The Background of Social Reality

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


Sharing the Background

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

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


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.