Searle and Collective Intentionality: The Self-defeating Nature of Internalism with respect to Social Facts

D.P. Fitzpatrick

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Several key elements go into Searle's construction of social reality, namely, collective intentionality, constitutive rules, and status functions. But by far the most important and arguably contentious of these is collective intentionality. Searle postulates his notion of collective intentionality as a solution to a conflict between two of his own problematic claims: the irreducibility of collective intentions to singular intentions and what he sees as the requirements of methodological individualism. According to Searle, methodological individualism seems to require that we reduce collective intentionality to individual intentionality; however, this contradicts his claim that collective intentionality is irreducible to individual intentionality plus some mutual beliefs. I will show that at least part of what is really at stake here is Searle's internalism or, as he puts it, his "brain in a vat condition." My strategy will be to examine his internalism and show that Searle's account is far more radical than other internalists in that he extends internalism beyond its usual domain of the mental to incorporate social facts. While there are no knockdown arguments in favor of either internalism or externalism as normally construed in the philosophy of mind, I will show that Searle's account of collective intentionality introduces an element of privacy to social facts that denies us the public access to the conditions on the basis of which we normally take collective facts to obtain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-66
JournalAmerican Journal of Economics and Sociology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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