Socially Constituted Actions and Objects

Grazer Philosophische Studien 85 (1):187-212 (2012)
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Abstract

This paper addresses the question of how it is to be explained that an action or object X counts as Y. I argue that John Searle's notion of a constitutive rule should not be employed because it involves a confusion. Instead, I propose an explanatory framework containing the following three elements: 1) The X-action or object is involved in certain social practices. 2) These practices confer properties on the X-items, in addition to their physical properties. 3) In virtue of these additional properties the X-items fall under the Y-concept. Moreover, I stress that the social practices mentioned under 1) look differently from case to case and involve various constellations of prescriptive rules and interpersonal patterns of intentions. To illustrate and corroborate these claims, I discuss several cases of socially constituted actions and objects, in particular, the case of money, where I reject Searle's claim that something counts as money in virtue of giving its owner the right to buy something

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