P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 148
4th December 2009
I. 'Lou Salome and Nietzsche' by Matthew Del Nevo
II. 'Coluccio Salutati and the Tyrant' by Marco Cirillo
III. 'Searle's Theory of Social Reality and Some Social Reality' by Xiaoqiang Han
IV. 'The Philo Officer' by Michael Levy
Lou Salome, friend of Nietzsche and author of the first book on his
philosophy, understood Nietzsche far better than many subsequent
commentators. Matthew Del Nevo's article, originally read to the
Sydney Philosophy Cafe, gives us Salome's view of Nietzsche as
engaged in a unique spiritual quest to make his life and his
philosophy one and the same.
The subject of 'the tyrant' seems rather quaint to modern ears, yet
this was a topic of earnest debate during the Renaissance. Marco
Cirillo offers an interesting exposition of the book The Tyrant by
Coluccio Salutati who was appointed Chancellor of Florence in 1375,
putting the case that Coluccio's ideas were in fact ahead of his time.
Xiaoqiang Han's second article for Philosophy Pathways is on the
topic of John Searle's theory of collective intentionality. When, if
ever, is it true to say that a group of persons or a society, acts or
consents to an action with a single unified intention? This question
becomes especially problematic when we consider the behaviour of
people living under dictatorial regimes, who toe the line only
because of the threat of force.
Michael Levy is an inspirational speaker who takes a refreshingly
optimistic view of life. I was touched by his poem, 'The Philo
Officer' which speaks volumes about those aspects of reality forever
beyond the investigating philosopher's words and logic.
I. 'LOU SALOME AND NIETZSCHE' BY MATTHEW DEL NEVO
Lou Salome (1861-1937)
The noble soul has reverence for itself.
Nietzsche (BGE, 287)
I presume you know a little about Nietzsche. The son of a Lutheran
clergyman. His father died when Nietzsche was a boy and thereafter he
was brought up in household of women: his mother, his sister, his
aunt. At 24, a very young age, he was appointed professor of
philology at Basel University. He hero-worshipped Wagner who was like
a Father figure to him, and who treated Nietzsche quite like a son.
Nietzsche left his position at Basel, at the end of the 1870s,
suffering from ill health. His first academic publication, The Birth
of Tragedy (1872) had been very poorly received and not the sort of
book expected in Professorial circles, at least in the Philology
department. The book was more philosophical than philological. While
Nietzsche was being quietly side-lined by his University peers, more
dramatically, he fell out with Wagner.
By the end of the 1870s his prodigious early success in academia had
turned sour. By 1879 Nietzsche was living in boarding houses on the
North coast of Italy for health reasons. And yet he regarded himself
as a philosopher, and not only that, a great one, with a
world-shaking message. But he hardly had any friends and no
conventional relationships, let alone a readership. He had written a
couple of other short eccentric philosophical works which were
disregarded, and unbeknownst to him he had 10 years left to work. In
1889 he would collapse into total insanity from which he would never
recover. But in his last decade, the 1880s, living in pensiones,
completely isolated and ill, Nietzsche wrote a series of stunning
works that changed the face of philosophy. The Gay Science (1882/7),
where the death of God is proclaimed; Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883/4)
a Scripture for a world in which God is rather an absent presence,
than a Supreme Being; Beyond Good and Evil (1886), a moral
exhortation to the future of philosophy; The Genealogy of Morals
(1887); The Twilight of Idols (1889); Ecce Homo (written in 1888,
published 1908), largely about himself; and lastly, The AntiChrist
(1888, withheld and published 1895).
Before he went mad Nietzsche was still doing battle with his
surrogate father, Wagner, in The Wagner case (1888) and another short
work published as Nietzsche contra Wagner (1895). After his death,
many of Nietzsche's notes from the 1880s were collected into a volume
by his sister, and published under the title, The Will to Power (1901,
1905 2nd enlarged edn.). Nietzsche's philosophy which always has a
moral bent or at the very least a moralistic ring, is constellated
around attack: on God, on Wagner, on every other worthwhile
philosopher and philosophy he can lay his hands on, and an elevation
and glorification of his own philosophical prowess. The Sections of
Ecce Homo are entitled: Why I Am So Wise; Why I Am So Clever; Why I
Write Such Good Books. Even the title of this book Ecce Homo, meaning
'Behold the man!' the words of Pontius Pilate, the man Nietzsche
admired most in the New Testament, are words said of Jesus Christ
that Nietzsche applied to himself.
Nietzsche's reception has been firstly to reach a much broader
readership than any other philosopher of his century or even of
several centuries before him, and secondly to divide and confuse all
those who have read him. To this day there is no consensus as to what
Nietzsche's philosophy is, or what any of his basic doctrines such as
'will to power' or 'the revaluation of all values' or 'the eternal
return' even mean, at best there are 'schools of thought' on it -- so
it has been hard for evaluation to be anything more than a personal
appreciation or deprecation (as the case may be). One thing people do
agree on however is that Nietzsche was a great literary stylist of the
Ironically, and oddly, it is precisely Nietzsche's style that has
allowed so many professional academic writers of books and articles
on him to completely ignore things that Nietzsche makes a big point
of saying and to make him say whatever it is they are saying, or at
least to line up with it, as if Nietzsche were somehow, their
'precursor'; but I think this is very far from the case. They do this
by attributing ideas of Nietzsche which are completely contrary to
their own as 'stylistic' rather than substantial. The Nazis did it by
having collections of his sayings that edited out the ones they didn't
like. The method is still in vogue. Not that we have edited
collections, but our contemporaries instead gloss over, whatever
doesn't fit their prejudices, as if it wasn't there. There are some
incredible examples of this genre, but here is not the place to go
Lou Salome was born in St. Petersburg of French Huguenot and German
descent. She spoke and read in French, German and Russian and had
a smattering of other languages, eventually when she was to marry, it
was to Carl Andreas a German professor of Oriental languages. These
propensities would not be lost on Nietzsche, who had been Professor
of Philology at Basle University during the previous decade.
Nietzsche met Lou in Rome in May 1882. She was there with her mother,
and Nietzsche's best friend Paul Ree who had become infatuated with
her. She would have been 21, he would have been 17 years her senior.
When she was only 17 years old her private tutor, the local married
priest, a man old enough to be her father, fell so madly in love with
her that he promised to leave his wife and children. Lou coolly
refused him; when eventually she did marry in 1887, she had that same
pastor officiate the service. In 1880 Lou's mother took her out of
harm's way to Zurich, where the University was the first to open its
doors to women. However, the completion of her studies was cut short
by signs of tuberculosis and it was this, among other reasons, that
led mother and daughter south to Rome, where in May 1882 she was to
First Lou met Paul Ree in literary and intellectual circles in which
they moved and Ree urgently beckoned his friend Nietzsche, who was in
Italy to come up to Rome, which eventually he did. He had huge
moustaches and a Saxony accent. He read aloud to them from The Gay
Science, which he was writing. She probably would have heard him read
aphorism 125, The Madman, in which the event of the death of God is
dramatically proclaimed. For the first time in his life, Nietzsche
fell in love. Now both men were in love with the girl! Ree wanted to
marry Lou -- Lou said she didn't believe in marriage; Nietzsche would
propose to her at least twice, but she would refuse both of them and
want just to be intellectual companions. Salome advocated a three-way
relationship between them.
By May Mrs Salome was finding Rome too hot and wanted them to wend
their way back via Switzerland and Germany to Russia. The two men
followed. En route, Nietzsche found perfect romantic moments to
propose to Lou, but to no avail. The meanderings of the three of
them, occasionally altogether, often all apart, often just two of
them, either Nietzsche or Ree, continued until October in Leipzig.
The famous photo of the so-called 'Holy Trinity', Lou holding the
whip, was taken in Lucerne. Leipzig was the last time Nietzsche saw
Lou. She and Ree started living together, her mother went on to
Russia by herself and Lou moved in with Ree to a flat in Berlin. In
1886 Carl Andreas came on the scene and stole Lou away from Ree.
Against her principles Lou married Carl Andreas, but she never
consented to have sex with him. They had a childless marriage and
carried on sexual affairs outside the marriage, at least Lou did, one
only assumes Carl did, but he may not have done. Ree became a doctor
eventually, but was depressive and died tragically on a mountain hike
We have Nietzsche's word, one of the greatest European intellectuals
of the nineteenth century, that he considered Lou his equal. Rilke
and Freud, two other men of genius, will say much the same when their
turn comes to enter her life.
In her lifetime, Lou wrote about 15 books, some novels, some on the
more academic side. Her book on Nietzsche is probably the first book
about him. She wrote it before The AntiChrist or Ecce Homo or The
Will to Power were published. But she had known him and he had loved
her. Her book was published in 1894. In her memoirs, written in her
70s, in the 1930s she admits to not fully understanding Nietzsche
until after their break-up 50 years previously, and the subsequent
study of his works, which she was among the first to read. She
says in her memoir, looking back on Nietzsche and that time, 'The
will of the times transformed the exactitude of logic into a
psychology with its own exactitude.'
The 'exactitude of logic' would have been that of Kant and the
Kantians, and of Hegel and the Hegelians, those of the left and those
of the right, each with their version of the Wissenschaft der Logik
and its ruthless dialectic. Lou speaks of the will of the times
transforming such logic 'into a psychology' with its own exactitude;
and this is how, in a nutshell she places Nietzsche. For Nietzsche,
the life of the philosopher parallels his philosophy, and when you
put the two side by side (the philosopher and the philosophy),
Nietzsche doesn't think a powerful philosophy can be produced by an
insipid life; for this reason Nietzsche doesn't think philosophy
produced by professional paid academic philosophers is even worth
mentioning or reading for the most part. He only mentions the very
greatest names, and then will not read their philosophy in
abstraction from their biography.
Walter Kaufmann in his landmark study of Nietzsche calls him
'psychologist', but in a special sense, as what he might call a
'moral' psychologist. Today we think of psychology as a 'science' or
as 'therapy', but if we can capture something worth saying by calling
Nietzsche a moral psychologist, what we refer to is his ability to
'diagnose' philosophy and philosophers; much of Nietzsche's thought
is not Kritik, but diagnostics; he teases out what makes the soul
sick, what makes philosophy sick therefore, and what makes culture
and society sick as a result. The sicknesses Nietzsche diagnoses are
all to do, in one way or another, with a lack of integrity. And
the measure of integrity for Nietzsche is life in the fullest
possible sense where all our creative juices are running and all our
creative capacities at full flight. If we think of Nietzsche like
this (and this is just my own view) then we can legitimately say, I
think, that his writing is in line with his life, because of the
extraordinary creativity in his work.
I want to now turn to Lou's Nietzsche book. We can't discuss the
whole book, so I'm going to make 3 main points. These points, or
headings, frame Lou's view of Nietzsche. But I believe these three
points are good orientations into reading Nietzsche, especially
given, as I've said, that confusion about his philosophy reigns.
1. The thinker and the thought (biography and philosophy)
If the task of the biographer is to explicate the thinker
through his person, it applies in an unusual degree to
Nietzsche because external intellectual work and a picture
of his inner life coalesce completely. What he says in the
'prefatory' letter [Lou used a letter to her from Nietzsche
as her Preface] about philosophers is pertinent to himself;
one should test their systems against their personal
actions. Later, he expressed the same concept: 'Gradually,
it has become clear to me that every great philosophy up to
the present has been the personal confession of its author
and a form of involuntary and unperceived memoir'
(BGE, 6; N.p.4 [my emphasis added]).
And so we must direct our attention to the human being and
not the theorist in order to find a way in Nietzsche's
works. In that sense, our contemplation will not gain a new
theoretical world picture [as in Kant or Hegel I would add]
but the picture of the human soul in all its greatness and
sickliness (N. p.29 [my emphasis added]).
So with Nietzsche's philosophy we don't get a new theory or world
picture, but a picture of the human soul -- a diagnosis.
The optimum philosophical picture of a man's health is spelt out in
Nietzsche's idea of eternal recurrence. The idea of the eternal
recurrence stated by Zarathustra in Nietzsche's book of that title is
the idea that everything we do, right down to me giving this talk
tonight, eternally recurs. People have always wondered what this
could mean. Is it meant in a cosmological sense? Is it some kind of
hypothesis? No, I think it is a fable that speaks of the absolute
coalescence of personal character and destiny in one truth. Let me
explain. When my personal character perfectly expresses the truth
that all my creativity can allow me to become, then it is logical
that I would will the eternal recurrence of the same. When all the
possibilities and potentialities of my being have become actual and
real, then, nothing greater can I do; except, at that point to will
the eternal recurrence of the same, thereby validating forever all
that I have become and should be. This is what Nietzsche means.
Everyone who in their deepest heart doesn't or can't will the eternal
recurrence is, in effect, a creative abortion; they fall short of a
complete unification of personal character and their destiny. This
situation is typical of herd man, the rabble, that Nietzsche
despised, just as he despised democracy and populism and public media
that promote a herd mentality and a rabble. Were Nietzsche alive in
our day, I believe he would see globalization as nothing more than
the triumph of the rabble, evidence of those he called, in
Zarathustra, 'the last men'. These are the pathetic creatures who are
happy with mediocrity and call their mediocrity happiness and want
everyone to have it. Their complacency and fatuousness is mocked by
The point I'm trying to make about the eternal recurrence is given
again by Nietzsche in BGE where he writes: 'If one has character, one
also has one's typical experience which always recurs.' (BGE, 70 [my
emphasis]). What Nietzsche calls noble or virtuous character and
recurrence go together. And the more distinguished the character, the
more absolute the recurrence. The law of eternal recurrence is the
terminal point of this idea of the philosopher and his biography, or,
more properly of the thinker and his thought.
In her book Lou makes this point and shows the recurrence of
Nietzsche's experience, 'and so, with certainty, [she says] he had to
perish.' (N. p.23) This has nothing to do with determinism, but with
(in Nietzsche's phrase) 'becoming all that you are,' or making an
absolute of oneself, which points to the teaching of the Ubermensch
[overman] in Zarathustra. Goethe was Nietzsche's example of such a
man, one who created beyond himself [cf. Goethe's Faust, but also his
activity, his deeds]. It was Goethe who weighed his words and
expressed exactly what he felt and thought and who said, 'Thus one
also finds in life a mass of people who do not have enough character
to stand alone; they throw themselves at a party, and that makes them
feel stronger and allows them to be somebody.'
2. The mask of the philosopher and the philosopher of masks
The companion photos in this book show Nietzsche in the
midst of the last ten years of suffering. And certainly, it
was during this time that his physiognomy, his entire
exterior, appeared to be formed most characteristically. It
was a time in which the total expression of his being was
already permeated by his deeply emotional inner life and
even was significant in that he held back and hid. I may
say that this hidden element, the intimation of a taciturn
solitude, was the first, strong impression through which
Nietzsche's appearance fascinated one (N. p.9).
She speaks about Nietzsche's defective eyesight, which made his eyes
seem to be looking inward even while they looked outward.
The discrepancy between Nietzsche's inner life and his outer life
show that the outer is a mask. Lou says,
I remember when I first spoke with Nietzsche during a day
in the Spring of 1882 in St. Peter's in Rome, his studied,
elegant posture surprised and deceived me. But not for long
was one deceived by this recluse who wore his mask so
awkwardly, like someone who has come out of the wilderness
and mountains and who is dressed conventionally. Very soon
a question surfaces, which he formulated in these words:
'Whenever a person permits something to become visible, one
can ask: 'What does it hide? From what does it wish to
divert someone's gaze? What preconception should it arouse?
And further: to what extreme does the subtlety of this
disguise go? And, does he misperceive himself in all that?''
(D. 523; N.p.10).
With this stance, everything that is objective reality, or taken as
such, or is interpreted as a fact, has to be reevaluated as an
appearance. Nietzsche's revaluation of all values starts here and
revolves around this centre.
Nietzsche, quoted by Lou:
People who think deeply feel themselves to be comedians in
their relationship with others because they first have to
simulate a surface in order to be understood.' (HATH, II,
232; N. p.11).
Nietzsche's thoughts... resemble a skin [which in his words]
'reveals something but conceals even more' (BGE, 32 my
emphases) because, he says, 'one either hides one's
opinions or one hides behind them' (HATH, II, 338).
Nietzsche finds a lovely designation for himself when he talks in
this sense about those 'hidden under the cloaks of light' (BGE, 44),
referring to those who cloak themselves in the clarity of their ideas.
In every period of his intellectual development, we
therefore find a characterizing masquerade in some form or
fashion: 'Everyone who is deep loves the mask... every
profound spirit needs a mask; moreover, around every deep
spirit there continually grows a mask (BGE, 40). 'Wanderer,
who are you... Rest here... recuperate? What will serve your
recuperation? Oh you inquisitive one, what are you saying!
But, give me only, I beg...' What? What? Say it! -- 'One
more mask! A second mask...' (BGE, 278).
And it is emphatically clear to us that the degree to which
his self-immolation and moody withdrawal becomes more
exclusive, the significance of the periodic masquerade also
becomes deeper, so that the true being retreats ever more
imperceptibly from the forms of expression and appearance.
Already, in The Wanderer and His Shadow (HATH, 175), he
points to 'mediocrity as mask.' 'Mediocrity is the happiest
mask which the reflective person can wear, because the great
mass or mediocre do not think of it as a mask. And yet, he
assumes that mask for their sake, in order not to provoke
them and not seldom out of a sense of pity and goodness.'...
[And in BGE] 'occasionally folly itself is the mask for
an unfortunate unholy all-too-knowing knowledge.'... Only
his idea-masks remain, like symbols and emblems, open to
interpretation, while for us he has already become what he
once signed himself as in a letter to a friend: 'The
eternally lost' (July 8, 1881 in Sils Maria). (N. p.11).
In the light of what Lou has said, I think this aphorism, which I
give complete, says something about both points one and two that we
have looked at so far, (i) the relation of thinker and thought, of
the philosopher and his biography and (ii) philosophy as the love and
wisdom of masks:
One always hears in the writings of a hermit something of
the echo of the desert, something of the whisper and shy
vigilance of solitude; in his strongest words, even in his
cry, there still resounds a new and more dangerous kind of
silence and concealment. He who sat alone with his soul day
and night [Nietzsche is talking autobiographically here I
believe] year in year out, in confidential discord and
discourse, and in his cave -- it may be a labyrinth, but is
may be a gold-mine -- became a cave-bear or treasure-hunter
or a treasure-guardian and dragon, finds that his concepts
themselves at last acquire a characteristic twilight colour,
a smell of the depths and of must, something
incommunicable and reluctant which blows cold on every
passer-by. The hermit does not believe that a philosopher --
supposing that a philosopher has always been first of all
a hermit -- has ever expressed his real and final opinions
in books: does one not write books precisely to conceal
what lies within us? -- indeed, he will doubt whether a
philosopher could have 'final and real' opinions at all,
whether behind each of his caves there does not and must
lie another, deeper cave -- a stranger, more comprehensive
world beyond the surface, an abyss behind every ground,
beneath every 'foundation'. Every philosophy is foreground
philosophy -- that is a hermit's judgement: 'there is
something arbitrary in the fact that he stopped, looked
back, looked around here, that he stopped digging and laid
his spade aside here -- there is also something suspicious
about it.' Every philosophy also conceals a philosophy;
every opinion is also a hiding place, every word also a
mask (BGE 289).
Nietzsche is talking about the personal intimacy of the philosopher
qua philosophy, which means the intrinsic solitariness of the
occupation; and he is talking about the height and depths of
philosophy, saying truth is qua these heights and depths -- not
'foundations', which are always superficial in that respect. 'Every
philosophy conceals a philosophy; every opinion is also a hiding
place, every word also a mask' -- that is any philosophy worthy of
the name, which for Nietzsche, most philosophy, and more particularly
religion, is not. And this saying goes for his philosophy too; for his
philosophy perhaps, above all.
3. The inner substance of Nietzsche's philosophy
The mysterious connection between the healthy and the
pathological in Nietzsche brings us to the essential
Nietzsche problem (N. p.24).
This problem she describes as a divided self.
She describes this self:
All of Nietzsche's knowledge arose from a powerful
religious mood and was insolubly knotted: self-sacrifice
and apotheosis, the cruelty of one's own destruction and
the lust for self-deification, sorrowful ailing and
triumphal recovery, incandescent intoxication and cool
consciousness. One senses here the close entwining of
mutual contradictions; one senses the overflowing and
voluntary plunge of over-stimulated and tensed energies
into chaos, darkness, and terror, and then an ascending
urge towards the light and the most tender moments -- the
urges of a will 'that frees him from the distress of
fullness and overfulness and from the affliction of the
contradictions compressed within him' ('Attempts at
Self-Criticism' BT.5) -- a chaos that wants to give birth
to a god, and must give birth to one (N.p.24).
The proclaimed death of God in Nietzsche has nothing to do with
validating unbelief and atheism, it has to do with what Nietzsche saw
as a crisis of creativity in man... in philosophy... in culture... in
the bourgeoisie... in Christianity.... That is why Nietzsche
repeatedly says of God, that 'we have killed him' [his emphasis, see
GS. 125]. His point about the death of God is that our shameful
crisis of creativity does not make us fit for gods. Nietzsche's
Zarathustra points the way beyond the crisis. He is a fictional
prophetic figure. To an extent Nietzsche's philosophy and Nietzsche
as philosopher wears a prophet's mask. He is not a prophet, his mask
Through the words of Zarathustra during Nietzsche's last
creative period, he provided himself with an answer to his
outbreak of torture and yearning: 'All gods are dead: now
we want the superior man to live!' (Of the Gift-giving
virtue,' Z, I [my emphasis]) And with these words Nietzsche
expressed the inner substance of his philosophy (N. p.27).
Who is the superior man though? The Nazis thought it was the blonde
beast, the SS man. In Christianity, the Perfect Man, literally, is
Christ. Nietzsche, in a letter to his sister in mid-May 1885, said
that no-one can love him because 'this requires the precondition that
a person knows who I am.' Those last words 'who I am' are underlined
in the letter. He goes on to say in the letter, 'I find the founder
of Christianity superficial in comparison with myself.' (p.lviii) Who
is the superior man? The superior man is the great creator of values
-- which brings us back to Christ again, and for Nietzsche, Goethe,
and, more importantly, himself. 'There are two kinds of genius,'
Nietzsche writes, 'above all, one which begets and another which will
gladly allow itself to become fertile and will give birth' (BGE, 248).
'Undoubtedly', Lou says, 'he belonged to the latter.' (N. p.29) We
would put this by saying Nietzsche's genius is in being a great
fertile source of inspiration. This is why we are still drawn to
Nietzsche and why we still read him.
And so we must direct our attention to the human being and
not the theorist in order to find our way in Nietzsche's
works. In that sense, our contemplation will not gain a new
theoretical world picture but the picture of the human soul
in all its greatness and sickliness (N. p.29).
In the Preface to The Genealogy of Morals, a book in which Nietzsche
is reevaluating values, he wrote: 'For cheerfulness -- or in my
language gaya scienza -- is a reward: the reward of long, brave,
industrious and subterranean seriousness, of which, to be sure, not
everyone is capable. But on the day [of the discovery of moral truth]
we can say with all our hearts, 'Onwards! Our old morality too is part
of the comedy!' we shall have discovered a new complication and
possibility for the Dionysian drama of 'The Destiny of the Soul'
[so-called] -- and one can wager that the grand old eternal comic
poet of our existence [God] will be quick to make use of it!'
(Kaufmann Transl. GM.7).
1. Titles of Nietzsche's works are abbreviated e.g. BGE, Beyond Good
and Evil. The abbreviation N is used for Salome's Nietzsche book,
2. The source for details of Lou Salome's life is mostly
3. Salome. Looking Back, Memoirs. Transl. Breon Mitchell (New York:
Marlowe & Co. 1995) 51.
4. Looking Back, 53 my emphasis.
5. See the letter of Nietzsche to Salome published in the front of
the English edition of her book on him. Salome. Nietzsche, Transl.
Siegfried Mandel (Urbana. Chicago: University of Illinois Press,
6. This is my own thought, but I find it iterated in Rosenzweig, The
Star of Redemption. Transl. W. Hallo (New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1971) 9, 106.
7. Quoted in Walter Kaufmann, Discovering the Mind. Volume 1: Goethe,
Kant, Hegel (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980) 16.
(c) Matthew Del Nevo 2009
Web site: http://cis.catholic.edu.au/delnevo.htm
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
Catholic Institute of Sydney
99 Albert Rd
Strathfield NSW 2135
II. 'COLUCCIO SALUTATI AND THE TYRANT' BY MARCO CIRILLO
The Italian political situation was very complicated in the 14th
century. The absence of a central Authority, such as the empire or
the Papacy, allowed anyone to conquer another state through
subterfuge or force. This anomaly stimulated humanists to study and
debate this strange situation. It is important to remember that the
Italian Communes weren't independent from the emperor or the Pope,
and public offices were imposed by Authority; however, the Communes
usually chose their governors and the Authority simply accepted their
decision. This procedure encouraged the ambitious to take the power
and they often became tyrants.
At the end of the 14th century, the Empire was slowly subdividing
into small independent states, and the intellectuals felt the
necessity to discuss and revise political theories. In the Middle
Ages new forms of government and new kind of governors were born, so
it can be affirmed that in the Middle Ages new typologies of tyrants
were also born.
These years represent a period of revision of political language,
Jean Dunbabin writes:
The first difficult question that faces a modern reader of
medieval political literature is the absence of a precise
abstract noun to convey 'state', an indispensable concept to
all modern political thinking. It was not until the end of the
fifteenth century that status was first used with its
modern connotation. Before that, authors had the choice of
res publica (necessarily vaguer and a less rich concept
than in the time of Cicero), regnum (easily manageable, but
with several different connotations) or civitas (derived from
Aristotle but liable to confuse in a world in which city
government was usually a subordinate part of political
whole). All could, but need not, denote that combination of
a precise territorial area with a form of political
organisation which 'state' implies for us.
In these years, the political commitment of the intellectuals of the
14th century and their discussions about the political questions
induced them to review current historical and philosophical opinions.
The De Tyranno is an interesting treatise about tyranny written by
Coluccio Salutati, (1331-1406) in 1400, which describes the ways of
being a 'tyrant' in the 14th century.
Bartolo da Sassoferrato (1314-1357) also wrote about this topic in
his De Tyranno. The jurist wanted to understand when, by law, a
territory was reigned by a tyrant, so he described the difference
between tyrant ex parte exercitii and tiranno ex defectu tituli. The
tyrant ex parte exercitii used violence to govern his country, he
didn't show consideration for the common good of people but his power
was legally recognized by Authority. The tyrant ex defectu tituli
could rule for the common good of people but his power wasn't
recognized by Authority.
These ways of being a tyrant represent a new way to conceive of
tyranny. Philosophically, from Plato to St. Thomas, tyranny could
only be the negative form of government by monarchy; the tyrant
represented a moral distortion rather than a political distortion,
because the reigning person, whether good or bad, always represented
a legal power.
Bartolo da Sassoferrato studied this topic from the point of view of
jurisprudence. Coluccio Salutati, instead, took into consideration
the historical and philosophical sphere. It's interesting to note
that Coluccio didn't know Bartolo's theories. In fact, Bethold
Ullman's studies on the manuscripts of the Salutati's library and his
letters seem to demonstrate that these two writers didn't know each
Moreover, the treatises by Coluccio Salutati and Bartolo da
Sassoferrato had a limited distribution; we have to consider a
difference which distinguishes their readers: the De Tyranno by
Bartolo has often been enclosed to treatises by other jurists whereas
the De Tyranno by Coluccio is thought as an answer to the questions
asked by Antonio Dell'Aquila, a student of Padua, regarding tyranny.
The poor distribution would seem to demonstrate that the new concept
of 'tyrant' was used as a rule in the 14th century with the two
meanings ex parte exercitii and ex defectu tituli and this fact could
explain why Coluccio and Bartolo came to the same conclusion following
Coluccio, in his De Tyranno, starting from a question asked by
Antonio Dell'Aquila, concerning an analysis about the XXXIV Canto of
The Divine Comedy where Dante punishes Brutus and Cassius for the
murder of Caesar, demonstrated that Caesar wasn't in fact a tyrant.
This treatise contains all the topics of the humanistic thought:
there is Caesar who represents the ancient values; Dante and the use
of Florentine language and what he represents for the Florentine
Republic as a man of culture, and the political connections between
the ancients and the moderns and the consequent search of a logical
thread in the history of philosophy.
It must be stated beforehand that Caesar in the 14th century,
especially in the republican spheres, was indeed seen as a tyrant. We
could affirm that this subject is born in Dante's thought but it is
still alive in Machiavelli's theories. This subject is not only a way
to judge the historical problems and the History of Rome but also
raises a question regarding the way in which one takes part in
politics; when the humanists talk about Caesar they talk about
The structure of the De Tyranno analysed the figure of the tyrant
from a philosophical point of view. Coluccio used the definitions of
famous authors, such as St. Gregory and John of Salisbury. He rebuilt
the history of the Roman Republic and especially Caesar's period. Only
then, the reader knowing the history of Rome and philosophical
theories about the tyranny, was Coluccio able to judge Dante's verses.
Coluccio cited passages of the Moralia in Job of St. Gregory the
Great, where the Pope explained that anyone could be a tyrant if he
didn't respect the law: one could be a tyrant in the government, one
could be a tyrant in his city, one could be a tyrant at home, or even
in his own mind, so only God could judge these men because only God
really knows them.
This position reflected medieval thought, where politics was not an
important factor in understanding who was 'the tyrant'. The
Aristotelian vision of the actions of government was less apparent,
as ethics and politics intermingled; in fact, for St. Gregory the
Great social role isn't decisive for the question.
Now that the treatise has explained who is the tyrant, the second
question is: could people kill the tyrant? The law must protect
citizens from injustice; the tyrant surely represents an unjust form
of governor. There is, now, an ethical problem: when do the citizens
rebel against the tyrant to defend themselves and to bring the law
into force again?
The History of Rome -- which represented the best model of
civilization for the humanists -- is full of examples which Coluccio
uses in his treatise, but in it there is also an original conclusion
because the Chancellor emphasizes the differences among tyrants,
using the political point of view of his century, so he can affirm
that every citizen must defend his country from a tyrant, if the
tyrant is a tyrant ex defectu tituli.
This qualification is very important in order to understand the
treatise because it explains Salutati's thought; from this point on
Coluccio's account of Roman History is filtered through the medieval
vision of the 14th century. This viewpoint belongs to Coluccio and to
Bartolo not to the ancients. It allows Coluccio to affirm that only
the Emperor could authorize someone to rule a state, so the popular
election of a leader who could guide the country is not valid,
otherwise the new leader will be a tyrant ex defectu tituli, even if
he rules for the common good of the country, because his power is not
Another question regards the rebellion that is not good when a tyrant
replaces a tyrant (History demonstrates it), because who is accustomed
'to the passivity in serving' risks that the revolt's followed by a
period of repression. Instead, in the case of a tyrant ex parte
exercitii, only the Authority could depose him, and only the
Authority could decide to kill him and not the people, who can never
be superior to the law.
The law limits violent acts, Coluccio, in fact, condemns the
'fortunate murder considered virtue', when someone kills the tyrant
and becomes an hero for the people. On the contrary, Coluccio
explains that no-one can kill the tyrant, because only the Authority
can decide what is right and what is wrong; besides, there are
decisions that people can't understand: some time the one who rules,
acts for the common good, even if his decisions can appear wrong.
Coluccio set out to establish if Caesar was or was not a tyrant. To
understand Caesar's position in the Roman Republic, Coluccio thought
it was necessary to explain what had happened after the civil war
between Caesar and Pompey.
Coluccio quoted Cicero's words, 'We saw your victory and the end of
the (civil) war, and we did not see a sword without the sheath',
after he cited Floro in affirming the popular enthusiasm for Caesar's
victory. These sources demonstrated that Caesar wasn't a tyrant ex
defectu tituli because he was acclaimed by the crowd (the Authority
of the Republic of Rome), and he wasn't a tyrant ex parte exercitii
because he was magnanimous and generous with his enemies. But, if
Caesar wasn't a tyrant, Brutus and Cassius were wrong. The History of
Rome confirms these suspicious, in fact Coluccio remember that, after
Caesar's death, Brutus and Cassius didn't have a political strategy
to govern Rome and there were disorders until the accession of
For Salutati, the question now becomes: what is the right law? The
law could be the law of the empire, where it exists, or the people's
law, where it doesn't exist, in any case a human law. The law could
be Moral, the Divine Law. The Divine Law forbids anyone to kill the
tyrant ex parte exercitii but it permits one to kill the tyrant ex
parte tituli because he violates the law of God.
Before the 14th century St. Thomas 'distinguished the tyrant without
claim (absque titulo) from the tyrant who is tyrannical when he rules
(quoad exercitum)' and he said that the tyrannicide could be
considered against the tyrant absque titulo, because he usurped the
legal title, designed by the divine will. If the tyrant was quoad
exercitum it represented the divine will, that punished human actions.
Salutati prefers human law, against St. Thomas point of view, because
it is stable, in fact, following the Divine Law, who could judge what
is wrong and what is right?
The murder of Caesar is very important in understanding the
difference between human law and the Divine Law. The question is: did
Brutus and Cassius want the common good for people or did they want to
rebel against the tyrant? Could they judge Caesar and what were the
methods of valuation to judge a tyrant?
If there isn't a human law to justify tyrannicide how can a State
avoid political instability? How can that State affirm what is moral
and what is not moral?
The weakness of the Empire enabled the birth of the States and a new
way to concept the law, the law as the king's will. Coluccio didn't
support a new concept of law, he didn't talk about Divine Law or
human law, he couldn't distinguish them but, surely, he understood
the inadequacy of the medieval concept of law and its unbalancing of
In the De Nobilitate Legum et Medicinae, written in 1399, Salutati
demonstrates the value of law that acts for the common good, because
it doesn't care for the single good, it doesn't care about the single
man, on the contrary, the Medicine takes care of everyone, even the
The considerations that we find in the De Tyranno by Coluccio
Salutati don't seem to go back to the medieval thought of monarchy,
his considerations seem to be, philosophically, modern for the 14th
century. Salutati's treatise demonstrates the philosophical
development on the argument of tyranny, a debate that interested the
most important intellectuals of the century, particularly, in the
Coluccio submerged himself in the theories of Gregory the Great, John
of Salisbury, St. Thomas; he altered them, he broadened them with his
point of view, with his knowledge.
Salutati's thought, in the De Tyranno, demonstrates the relation
between law and Freedom. In every government, where the law rules
there is Freedom, because the law defends the single man as well as
the community. In a tyrannical government the law doesn't rule, so it
is difficult to find freedom, because the tyrant doesn't defend the
single man or the community, he wants only to defend his own
At the end of the treatise, when Coluccio greeted Antonio
Dell'Aquila, he wrote 'If I didn't, as I believe, satisfy you, accuse
my ignorance. In fact, I'm readier to learn than to teach.'
Baron Hans, La Crisi del Primo Rinascimento Italiano, G.S. Sansoni
Editore, Firenze 1970.
Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino, Il Dizionario di Politica, UTET, Torino
Canfora Davide, Prima di Machiavelli, Editori Laterza, Bari 2005.
Dunbabin Jean, Government in Medieval Political Thought c. 350 - c.
1450, The Cambridge History of, Cambridge 2005.
Ercole Francesco, 'Sulle fonti e sul contenuto della distinzione tra
tirannia ex defectu tituli e tirannia exercitio', in Contributo alla
storia della pubblicistica e del diritto pubblico italiano del
rinascimento, Firenze 1912.
Fiocchi Claudio, Mala Potestas. La tirannia nel pensiero politico
medievale, Lubrica, Bergamo 2004.
Quaglioni Diego, Politica e Diritto nel Trecento Italiano, il De
Tyranno di Bartolo da Sassoferrato (1314-1357), Leo S. Olschki,
Salutati Coluccio, Il trattato De Tyranno e lettere scelte, a cura di
F. Ercole, Zanichelli Ed., Bologna 1942.
Salutati Coluccio, De Nobilitate Legum et Medicinae a cura di E.
Garin, Vallecchi Editore, Firenze 1947.
Ullman Bethold Louis, The Humanism of Coluccio Salutati, Editore
Antenore, Padova 1963.
Ullman Berthold Luois, The Origin and Development of Humanistic
Script, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Roma 1960.
Witt Ronald, 'The De tyranno and Coluccio Salutati's View of Politics
and Roman History', in Nuova Rivista Storica, fascicolo III-IV, Maggio
Agosto 1969, Societa Editrice Dante Alighieri, Firenze 1969.
(c) Marco Cirillo 2009
III. 'SEARLE'S THEORY OF SOCIAL REALITY AND SOME SOCIAL REALITY' BY
In this paper, I attempt to show that Searle's theory of social
reality is largely based on his observation of some essential
features of democratic societies, and is not universally applicable
as it claims to be. I argue that his notion of collective acceptance
or agreement, which is fundamental to his general theory, does not
explain why a dictatorial or totalitarian regime as a social reality
is able to survive through a significant period of time and
continuously create and maintain institutional facts which are
supposed to have no basis of collective acceptance or agreement.
Searle's idea of collective intentionality plays a crucial role in
developing his theory of social reality. The difference between
individual intentionality and collective intentionality is that
individual intentionality is expressed in the form of 'I intend...'
('I' intentionality), whereas collective intentionality is expressed
in the form of 'we intend...' ('we' intentionality). Searle's view is
that 'we' intentionality is individualistic in the sense that it is
not reducible to 'I' intentionality.
The view seems to be at odds with the common understanding about 'we'
that 'we' cannot be treated as denoting an individual agent, which is
reflected in the grammar of ordinary language: when used as a subject
in a sentence, 'we' as a plural pronoun admits only plural verbs,
including 'intend'. Now to characterize we intentionality as
individualistic may be deemed as a consequence of a grammatical
error, that is, treating the plural as singular in a real sense. The
grammatical error became a target of Russell's criticism primarily
for its metaphysical implication. Russell argues that to insist on
the existence of plural objects as one (single) is reification, and
that there is no single object as Brown-and-Jones -- there are only
Brown and Jones. Thus 'we intend...' should be understood as 'I
intend... + you intend... + he intends... + she intends... +...',
given that 'I', 'you', 'he', 'she' and so on are members of the class
denoted by the plural pronoun 'we'. This can be schematized as:
wx = (a + b + c + n)x = ax + bx + cx + nx
(w = 'we', a, b, c, and n stand for the members of the
group, x for any act)
But this reductionist account of collective intentionality, according
to Searle, does not help understand collective intentionality: to
fully appreciate the meaning of collective intentionality, according
to Searle, one has to recognize its singularity.
Russell's formula may be able to explain some particular cases where
all the members of the group are doing the same thing, for example,
drinking and reading. What is called 'a group' here is basically
arbitrary, for it lacks the minimal feature of structure, i.e.,
'collectivity' or 'togetherness.' Searle's example is two people
discovering by accident that they are playing the same piece in a
synchronized fashion. The conception of individuals as basically
discrete and independent may give rise to the 'super-mind' realism in
the sense that 'super-mind' is the abstraction of individual minds.
Searle could argue, of course, that collective acts, such as
collective intentionality, are not some common features shared by
individuals, and therefore cannot be abstracted from the individuals.
The dichotomy scheme of 'particular vs. universal' or 'substance vs.
attribute' is entirely inadequate for understanding the real sense of
'collective intentionality.' 'Togetherness' or 'collectivity' is not
derivable from the plural form of individuals, which stands merely
for an aggregate of individuals.
However, the reductionism Searle refers to is different from and more
complex than the above one, for it has already taken into
consideration the fact that intentionality as an internal act does
not fit the model based on external acts (e.g., 'playing',
'drinking'). Intentionality, as customarily understood, is only
personal in much the same way a pain is personal. Unlike other
predicates predicated of the subject 'we', such as 'play' and
'drink', intentionality (e.g., 'intend', 'believe') is inside the
person's brain. As Searle puts it, 'because all intentionality exists
in the heads of individual human beings, the form of that
intentionality can make reference only to the individuals in whose
heads it exists.' Therefore, 'we intentions' is either a
metaphysical illusion ('the Hegelian world spirit'), or to be better
expressed as 'I intend that you intend that I intend...' Rather than
'ax + bx + cx +... + nx', it should be symbolized as
(For the sake of simplicity, suppose the group has only
The above formula expresses what Searle calls 'mutual beliefs' which
are arranged in 'a potentially infinite hierarchy' indicated by the
ellipsis. While this formulation of 'we intentionality' eliminates
the possibility of understanding 'we' as 'a super mind', it says
nothing about 'we' or conveys no sense of collectivity and
togetherness in assertions like 'we collectively intend...'
The remedy then, according to Searle, is to understand collective
intentionality as prior to singular intentionality. That is, singular
intentionality is simply derived from collective intentionality, and
not the other way around. This is, of course, not to deny the
existence of singular intentionality. Singular intentionality is not
unreal, and 'I think that you think that I think...' does express a
type of real mental act. The mistake of the reductionist lies in the
fact that she always starts with individuals as discrete entities,
and then tries to establish a net of (collective) relations between
them. But in order to capture the real sense of collectivity, Searle
suggests, one has to start with the relations between individuals; it
is the relations that make individuals the members of a certain group.
Humans as well as many species of animals (e.g., hyenas) are social
beings, and talk of their individuality presupposes collectivity as
the essential part of their nature. Now Searle's account of
collective intentionality does appear to be a proper target of
Russell's criticism: treating Brown-and-Jones as one. But if language
provides any clue at all, one perhaps should not neglect the
grammatical singularity of expressions such as 'a team' and 'a
party', etc. which are semantically equivalent to 'the members of a
team' and 'the members of a party' respectively. We can say not only
'we intend...,' 'they intend...,' but also 'this team intends...' and
'the party intends...' While the switch from the plural to the
singular may well suggest the formation of 'a super-mind', nothing
prevents it from being understood as an indication of a net of
relations, an entity that is not another individual over and above
Brown and Jones.
The account of collective intentionality is fundamental to Searle's
theory of social reality, for it provides the basis for understanding
all the other important concepts, especially 'social facts' and
'institutional facts'. While Searle succeeds admirably in his
non-reductionist account of collective intentionality, there are two
problems, which he does not take into consideration. First, it is
unclear just how particular collective intentions are formed, or more
specifically, whether or not individual intentions play any role in
the formation of collective intentions. Second, it is unclear whether
there could be pseudo-collective intentions, that is, individual
intentions disguised as collective intentions, or intentions of the
few disguised as intentions of the many.
Searle's view that individual intentionality is derived from
collective intentionality concerns the intentionality of individuals
who are members of a group with collective intentionality, as in the
case of a violin player intending to play in a certain way as part of
the orchestra's intention to performing a symphony in a particular
style. But as Searle acknowledges, there are intentional facts that
are purely individual and hence are not derivative from collective
intentionality, such as the fact that I want a drink of water. The
individual intentionality which is said to be derived from collective
intentionality is only the intentionality of the individual who has
already participated in a certain collective activity and whose
intentionality is in accordance to, though not always the same as,
the collective intentionality.
However, Searle gives no hint as to whether collective intentionality
requires any individual intentionality as a prior condition for the
creation of it. It seems obvious that people have to be motivated to
come together to do something collectively, and if so, what
intentionality it is in the first place that makes the collective
intentionality to do that something possible.
To be sure, the formation of a group requires the pre-existence of
individuals who are not yet members of the group. From this it
follows that collectivity and togetherness presuppose separateness,
and that collective intentionality presupposes the pre-existence of
individual intentionality in the sense that there must be separate
individual intentions to form collective intentionality. Now it is
important to distinguish pre-collective individual intention from
post-collective individual intention.
At the first stage, separate individual intentions have the same
content (i.e., to form a group), which, however, contains no sense of
collectivity and togetherness, although the separate individuals can
together be self-referred to as 'we'. They are a collection without
collectivity, and hence preserve all the features of separation
between individuals. A real collection (collection with collectivity)
must grow out of an 'unreal' collection. That is, before we get
together to do something collectively, each of us must have the
intention towards collectivity togetherness, which is not derived
from the collective intentionality formed later. Collective
intentionality does not come into existence without the presence of
individual intentionality in the first place. People do not form
their collective intentionality by coercive force or by chance. Each
of them intends to form their collective intentionality. Curiously,
Searle does not address this pre-collective intentionality at all.
The notion of collective intentionality is used by Searle to explain
all social facts, that is, not only the non-institutional social
facts (e.g., hyenas hunting a lion, two friends going for a walk),
but also institutional facts (a special subclass of social facts,
e.g., money). He claims that while collective imposition of functions
on objects (a manifestation of collective intentionality) is a crucial
element in the creation of institutional facts, the performance of
such imposition must be based on collective acceptance or
agreement. However Searle says nothing about the collective
agreement or acceptance itself. He simply takes it as the
pre-condition for the creation of institutional facts.
Now the question is whether collective acceptance or agreement is a
matter of collective intentionality or the precondition of collective
intentionality, or whether collective acceptance or agreement is an
acceptance or agreement of a real collection. It is certainly true
that collective acceptance or agreement can be expressed in terms of
singularity, in cases such as 'the party accepts...' or 'the board
agrees on...' We may treat this kind of collective acceptance or
agreement as collective intentionality as Searle suggests. And it can
also be an institutional fact (rather than the pre-condition of the
creation of institutional facts), if its performance fits the
criterion of 'X counts as Y in C'.
For example, the debate on whether 50% + 1 can count as a collective
acceptance of Quebec's independence is a matter of creating a certain
institutional fact, which is collective acceptance or agreement. In
order to create an institutional fact such as Quebec's independence,
there has to be an acceptance or agreement on passing a legislation
regarding 50% + 1, whose success or failure is to be determined by
the result of the debate.
Of course, the debate on the legislation can also be an institutional
fact, so far as it is set up under certain institutional rules. One
can always go back from institutional facts to mere social facts, for
example, from institutionalized collective agreement (signing a peace
agreement) to un-institutionalized collective agreement (informal
acceptance of the proposal of signing an agreement). Nevertheless, so
long as the acceptance or agreement is only the manifestation of
collective intentionality, whether this manifestation is at the
un-institutional level or at the institutional level, it is still not
acceptance or agreement in the real sense, for any acceptance or
agreement must presuppose the independence of individuals who intend
to make the agreement and the agreement must be made among
individuals, not by the group they form.
The above argument for an initial individual intentionality as the
pre-condition of the formation of collective intentionality can be
extended to support the thesis that individual intentionality is also
a persistent and continuing force underlying collective
intentionality. The birth of collective intentionality is not
followed by the death of non-derivative individual intentionality.
The capacity of retrieving to non-derivative individual
intentionality must be ensured so that collective intentionality will
not become fundamentally inconsistent with it. Searle points out,
rightly, that institutions survive on acceptance. That is, not
only the creation of institutional facts, but also their maintenance,
relies on acceptance or agreement by the members of a given society.
If the capability of retrieving to individual intentionality is
eliminated or significantly weakened, collective intentionality will
lose its real sense of collectivity and togetherness.
It is not difficult to see that the concept of collective
intentionality (along with all the related concepts such as social
facts, institutional facts) contains a minimal sense of democracy.
Not surprisingly, almost all the examples Searle gives are what may
be called democratic activities (violinists playing in an orchestra,
passing a legislation), the most cited of which is a football game, a
perfect illustration of the principle of fair play. Searle seems to
take for granted that the creation and maintenance of social facts
and especially institutional facts are games of fair play.
Of course he does not deny the existence of 'unfair play', such as
the politics in the former Soviet Union and other totalitarian
societies, which, however, he tries to explain away by appeal to the
existence of acceptance and agreement at some level. He criticizes
the view that in the end it all depends on who has the most armed
might, and that brute facts will always prevail over institutional
facts. 'The guns are ineffectual except to those who are prepared to
use them in cooperation with others and in structures, however,
informal, with recognized lines of authority and command. And all of
that requires collective intentionality and institutional facts.'
This is partially true, as in many groups and large communities there
is no need for democratic institutions in the strict sense to ensure
the presence of collective acceptance or agreement. Individuals or a
sub-group within a group as the authority may well represent the
collective intentionality of the group to which they belong. But
there are perhaps more cases in which what is thought of as
collective intentionality is really disguised intentionality of the
dictators, and collective acceptance or agreement is consistently
treated as redundant. Searle claims that '[t]he secret of
understanding the continued existence of institutional facts is
simply that the individuals directly involved and a sufficient number
of members of the relevant community must continue to recognize and
accept the existence of such facts.' This is clearly a
description of an ideal democracy, which does not apply to
dictatorial and totalitarian societies where all the institutional
facts continue to exist without collective acceptance by a sufficient
number of members of the relevant community.
A response to this challenge, from Searle's point of view, is to
argue that even when the overall collective acceptance or agreement
is absent in a highly dictatorial or totalitarian society, there
still exists collective acceptance or agreement at a certain level,
that is, at the level of those in power. But this seems contradictory
to Searle's view that collective acceptance or agreement requires a
sufficient number of members of the relevant community. The
collective acceptance or agreement by the members of the ruling party
in a totalitarian society or the dictator's loyal followers can not
substitute the collective acceptance or agreement of the society as a
whole, for they constitute only a very small fraction of the
population of the given society whose collective acceptance or
agreement really counts.
In other words, even if collective acceptance or agreement always
exists in both the creation and maintenance of institutional facts,
it does not follow that the existence of any collective acceptance or
agreement is sufficient for the creation and maintenance of
institutional facts. As Susan Babbitt puts it, 'it would seem that
institutional facts are explained by the agreement of some, and how
the agreement of some can constitute institutions and the agreement
of others does not is a question not answered or addressed.'
The institutional facts in dictatorial and totalitarian societies,
e.g., the former Soviet Union, the former Eastern European countries,
People's Republic of China, and North Korea were or are maintained by
the armed police and military power, not by collective acceptance or
agreement of the general population. Of course, collective acceptance
or agreement can be forced as it was or still is often the case in
these countries, and forced acceptance or agreement may retain all
the superficial features of genuine acceptance or agreement, which
were often put on display. Marching through Red Square or Tiananmen
Square was craftily designed to show the 'solidarity' of the mass and
their collective acceptance or agreement.
Searle criticizes the communist 'truth' that 'power grows out of the
barrel of a gun' as one of the great illusions of the era. He is
certainly right in insisting that power grows out of organization,
i.e., systematic arrangements of status-functions, as 'in such
organizations the unfortunate person with a gun is likely to be among
the least powerful and the most exposed to danger. The real power
resides with the person who sits at a desk and makes noises through
his or her mouth and marks on paper.' While there is probably
collective acceptance or agreement in the first place to create such
a power relationship between the person who sits at the desk and
those who carry guns, it is hard to see that the power relationship
between the military force and the mass under control is established
by the same type of acceptance or agreement. In a totalitarian
society, numerous institutional facts and social facts in general
(from money to loyalty) are created and maintained by the authority
in the absence of (genuine) collective acceptance or agreement of the
If we still wish to apply Searle's ontology to the social reality of
a dictatorial or totalitarian society, we must re-define either
'collective acceptance or agreement' or 'institutional facts.' We may
regard forced collective acceptance or agreement as genuine, as the
authority of a dictatorial or totalitarian society actually does. But
forced acceptance or agreement is clearly not the acceptance or
agreement Searle talks about. Alternatively, we may abandon the claim
that institutional facts are necessarily created and maintained by
(genuine) collective acceptance or agreement. This move is equally
undesirable from Searle's point of view, for it amounts to removing
the basis of his theory of social reality.
For Searle, the importance of collective acceptance or agreement
could never be overemphasized. He writes, 'Because the whole system
works only by collective acceptance, it would seem a priori that
there is not much we could do with it, and it all looks very fragile,
as if the whole system might just collapse at any time.' This may
explain the lost control of the L.A. police in the 1992's riot and
the collapse of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Nevertheless, there is still a difference between the impotence of
the L.A. police in the 1992's riot and the success of the military
forces in the cracking down of the Prague demonstration in 1968 and
in the Tiananmen massacre in 1989. Searle's theory does not seem to
be able to answer the question: Why is a system that is not accepted
able to survive through a significant period of time and continuously
create and maintain institutional facts which are supposed to have no
basis of collective acceptance or agreement?
Babbitt, Susan, Book Review (The Construction of Social Reality), The
Philosophical Review Vol.106, No.4, 1997
Russell, B., The Principles of Mathematics, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press; reprinted, G. Allen & Unwin, London 1937
Searle, John R., The Construction of Social Reality, Free Press, New
1. John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, New York : Free
Press, 1995: 23-26.
2. Russell, B., 1903, The Principles of Mathematics, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press; reprinted, London: G. Allen & Unwin,
3. John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, 25.
4. Ibid, 25.
5. Ibid, 25.
6. One can notice that Searle's thought on collective intentionality
has much in common with Marx' account of human nature ('the totality
of social relations'). Both maintain the primacy of relation to
individuals, in virtue of which, it is promised, one can avoid both
the abstract speculation on the entities involved in the relations
and the Hegelian 'super-mind.' More importantly, both agree on the
derivative nature of individual intentionality. However, whereas Marx
is only concerned with the derivation of individual intentionality
from a particular collective intentionality, namely, class
intentionality -- all other kinds of collective intentionality are
merely distorted class intentionality and thus reflect in one way or
another class intentionality, Searle thinks that groups can be
identified in various ways: there exist not only class intentions,
but also intentions of religious communities, of nations, of armies,
of game teams, etc. Searle goes so far as to assert that collective
intentionality can even be found at the biological level, e.g.,
hyenas hunting a lion.
7. John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, 122. In this
regard, Searle diverges from Marx. Marx thought that individual
intentionality (individual consciousness) as a reflection of the
reality is mediated by particular ideologies, which are a systematic
manifestation of collective intentionality (collective
consciousness). It may be said that for Marx there is no real
8. Ibid, 39.
9. Ibid, 118.
10. Ibid, 117.
11. Ibid, 117.
12. The Philosophical Review, Vol.106, No.4, 609.
13. John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, 117.
14. Ibid, 90.
(c) Xiaoqiang Han 2009
Department of Philosophy
University of Toronto
IV. 'THE PHILO OFFICER' BY MICHAEL LEVY
The philo officer, seeking wisdom,
shook the prickly cactus by the hand;
by determining the painful, silent truth of the matter,
he reaffirmed the most powerful,
intelligent, ingredient of life,
which continues to elude
the smooth, intellectual surface of mortality,
since the birth of time.
(c) Michael Levy 2009
Web site: http://www.pointoflife.com
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