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Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  105 ratings  ·  17 reviews
There are few more important philosophers at work today than John Searle, a creative and contentious thinker who has shaped the way we think about mind and language. Now he offers a profound understanding of how we create a social reality--a reality of money, property, governments, marriages, stock markets and cocktail parties.
The paradox he addresses in Making the Social
Hardcover, 1st edition, 208 pages
Published December 11th 2009 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Joshua Stein
Unlike Searle's original The Construction of Social Reality, this book jumps around quite a bit and attempts to tie Searle's accounts of social reality to a wide array of domains. I think that's an ambitious and worthwhile thing to do, especially since the social world is supposed to be tied in to so much. The purpose of the book is to take Searle's original theories, refine and correct them, and eventually ensure that they are being appropriately applied where and how he hopes to apply them.

You will never look at money, police, or picnics in the same way. He admits that his analysis cannot give an account for human consciousness (to be fair, no one can), but Searle does take you from pre-linguistic expression, to representation, to language, then all the way to Status Function Declarations. He does this in such a way that helps the reader understand how we build and maintain massive, invisible social structures. His accounting of individual and collective intentionality will also s ...more
Ryan Edwards
Searle hopes to provide a social ontology, building on his theory of speech acts and intentionality, to account for our social world and how things have a hold on us. Written as if he dictated the entire thing over a lunch time conversation, the book is easy to approach but often unconvincing. Perhaps adding another hundred pages of bulk and really nutting everything out would have helped, but to be honest, I think the problem is with the ideas still. His ideas around further splitting the subje ...more
Searle amends Wittgenstein's reactionary counter-enlightenment project with a number of Kantian considerations. The paradoxicality of this task, however, ends up in a number of quite interesting discussions, and in fact, the stress on the Kantian assault on teleology is something social scientists should rather keep in mind. However, it still does not really tempt me to read more of Searle's works to figure out how exactly is he resolving some of the more problematic incompatibilities of the abo ...more
Every few sentences, it seems, the accessibility of the style flits from "regular academic" to quasi-mathematical logic abdominal crunches and back again. Despite this barrier, it was clear to me that something important was being discussed, so someday I shall give it a second read to absorb more of it. This is about how societies are built on shared language systems and how they come to a vast number of agreed-upon concepts such as promises and contracts, licenses and passports, group identitie ...more
I enjoy reading Searle because of the clarity with which he presents his ideas. A case in point is Searle's discussion of power. Searle would have us distinguish between power (as potential) and the exercise of power. Further, he contends that when discussing the exercise of power in human affairs it is important for our understanding to attend to both the intentional content of the exercise of power AND exactly who is doing what to whom. With these definitional constraints in mind Searle follow ...more
If you've read Searle's Social Construction of Reality, then a lot of this may seem repetitive. This work is a continuation of the theory presented in that book, but I don't think it's necessary to have read that one to understand this work. He spends a sizable amount of space going over the basics of his theory, but he also clarifies some things and addresses a few concerns that have arisen since the 15 or so years since the initial work.

In general, this work is a strong continuation of his thi
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Khalil James
Where does one begin when attempting to uncover (or formulate) the nature of social reality. Searle's ontology must have been the last of many iterations. Where did he begin? Perhaps a clue lies in his previous work, The Construction of Social Reality. It is an amazing fact that Searle can so clearly explain the logico-linguistic dependency of social institutions while he himself exercises that dependency in the form of words in a book. It kinda throws you back...allows you to appreciate the ins ...more
Steven Moeller
Without question one of the most interesting, and therefore best, works of philosophy I have ever read.
May 24, 2010 Jordan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Philosophy of Mind
Searle makes the claim that certain states of intentionality, brought about only through language, form the framework of our social world. Searle explains (very logically and precisely) how humans go about producing objective facts that are not epistemically objective, such as "the earth is round," but ontologically objective facts, such as "Barrack Obama is President of the United States," which only exists because of our established social world. If you're interested in how states of intention ...more
Abi Rhodes
This book is not for the faint-hearted or the philosophy novice. It is a very hard book to read, you will need a lot of concentration and a background in basic philosophical notions to fully appreciate it. However, it is fully worth the perseverance required because it will inform your understanding of how and why institutions (such as money, government and marriage) exist in the human world. A great, but difficult read.
Nicholas Tollervey
Currently reading this (started during holidays). I'd read Searle's "Construction of Social Reality" when it came out in the mid 90s (I was studying philosophy at the time) and found it very appealing.

So far this is a *very* interesting update of his ideas. I'll write a better review when I've finished it.
Jon Sedlak
Because my review of this book is too extensive for Goodreads to publish in it's "review" section, I have posted it on my own blog,
My review of Searle's Making the Social World can be found here:
Adam Calhoun
bleh. uninteresting. perfect example of philosophers making stuff up
Gnuehc Ecnerwal
The chapter on universal human rights was a nice surprise.
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John Rogers Searle (born July 31, 1932 in Denver, Colorado) is an American philosopher and the Slusser Professor of Philosophy and Mills Professor of Philosophy of Mind and Language at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). Widely noted for his contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and social philosophy, he was the first tenured professor to join the Free S ...more
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“Declaration. Compositionality figures essentially in the creation of social and institutional reality. Given compositionality, the animal can do much more than just represent existing states of affairs; it can represent states of affairs that do not exist but which can be brought into existence by getting a community to accept a certain class of speech acts. So, for example, the man who says, “This is my property,” or the woman who says, “This is my husband” may be doing more than just reporting an antecedently existing state of affairs; he or she may be creating a state of affairs by Declaration. A person who can get other people to accept this Declaration will succeed in creating an institutional reality that did not exist prior to that Declaration. We do not yet have performatives, because they” 0 likes
“There are five, and only five, possible types of speech acts, five types of illocutionary acts.4 These are (1) Assertives (statements, descriptions, assertions, etc.) whose point is to represent how things are and which therefore have the downhill or word-to-world direction of fit↓;(2) Directives (orders, commands, requests, etc.) whose point is to try to get other people to do things, and which have the uphill or world-to-word direction of fit↑;(3) Commissives (promises, vows, pledges, etc.) whose point is to commit the speaker to some course of action, and which, like directives, have the uphill or world-to-word direction of fit↑;(4) Expressives, (apologies, thanks, congratulations, etc.) whose point is to express the speaker’s feelings and attitudes about a state of affairs that is in most cases presupposed to exist already; and (5) Declarations, which, remarkably, have both directions of fit at once. In a Declaration we make something the case by declaring it to be the case. The first four types of speech acts have exact analogues in intentional states: corresponding to Assertives are beliefs↓, corresponding to Directives are desires↑, corresponding to Commissives are intentions↑, and corresponding to Expressives is the whole range of emotions and other intentional states where the Presup fit is taken for granted. But there is no prelinguistic analogue for the Declarations. Prelinguistic intentional states cannot create facts in the world by representing those facts as already existing. This remarkable feat requires a language.5” 0 likes
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