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

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

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’.

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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).

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