Circularity in Searle’s Social Ontology: With a Hegelian Reply

International Journal of Society, Culture and Language 8 (1):16-24 (2020)
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John Searle’s theory of social ontology posits that there are indispensable normative components in the linguistic apparatuses termed status functions, collective intentionality, and collective recognition, all of which, he argues, make the social world. In this paper, I argue that these building blocks of Searle’s theory are caught in a petitio of constitutive circularity. Moreover, I note how Searle fails to observe language in reciprocal relation to the institutions which not only are shaped by it but also shape language’s practical applications. According to Searle, social theorists that tried to show a connection between society, culture, and language all failed to see the constitutive role of language in the making of social reality. Consequently, I believe that Searle is himself guilty of a certain kind of blind presumption, and argue that Hegel’s philosophy of culture, which Searle dismisses as implausible, offers a more cohesive account of the normative transactions between human beings and their social world.

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José Luis Fernández
Fairfield University


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