Nick Enfield reviews Searle and Runciman

In the Times Literary Suppement, September 3, 2010, 3-4, an interesting review (available here) by Nick Enfield of Making the social world by John Searle and The theory of social and cultural selection by W.G. Runciman.





From Gérard Lampin's L'idiot (1946 – with Gérard Philippe and Edwidge Feuillère – in French)

The review begins:

"In a characteristically riotous scene from The Idiot, Dostoyevksy's chaotic anti-heroine Nastasya Filipovna takes a package of 100,000 roubles brought to her by lovelorn admirer Rogozhin and throws it into the fire to burn. She is using this gift from one suitor as a weapon against another—the ambitious Ganya—whom she publicly taunts to reach in barehanded and remove the burning bills. Mayhem ensues. By what magic does the burning of paper evoke emotions from bewilderment to horror to panic? When that paper happens to be money we catch full view of a curious dual reality that characterizes human affairs. There is a realm of facts that do not follow from physical reality, that inescapable world in which slips of paper are worthless other than as fire starters or snack food for goats. Our trick is the creation of what philosopher John Searle calls institutional reality, a uniquely human reality in which those otherwise ineffectual slips of paper are readily accepted in exchange for valuable goods and services, based on a virtually unshakeable sense of trust that someone else will later accept the same slips of paper in turn. In Making the Social World, Searle asks how human institutional reality is possible. His considered opinion is that language carries the entire load."

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