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Balkan Journal of Philosophy

Volume 6, Issue 1, 2014

Social Ontology

Simon Smith
Pages 33-42

Unfair to Social Facts: John Searle and the Logic of Objectivity

John Searle's Making the Social World addresses a question that is as central to philosophy in general as it is to Social Ontology. It concerns the involvement of human beings in the creation of seemingly objective facts. The facts in which Searle is interested are ‘institutional’ facts. Such facts are objective; they are also, Searle argues, ‘created by human subjective attitudes’. It is my contention that this apparent paradox arises from a misconception of 'subjective' and 'objective'. For Searle, these terms are synonymous with 'mind-dependent' and 'mindindependent'. Following the scientist and philosopher, Michael Polanyi, I argue that 'objectivity' is better understood as 'theoretical' and therefore worthy of universal recognition by rational agents. Being a matter of reason, objectivity contrasts, not with mind-dependence, but immediate experience. It follows that Searle's paradox is a function of the contradictory terms in which it is stated.

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