The Structure of Complexity and the Limits of Collective Intentionality

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 52 (4):207-234 (2022)
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Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Volume 52, Issue 4, Page 207-234, July 2022. According to Searle’s theory of collective intentionality, the fundamental structure of any society can be accounted for in terms of cooperative mechanisms that create deontic relations. This paper criticizes Searle’s standpoint on the ground that, while his social ontology can make sense of simple systems of interaction like symphony orchestras and football teams, the whole coordinative structure of the modern market society cannot be explained solely in terms of we-intentional collaboration and deontic relations. As clarified by Hayek, because of its complexity, this society is a self-organizing system. It results not only from micro-level agreed constraints, but also from an unintended cybernetic mechanism that affects and shapes both its micro and macro dynamics via a circular causality. Searle ignores the coordination problem posed by complexity and provides strawman arguments against the theory of action underpinning the invisible hand explanation of social phenomena.



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Francesco Di Iorio
Nankai University

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