In The Construction of Social Reality, John Searle develops a theory of institutional facts and objects, of which money, borders and property are presented as prime examples. These objects are the result of us collectively intending certain natural objects to have a certain status, i.e. to ‘count as’ being certain social objects. This view renders such objects irreducible to natural objects. In this paper we propose a radically different approach that is more compatible with standard economic theory. We claim that (...) such institutional objects can be fully understood in terms of actions and incentives, and hence the Searlean apparatus solves a non-existent problem. (shrink)
Contemporary discussion concerning institutions focus on, and mostly accept, the Searlean view that institutional objects, i.e. money, borders and the like, exist in virtue of the fact that we collectively represent them as existing. A dissenting note has been sounded by Smit et al. (Econ Philos 27:1–22, 2011), who proposed the incentivized action view of institutional objects. On the incentivized action view, understanding a specific institution is a matter of understanding the specific actions that are associated with the institution and (...) how we are incentivized to perform these actions. In this paper we develop the incentivized action view by extending it to institutions like property, promises and complex financial organisations like companies. We also highlight exactly how the incentivized action view differs from the Searlean view, discuss the method appropriate to such study and discuss some of the virtues of the incentivized action view. (shrink)
What does being money consist in? We argue that something is money if, and only if, it is typically acquired in order to realise the reduction in transaction costs that accrues in virtue of agents coordinating on acquiring the same thing when deciding what thing to acquire in order to exchange. What kinds of things can be money? We argue against the common view that a variety of things (notes, coins, gold, cigarettes, etc.) can be money. All monetary systems are (...) best interpreted as implementing the same basic protocol. Money, i.e. the thing that we coordinate on acquiring in order to lower our transaction costs, is, in all cases, a set of positions on an abstract mathematical object, namely a relative ratio scale. The things that we ordinarily call ‘money’ are merely records of positions on such a scale. (shrink)
In our earlier work, we argued, contra Searle, that institutional facts can be understood in terms of non-institutional facts about actions and incentives. Butchard and D’Amico claim that we have misinterpreted Searle, that our main argument against him has no merit and that our positive view cannot account for institutional facts created via joint action. We deny all three charges.
I-theories of bare demonstratives take the semantic referent of a demonstrative to be determined by an inner state of the utterer. E-theories take the referent to be determined by factors external to the utterer. I argue that, on the Standard view of communication, neither of these theories can be right. Firstly, both are committed to the existence of conventions with superfluous content. Secondly, any claim to the effect that a speaker employs the conventions associated with these theories cannot have any (...) content, i.e. nothing can count as following these conventions. Bare demonstratives may well not be devices of semantic reference at all, i.e. may not actually contribute a referent to the proposition semantically expressed by an utterance. (shrink)
Declarations like “this meeting is adjourned” make certain facts the case by representing them as being the case. Yet surprisingly little attention has been paid to the mechanism whereby the utterance of a declaration can bring about a new state of affairs. In this paper, we use the incentivization account of institutional facts to address this issue. We argue that declarations can serve to bring about new states of affairs as their utterance have game theoretical import, typically in virtue of (...) the utterer signaling a commitment to act in an incentive-changing way. (shrink)
Contemporary theories of institutions as clusters of stable solutions to recurrent coordination problems can illuminate and explain some unresolved difficulties and problems adhering to institutional definitions of art initiated by George Dickie and Arthur Danto. Their account of what confers upon objects their institutional character does not fit well with current work on institutions and social ontology. The claim that “the artworld” confers the status of “art” onto objects remains utterly mysterious. The “artworld” is a generic notion that designates a (...) sphere of human activity that involves practices that create goals that have led to the emergence of formal and informal institutions. But those institutions, rather than magically “creating” objects subjected to esthetic appreciation, merely solve familiar and ubiquitous coordination problems created by artistic activity in ways other institutions in other areas solve similar and/or analogous coordination problems. (shrink)
Russell claims that ordinary proper names are eccentric, i.e. that the semantic referent of a name is determined by the descriptive condition that the individual utterer of the name associates with the name. This is deeply puzzling, for the evidence that names are subject to interpersonal coordination seems irrefutable. One way of making sense of Russell’s view would be to claim that he has been systematically misinterpreted and did not, in fact, offer a semantic theory at all. Such a view (...) is put forward in Sainsbury Departing from Frege, Routledge, London, 2002). Sainsbury claims that Russellian descriptivism is not the theory that the thought in the mind of the speaker determines the semantic reference of a name, but simply a theory about the thought in the mind of the speaker using a name. I argue that the truth is subtly different, and points the way towards an intuitive explanation of Russell’s eccentricity. (shrink)
Joseph Almog pointed out that Kripkean causal chains not only exist for names, but for all linguistic items (Almog 1984: 482). Based on this, he argues that the role of such chains is the presemantic one of assigning a linguistic meaning to the use of a name (1984: 484). This view is consistent with any number of theories about what such a linguistic meaning could be, and hence with very different views about the semantic reference of names. He concludes that (...) the causal theory is ‘rather trivial’ (1984: 487). In this paper I argue that Almog is correct to hold that the causal theory is trivial, but, contra Almog, argue that the triviality of the existence of causal chains is not a matter of such chains having a presemantic role in assigning linguistic meanings to utterances. Instead, such triviality is due to the fact that the causal theory reflects no more than a truism about the epistemology of convention acquisition. (shrink)
Traditional descriptivism and Kripkean causalism are standardly interpreted as rival theories on a single topic. I argue that there is no such shared topic, i.e. that there is no question that they can be interpreted as giving rival answers to. The only way to make sense of the commitment to epistemic transparency that characterizes traditional descriptivism is to interpret Russell and Frege as proposing rival accounts of how to characterize a subject’s beliefs about what names refer to. My argument relies (...) on a development of the distinction between speaker’s reference and semantic reference. (shrink)
This paper argues, based on Lewis’ claim that communication is a coordination game (Lewis in Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp 3–35, 1975), that we can account for the communicative function of demonstratives without assuming that they semantically refer. The appeal of such a game theoretical version of the case for non-referentialism is that the communicative role of demonstratives can be accounted for without entering the cul de sac of trying to construct conventions (...) of ever-increasing complexity. Instead communication via demonstratives is explained with reference to the general, non-domain specific ability of human beings to solve games of coordination. Furthermore, there is empirical support for such a view. Judgments concerning demonstrative reference have been shown to be sensitive to judgments concerning common ground (Clark et al. in J Verb Learn Verb Behav 22:245–258, 1983), which is exactly what the non-referentialist account would predict. The game theoretical account also allows for an intuitively plausible, non-referentialist treatment of Speaks’ ‘trumping argument’ (Speaks in Philos Stud 174:709–734, 2017), as well as the Carnap/Agnew puzzle (Kaplan in Syntax Semant 9:221–43, 1970). (shrink)
Semantic theories that violate semantic innocence, that is require reference shifts when terms are embedded in ‘that’ clauses and the like, are often challenged by producing sentences where an anaphoric expression, while not itself embedded in a context in which reference shifts, is anaphoric on an antecedent expression that is embedded in such a context. This, in conjunction with a widely accepted principle concerning unproblematic anaphora (the ‘Principle of Anaphoric Reference’), is used to show that such reference shifting has absurd (...) consequences. We show that it is the widely accepted principle concerning anaphora that is to be blamed for these consequences and not the supposed sin of reference shifting. (shrink)
Kotzee and Smit explain why, if unicorns don't exist, then they could not possibly have existed. In fact, even if horned horses were discovered somewhere, they would not necessarily be unicorns. The key to understanding why this is so lies in understanding how so-called natural kind terms function.
A wide variety of philosophers seem to agree that there is something dubious about the distinction between fact and value. This paper evaluates some of the arguments made for such a contention. It is argued that only the crudest form of pragmatism leads to a conflation of fact and value. Other arguments against the fact/value distinction, mostly drawn from Putnam's Reason, Truth and History, are examined in order to show that they are either false or trivial. S. Afr. J. Philos. (...) Vol.22(1) 2003: 51-62. (shrink)
In the study of expertise, few debates come as big as that between constructivists and realists. This chapter discusses the signal debate between realists and constructivists about expertise. It sets out a view that includes aspects of both the constructivist and realist position to show that insights from what is often considered to be rival camps can be incorporated in a position that does justice to both. The chapter argues that, while expertise is real, there are two distinct social dimensions (...) to the concept of expertise. It attempts to demonstrate two distinct ways in which expertise has a social dimension. First, the chapter develops an account according to which 'is an expert' is a triadic predicate. Second, it considers the fact that attributions of expertise are often done by institutions, i.e. by medical boards certifying doctors, etc. Both dimensions can be acknowledged without undermining the basic case for realism about expertise. (shrink)