How to Do Things with Documents

Rivista di Estetica 50 (50):179-198 (2012)
This essay is a contribution to social ontology, drawing on the work of John Searle and of Hernando de Soto. At the center of the argument is the proposition advanced by de Soto in his Mystery of Capital to the effect that many of the entities which structure our contemporary social reality are entities which exist in virtue of the fact that there are (paper or digital) documents which support their existence. I here develop de Soto’s argument further, focusing specifically on the ontological problems raised by a family of new types of social phenomena – exemplified most dramatically in the domain of finance for example in the form of what are called ‘structured investment vehicles’ – made possible as a result of the employment of computer technology in entity creation. I address also Searle’s most recent work on social ontology, and conclude with an appendix on the theory of documentality advanced by Maurizio Ferraris.
Keywords document acts  speech acts  ontology  Hernando de Soto  capitalism
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