Documentality - Or why nothing social exists beyond the text

Maurizio Ferraris


When Searle enters a Paris café and pronounces the sentence “Un demi, Munich, à pression, s’il vous plaît” he becomes embrangled in a huge invisible ontology of norms, prices, codes, rules; a universe of such complexity that it would have had Kant shivering in his bones, if only Kant had ever thought about it. It is clear that documents play a special role in this huge invisible ontology, and the importance of such objects has for too long been underestimated in the history of philosophy. In Searle’s own social ontology, social objects are still regarded as mere higher order objects founded on physical objects, in line with the formula X counts as Y in context C. In contradiction to Searle, I shall advance the hypothesis that social objects are defined by the law Object = Inscribed Act: social objects are social acts (involving at least two individuals) that have the distinctive feature of being inscribed on paper, on a computer file, or also in peoples’ minds. In the social world, therefore, it turns out to be true what, in the physical and ideal worlds is obviously false, namely: nothing exists beyond the text.


20th century philosophy; philosophy; social studies; Wittgenstein Ludwig; best; documentality; grammatology; new media; Ferraris Maurizio; realism; social ontology

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