Chapter

The Background of Social Reality

Volume 1 of the series Studies in the Philosophy of Sociality pp 127-146

Date:

Sharing the Background

Searle, Wittgenstein and Heidegger About the Background of Rule-Governed Behaviour
  • Titus StahlAffiliated withInstitut für Philosophie, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt Email author 

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Abstract

In regard to the explanation of actions that are governed by institutional rules, John R. Searle introduces the notion of a mental “background” that is supposed to explain how persons can acquire the capacity of following such rules. I argue that Searle’s internalism about the mind and the resulting poverty of his conception of the background keep him from putting forward a convincing explanation of the normative features of institutional action. Drawing on competing conceptions of the background of Heidegger and Wittgenstein, I propose to revise Searle’s conception. The background of institutional agency can only provide a convincing explanation if it includes the context of actions and intersubjective structures of a shared life-world. I suggest that a further development of this idea would lead to the identification of the background with a web of social recognition.