Dewey’s Social Ontology: A Pragmatist Alternative to Searle’s Approach to Social Reality

International Journal of Philosophical Studies 25 (1):40-62 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Dewey’s social ontology could be characterized as a habit ontology, an ontology of habit qua second nature that offers us an account of intentionality, social statuses, institutions, and norms in terms of habituations. Such an account offers us a promising alternative to contemporary intentionalist and deontic approaches to social ontology such as Searle’s. Furthermore, it could be the basis of a social ontology better suited to explain both the maintenance and the transformation of social reality. In the first part I will characterize Dewey’s model as a social ontology based on the notion of habit, and present it as an alternative to intentionalist approaches to social reality. In the second part I will argue that habit ontology offers us an account of social norms that is based on a peculiar understanding of the notion of ‘status’, and represents an alternative to deontic accounts. In the third part I will claim that Dewey’s notion of “public” offers us a dynamic understanding of social institutions and a ‘reactive’ notion of collective intentionality as an achievement rather than as a presupposition of social practices. In the final section I will summarize some advantages of the Deweyan over the Searlean social ontology concerning our understanding of acceptance, maintenance and transformation of statuses, and of the role played by the ‘background’.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,227

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

John Dewey’s Democratic Intentionality.Jerome A. Popp - 2011 - Contemporary Pragmatism 8 (2):123-144.
Collective Intentionality and Causal Powers.Dave Elder-Vass - 2015 - Journal of Social Ontology 1 (2):251–269.
Power and Social Ontology.Åsa Andersson - 2007 - Lund: Bokbox Publications.
Social Space and the Ontology of Recognition.Italo Testa - 2011 - In Heikki Ikaheimo & Arto Laitinen (eds.), Recognition and Social Ontology. Leiden: Brill.
A Realer Institutional Reality: Deepening Searle’s (De)Ontology of Civilization.Molly Brigid Flynn - 2012 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (1):43-67.
Early Heidegger on Social Reality.Jo-Jo Koo - 2016 - In Alessandro Salice & Hans Bernhard Schmid (eds.), The Phenomenological Approach to Social Reality. Springer Verlag. pp. 91-119.
Rules, Social Ontology and Collective Identity.Nuno Martins - 2009 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 39 (3):323-344.


Added to PP

121 (#149,711)

6 months
23 (#121,061)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Italo Testa
University of Parma

Citations of this work

The Authority of Life: The Critical Task of Dewey's Social Ontology.Italo Testa - 2017 - Journal of Speculative Philosophy 31 (2):231-244.
The Social Ontology of Democracy.Roberto Frega - 2018 - Journal of Social Ontology 4 (2):157-185.
Dewey on Organisation.Stephen Pratten - 2019 - European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy 11 (2).

View all 8 citations / Add more citations