John Searle’s ontology of money, and its critics

In Joseph Tinguely (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Money. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan (2024)
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Abstract

John Searle has proposed one of the most influential contemporary accounts of social ontology. According to Searle, institutional facts are created by the collective assignment of a specific kind of function —status-function— to pre-existing objects. Thus, a piece of paper counts as money in a certain context because people collectively recognize it as money, and impose a status upon it, which in turn enables that piece of paper to deliver certain functions (means of payment, etc.). The first part of this essay presents Searle’s theory of social ontology and summarizes his views on money. The second part centers on criticisms of his views and compares his theory with its main competitors, including the theories of Tuomela, Guala and Hindriks, and Smit, Buekens and Duplessis. The conclusion attempts to see what may remain of Searle’s theory after careful examination.

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Louis Larue
Aalborg University

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