Constitutive Rules: Games, Language, and Assertion

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (1):136-159 (2018)
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Many philosophers think that games like chess, languages like English, and speech acts like assertion are constituted by rules. Lots of others disagree. To argue over this productively, it would be first useful to know what it would be for these things to be rule-constituted. Searle famously claimed in Speech Acts that rules constitute things in the sense that they make possible the performance of actions related to those things (Searle 1969). On this view, rules constitute games, languages, and speech acts in the sense that they make possible playing them, speaking them and performing them. This raises the question what it is to perform rule-constituted actions (e. g. play, speak, assert) and the question what makes constitutive rules distinctive such that only they make possible the performance of new actions (e. g. playing). In this paper I will criticize Searleā€™s answers to these questions. However, my main aim is to develop a better view, explain how it works in the case of each of games, language, and assertion and illustrate its appeal by showing how it enables rule-based views of these things to respond to various objections.

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Indrek Reiland
University of Vienna


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