overview


There are few more important philosophers at work today than John Searle, a creative and contentious thinker who has shaped the way we think about mind and language. Now he offers a profound understanding of how we create a social reality--a reality of money, property, governments, marriages, stock markets and cocktail parties.
The paradox he addresses in Making the Social World is that these facts only exist because we think they exist and yet they have an objective existence. Continuing a line of investigation begun in his earlier book The Construction of Social Reality, Searle identifies the precise role of language in the creation of all "institutional facts." His aim is to show how mind, language and civilization are natural products of the basic facts of the physical world described by physics, chemistry and biology. Searle explains how a single linguistic operation, repeated over and over, is used to create and maintain the elaborate structures of human social institutions. These institutions serve to create and distribute power relations that are pervasive and often invisible. These power relations motivate human actions in a way that provides the glue that holds human civilization together.

Searle then applies the account to show how it relates to human rationality, the freedom of the will, the nature of political power and the existence of universal human rights. In the course of his explication, he asks whether robots can have institutions, why the threat of force so often lies behind institutions, and he denies that there can be such a thing as a "state of nature" for language-using human beings.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Searle, a student of the great ordinary language philosopher J.L. Austin, has been throughout his long career a leading specialist in intentionality, i.e., the mind's ability to direct itself outward to items in the world. Here, he uses this concept to help explain how social institutions such as government or money depend on human conventions: money, for example, can function only because everyone agrees to accept certain pieces of paper as payment for goods and services. Despite this dependence on conventions, these institutions are not arbitrary. Language, likewise, depends on conventions; but, Searle maintains, it is at the same time biological: linguistic intentionality extends prelinguistic biological capacities. Searle applies this same perspective—resolutely naturalist but non-reductionist—to free will. Social institutions enable us to form desire-independent reasons and to act on these. This gives us a sense of freedom that requires no break with our biological nature. An illuminating chapter clarifies how rights and consequences are related. VERDICT A major work by an important philosopher that everyone interested in philosophy or the social sciences will find valuable.—David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH
From the Publisher

"stimulating and vigorous" --Colin McGinn, New York Review of Books

"Searle's latest book is more than recommendable." --Economics and Philosophy

"The present [book] may be recommended to newcomers to [Searle's] philosophy as a lively introductory overview of many of his current research themes and of some of his past research achievements." --Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"wonderfully clear and wonderfully ambitious" --American Journal of Sociology

"Making the Social World has no doubt been greatly anticipated by Searle's many colleagues and critics, as his project has generated considerable interest. Searle's project should make a significant contribution to the philosophy of the social sciences." --Metapsychology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199829521
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,433,558
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

John Searle is the Slusser Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, University of California, Berkeley. His eighteen books include Mind, Speech Acts, Intentionality, and The Construction of Social Reality.

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Table of Contents

1. The Purpose of This Book
2. Intentionality
3. Collective Intentionality and the Assignment of Function
4. Language as Biological and Social
5. The General Theory of Institutions and Institutional Facts: Language and Social Reality
6. Free Will, Rationality and Institutional Facts
7. Power: Deontic, Background, Political and Other
8. Human Rights Concluding Remarks: The Ontological Foundations of the Social Sciences

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