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The Harvard Review of Philosophy

Volume 23, 2016

John R. Searle
Pages 17-28
DOI: 10.5840/harvardreview201610112

The Ontology of Human Civilization

The basic elements in the ontology of human civilization are status functions. Those are functions that can be performed not in virtue of physical structure alone but only in virtue of collective acceptance by the community of a certain status. Money, property, government and marriage are all examples of status functions. Status functions are all created by repeated applications of the same logical operation, in a preliminary formulation: X counts as Y in context C. On examination it emerges that all status functions are created by a certain kind of representation that has a logical form of a speech act that I call a “Status Function Declaration.” These are explained. This lecture was delivered without notes and the current publication is very informal. I hope the reader will forgive the informality.