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JP Smit: Why Saying Can Make It So

Lecture organized by the Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Searle has claimed that all of institutional reality depends on our implicit acceptance of declarations (like "I now pronounce you husband and wife", "This note is legal tender", etc.). I highlight some problems with this view, and then suggest an alternative view based on the Incentivization account (due to Smit, Buekens and du Plessis) of institutional facts.

On the Incentivization account institutional objects are no more than natural objects that we are incentivized to treat in some appropriate way. This view makes it plain why declarations can be used to bring about institutional facts. Declarations can have this role as their utterance have game-theoretical import, typically in virtue of the utterer signaling a commitment to act in an incentive-changing way. It also, however, makes it plain that declarations are not essential to the construction or maintenance of institutional reality.

JP Smit

JP Smit teaches in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.  His research interests include the philosophy of language and the philosophy of social science. He has published in journals such as Synthese, the Canadian Journal of Philosophy and Economics and Philosophy.

When & where?

Wednesday, June 1 2016, 3.15 pm
Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega

Last modified:23 May 2016 11.16 a.m.