This paper proposes an approach to the question of meaning and understanding based on the idea of constitutive rules and their relationship to the social objects they are used to create. This approach implicates mutual attention as an essential aspect of the social processes constitutive of social objects and mutual intelligibility. Social objects as such include the meaning, perception and coherence of things, identities and talk, etc. There is a relatively unexplored but important line of argument in sociology that has, from the beginning, explained the coherence and mutual intelligibility of social objects and associations in terms of constitutive practices and social facts. This line of argument begins with Emile Durkheim (1893) and carries through the work of Harold Garfinkel to current studies of work and interaction, human computer interaction and talk. The argument is that we use constitutive practices (Constitutive rules or constitutive background expectancies) to create social objects and make coherent and shared meanings. To act is in this sense for Garfinkel ([1948]2006) to “mean”. Explaining the consistency of social objects and orders in terms of constitutive orders, rules, or practices is an approach that meets the challenges posed to social science and philosophy by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1953), Peter Winch (1958) and Paul Grice (1989)
Keywords Philosophy of the social sciences  Garfinkel  social theory  Wittgenstein  conversation analysis  rule following  mutual attention  Durkheim  constitutive rules  social objects  constitutive practices  rules  Winch  Ethnomethodology
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-5914.2011.00471.x
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References found in this work BETA

Studies in the Way of Words.H. P. Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language.John Rogers Searle - 1969 - Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Two Concepts of Rules.John Rawls - 1955 - Philosophical Review 64 (1):3-32.

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The Idea of Constitutive Order in Ethnomethodology.Andrei Korbut - 2014 - European Journal of Social Theory 17 (4):479-496.

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