Laws of Essence or Constitutive Rules? Reinach vs. Searle on the Ontology of Social Entities

In Francesca De Vecchi (ed.), Eidetica del Diritto e Ontologia Sociale. Il Realismo di Adolf Reinach. Mimesis. pp. 83-108 (2012)
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Abstract

Amongst the entities making up social reality, are there necessary relations whose necessity is not a mere reflection of the logical connections between corresponding concepts? We distinguish three main groups of answers to this question, associated with Hume and Adolf Reinach at opposite extremes, and with Searle who occupies a position somewhere in the middle. We first set forth Reinach’s views on what he calls ‘material necessities’ in the realm of social entities. We then attempt to show that Searle has not identified a sustainable position somewhere between the Humean and the Reinachian extremes. This is because Searle’s position is threatened by circularity, and to steer clear of that danger it must incorporate at least some elements of Reinach’s essentialism.

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Barry Smith
University at Buffalo

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