Searle and De Soto: The New Ontology of the Social World

In Barry Smith, David Mark & Isaac Ehrlich (eds.), The Mystery of Capital and the Construction of Social Reality. Open Court. pp. 35-51 (2008)
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Abstract
Consider a game of blind chess between two chess masters that is recorded in some standard chess notation. The recording is a representation of the game. But what is the game itself? This question is, we believe, central to the entire domain of social ontology. We argue that the recorded game is a special sort of quasi-abstract pattern, something that is: (i) like abstract entities such as numbers or forms, in that it is both nonphysical and nonpsychological; but at the same time, (ii) through its association with specific players and a specific occasion, tied to time and history. We discover other abstract patterns of this sort especially in the domains of law and commerce. This essay draws on the work in social ontology, we of Hernando de Soto and of John Searle to develop an ontology of the social world based on an analysis of the peculiar interdependence between quasi-abstract patterns and their representations in documents of different sorts.
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