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The Contract of Language: John Searle's Philosophy of Society

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In Making the Social World, John Searle develops what he calls a "philosophy of society", which explores the ontological status and logical structure of institutional facts like universities and baseball games. This philosophy of society crucially depends on Searle's earlier work in the philosophy of language and mind. In this review, I discuss some aspects of Searle's theory of institutional facts as structured in terms of declaratives that are most relevant to working linguists, like the relation of language to other social institutions, the emergence of normativity in language, the articulation of (legitimate and illegitimate) power in language usage, and the question of whether there should be any restrictions on the allegedly universal human right to free speech.

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