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The Construction of Social Reality

19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684831794
ISBN-10: 0684831791
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Searle is the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He was awarded the Jean Nicod Prize in 2002 and the National Humanities Medal in 2004. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684831791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684831794
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 79 people found the following review helpful By R. Starkey on February 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'm afraid it's the reviewer from Paris who just doesn't get it. Searle quite clearly acknowledges that the concept of "mountain" in mind-dependent or socially constructed. However what he is at pains to point out is that the entity which our concept "mountain" describes is mind-independent.
This is a beautifully written book, lucid, clear with a light flowing prose style - so different from many of the writings it critiques. You don't necessarily have to agree with Searle to admire this book - what is so admirable is that he states his position with such clarity that there is at least scope for rational agreement/disagreement.
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77 of 85 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Heersink on March 18, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is another one of Searle's rigorous and complex effort at philosophizing, and yet one of his most readable. I think we are indebted to his research assistant for the clarity of locution and punctuation -- two areas where Searle can be vulnerable. This book also uses many concepts discussed at length in two of his other books: "Speech Acts" and "Intentionality." Having read these two other books, while definitely helpful, is not necessary, as Searle is kind enough to describe his meanings and references as he goes along. And he goes along at quite a rapid clip. This is, moreover, one of those books one cannot afford to skip a sentence without serious impairment of further understanding.

With these caveats in mind, I highly recommend this tour of Searle's defense of naive realism in modern analytic terms. He is highly analytic, and builds quite a fortress that he is pained to defend against criticisms of circularity. Nowhere is this charge more appropriate than in his defense of language as simultaneously being an "institutional" and "brute" fact. Each reader will have to decide whether or not he succeeds, but, if he has failed, it is not for a lack of effort.

Of all Searle's books, this is the one I enjoyed the most. Searle is an excellent analytic philosopher, but a grammarian he's not. His lack of grammatical discipline usually interferes with his philosophizing and frequently plagues his other works, but is completely remedied in this book. It's not an "elegant" work, by any means, but it is clear, concise, and comprehensible. His arguments are thoroughly explained, developed, and explored, so that even a novice could follow his impeccable logic.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is an impressive work by the lucid John Searle. This work is relatively brief but contains Searle's insightful treatment of both social reality and a cogent defense of realism, the idea that there is a reality independent of human construction. This book repays careful reading. Not because it is difficult to understand, to the contrary, Searle is a very clear writer with a real talent for presenting useful examples. Rather, Searle's arguments are simple but often have substantial implications whose importance emerges only on reflection. In this book, Searle describes the likely underpinnings of social, as opposed to physical reality. He develops very interesting analyses of how these two spheres differ and how we differ in our relation to them. He shows also the relationship between them. Searle's treatment of social constructionism is particularly powerful and demonstrates the implicit contradictions and sterility of this faddish ideology. Searle is particularly concerned with maintaining a high level of rational discourse in intellectual life. His work is a model in this respect.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Aidan McDowell on May 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
John Searle is a philosopher's philosopher. He's also scrupulously honest to a fault. When reading him, one never has to stop and wonder whether he really believes what he's saying. The present work, "The Construction of Social Reality" (CSR)" is no exception. Lucid, cogent, packed with insights, CSR is vintage Searle--a thinker who just seems to get better and better with age. Nowadays one can no more ignore Searle than could a medieval thinker ignore Aristotle, or a modern thinker ignore Kant. When I begin writing on any philosophical subject, I always check to see whether Searle is close by.

CSR offers the most perspicuous account of "social facts" or "institutional facts" of any work I know of, except, perhaps, Chapter 5 of Searle's earlier work, "Intentionality." I would recommend that anyone interested in the subject read that chapter together with CSR. The focus of Chapter 5 is "the Background." Searle develops this notion at great length in CSR, especially in Chapter 6. (The great strength of CSR is the logical progression of topics from one chapter to the next.) The idea of the Background has been around at least since Husserl and Heidegger, and is a key element in Heidegger's analysis in "Being and Time." To be sure, Searle does not slavishly follow Heidegger; the two thinkers have very different takes on what intentionality is. (An especially lucid analysis of the difference between Searle and Heidegger can be found in Hubert Dreyfus' classic introduction to Heidegger, "Being-In-The-World.") But anyone who has had second thoughts about running headlong into the thicket of Heideggerian prose can hardly do better than start with Searle.
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