peter krey's web site

scholarship, sermons, songs, poems, weblog writing on

Archive for May 2017

A Study of Performative Declarations for Social Movements and Continuous Creation via Language from the Language Philosophy of John R. Searle May 6, 1996 by Peter D. S. Krey

leave a comment »


A Study of Performative Declarations for

Social Movements and Continuous Creation via Language

From the Language Philosophy of John R. Searle


                         Peter D. S. Krey,

                      Graduate Student at the

                     Graduate Theological Union

                       (Early Modern History)

                             May 6, 1996

   For Prof. John R. Searle

University of California at Berkeley

                            A Reading Course for credit

                             Philosophy of Language Ph 133




A Study of Performative Declarations for

Social Movements and Continuous Creation via Language

From the Language Philosophy of John R. Searle

May 6, 1996

by Peter D. S. Krey,

GTU Graduate Student


Regretfully, this study represents something almost like a diary, in which learning about speech acts and the performatives are explored while reading J. L. Austen and John Searle’s books and then later, Moltmann, Habermas, George Herbet Mead, and others. Sometimes the search for how speech acts and performatives are related to social movements like the Reformation is lost in the exploration about what the ancient representation of God’s creation via language may mean. At one point, I discover and read Searle’s “How Performatives Work,” a definitive piece about performatives, and that starts informing my thoughts.

The first version of this writing was 18 pages long and passed in to Prof. Searle, whose Teaching Assistant critiqued the paper. That leads to the section on St. Thomas and his theory of analogy, so that human words and divine words are set apart. I grapple with this analogy theory again and again, sometimes using Searle’s description of the features of language to good effect. The theory of analogy, however, also propels the focus of the essay more into creation rather than investigating precisely how speech acts and performatives drive social movements.

A very technical part of this study deals with why Searle, who is proposing the linguistic construction of institutions, keeps avoiding the concept of sociology. He explicitly rejects the social construction of reality theorists like Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann. Through Mead’s critique of naturalism, I try to critique Searle and find a social matrix to his linguistic construction of institutions, because sociology can even be defined as the study of institutions. (I wonder what the relationship of institutions and social movements might be? Are they spontaneous institutions that later become ingrained and take root in the society?) That part is where I bring in George Herbert Mead, Jürgen Habermas, Emil Durkheim, Pierre Bourdieu, and Loïs Wacquant. It is peculiar the way Searle skips from biology to culture and avoids the study of sociology.

I reflect on self-reference versus reflexivity, but not very successfully, I’m afraid – (while Habermas nails the distinction). But it does bring the insight that if the constitutive rule (CR) makes all institutions language dependent and language itself is an institution, then reflexivity has to be involved and the CR (X counts as Y in C) has to be constitutive of language, itself, i.e., and for speech acts and performatives as well. This insight makes it possible to pronounce a new status function as if existing, thereby bringing that state of being into existence. The way Charles De Gaulle insisted that the state of France be recognized, even though it no longer existed in World War II, relates to the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven ruled by Jesus Christ, pronouncing it into existence so that God’s will is done on earth as in heaven.

Thus, it may seem as if speech acts and performatives are no longer related to social movements and how they are set afoot and that this essay deals rather with Searle’s mere linguistically constituting institutions. The social movement theme is really not lost, however, because creation via language is not a divine language event of the past, but is creation as on-going. Luther held that creation was continuous and thus in a performative way it is proclaimed and social movements set about by the Word of God still flow from the lips of God’s prophets.

In the appendices definitions of performatives are included and speech acts are diagramed in the way of John Searle. Do not be put off by the letters. They do not stand for sentential calculus, for example, but mere words: W for wish, H for hearer, S for speaker, etc.



“The Word of God, whenever it comes, comes to change and renew the world.”[1]  Martin Luther, the Sixteenth Century reformer, who said this bon mot, had utter confidence in the power of the proclaimed Word. His Word of God Theology was very influential in the Early Modern Protestant revolution, which we call the Reformation. His dynamic sense of language, and his belief in the executive power of words, derives, of course, from the Scriptures. Psalm 33:9 expresses it very succinctly:

God spoke, and it was done.

And this passage does not only refer to God’s authority to command, but also to God’s creation by means of the word, ex nihilo. God’s speaking continues creation.[2]

Furthermore, the Prologue of the Gospel of John begins:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:1-3).

So great was the Christian respect for the logos, the word, that they sometimes represent the Trinity as the Father, Word, and Holy Spirit. A few verses later in John’s Prologue it reads:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”[3]

Thus God is not only active at the beginning of time and in the redemption brought in history by Jesus Christ, but is, continuously, involved in creation by means of divine words.

The prophet Isaiah understands the power of God’s

words. For example in a famous passage he writes:

As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it spring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).

When considering perfomative language in its various forms, the question arises whether it is related to this theological sense of continuous creation via language or the performative is merely a technical description of the relationship of language and action. That some language itself constitutes action may or may not have anything to do with the theological sense that God’s speaking brings the world into existence, creating it from nothing. It may, however, have everything to do with the claim of Luther and the prophets that speaking the Word of God changes and renews the world.[4]


Performatives in the Philosophy of Language

When J. L. Austin discovered the performative dimension of language, he was concerned with the question: “Can saying make it so?”[5] He saw something revolutionary for Philosophy in this discovery – despite some confusion logic might provisionally plunge into because of it. (Is a sentence true or false if saying it makes it so? What are actions in relation to speech?) But Austin then noted that there might be some disappointment over his simple examples.[6] After his constative/performative distinction collapses, in the course of his 1955 Harvard lectures, he still feels affirmative about illocutionary force and the performative. He continues by projecting a general speech act theory beyond that collapsed distinction.

John R. Searle took Austin’s general theory of speech acts and basically rethought and reworked it. He revised Austin’s taxonomy of speech acts, which revolved around classifying the performative verbs, to his own taxonomy, in which he more systematically categorized the speech acts according to their illocutionary point.[7] Here in Searle’s fifth category, which he calls ‘Declarations’, we find the speech act in which he locates the confusion concerning Austin’s discovery of the performative.[8]

(Is the discovery of the perfomative speech act world-shaking or merely a proverbial tempest in a tea cup?)

Striking the same note as Austin in a recent lecture, Searle introduced the performative speech act as “the one, the successful performance of which, is sufficient to change the world.”[9] The declaration brings about a fit between the world and the word by its very performance,[10] i.e., the world is changed by the words. In 1969, when Searle published Speech Acts, he had not yet worked out the symbolic representation of all his different classes of speech acts.[11] But in 1979, in his Expression and Meaning, in doing so, he gives a more technical introduction to this class of speech acts, which he calls “declarations”, with the words:

There is still left an important class of cases, where the state of affairs represented in the proposition expressed is realized or brought into existence by the illocutionary force indicating device,[12] cases where one brings a state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist, cases where, so to speak “saying makes it so”. Examples of these cases are ‘I resign’, ‘You’re fired’, ‘I excommunicate you’, ‘I christen this ship the battleship Missouri’, “I appoint you chairman’, and ‘War is hereby declared’.[13]

The reality changing aspect is here couched in the words: “the proposition expressed is realized or brought into existence” and “one brings a state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist”. This accomplishment of an illocutionary declaration is not a little astonishing and could relate to the theological sense of divine speech continuing creation. Thus God’s saying, “Let there be light” brought light into existence. Or the prophet shouts, “Thus saith the Lord!” and the society undergoes a renewal with language changing its realities.

But upon further investigation, it seems that this reality changing force does not characterize all the groups of this class of speech acts. One group of declarations is only self-referential to language: e.g., “I define”, “I abbreviate”, “I name”, etc.[14] Other declarations, however, change reality by making it match their meaning. These performatives are worth tracing for the light they throw on our subject.

In his later book, The Construction of Social Reality,[15] Searle qualifies these declarations as “performative declarations”. Interestingly enough, here, in the context of discussing his constitutive rule:

     “X counts as Y in C”

  (where the Y term gives the X term a new status function), Searle writes about them under a heading with the term “Performative Utterances”. His designation here is noteworthy, because in his previous terminology, he merely named them declarations. Continuing his analysis of the constitutive rule in the latter book, he then uses the term, “performative declaration”:[16]

          In general, where the X term is a speech act, the constitutive rule will enable the speech act to be performed as a performative declaration creating the state of affairs described by the Y term. (The italics are his.)[17]

Here the performative declaration functions in close association with the constitutive rule, ‘X counts as Y in C’, to create another state of affairs.  (“Performed as a performative…” sounds redundant, but it could be reflexive, i.e., meaning a doubling back upon itself – roughly.) Furthermore, Searle here gives us the linguistic or symbolic move from the X term (a speech act) to the Y term (a newly created state of affairs) and the performative declaration brings about the new status function. (A new status function for cigarettes, for example, could be their use as currency when ordinary money has lost its value.) Searle gives the following examples for the difficult analysis above:

Because saying certain things counts as entering into a contract or adjourning a meeting, you can perform those acts by saying you are performing them. If you are a chairman, then saying in appropriate circumstances “The meeting is adjourned” will make it the case that the meeting is adjourned.[18]

Searle’s article, “How Performatives Work” written in 1989, is truly magisterial, because in it he explains the secret complexities of the performative phenomenon.[19] He states that the word, “hereby” is characteristic for the performative and whether it is explicit or not, it illustrates that the performative is an utterance about itself: it is self-referential.[20] The “here” part of this authoritative sounding word, “hereby,” is the self-referential part; and the “by” part, is the executive part of the declaration. And here the implication is not merely the description of an intention but the manifestation of the intention by its very utterance.[21] Thus the speaker must intend that his or her utterance of an order or a promise, for example, make it the case that s/he is giving an order or making a promise:

And that intention can be encoded in the meaning of a sentence when the sentence encodes executive self-referentiality over an intentional verb.…the utterance of a performative sentence constitutes both a declaration and, by derivation, an assertion.[22] 

Given that other conditions are satisfied, a certain class of actions is here involved for which the manifestation of the intention is sufficient to perform the action.[23] The tense of the performative has to be in what Searle calls the present present, or the dramatic present.[24]

In the course of his very thorough study, Searle makes another distinction between two kinds of performatives: linguistic declarations and extra-linguistic declarations. In the latter category, the rules of “extra-linguistic” institutions are required, while in the former, they are not. He classifies promises and orders as commissives and directives, respectively, and places them in the former category, i.e., not requiring the rules of an extra-linguistic institution.[25] At times he calls these two different categories of declarations:

“linguistic performatives” and “extra-linguistic performatives,”

“linguistic declarations” and “institutional declarations,” or “linguistic performatives” and “institutional performatives”.

The utterance of a linguistic declaration or performative, in the first category, accomplishes a purely linguistic institutional fact, like a promise or an order. (Language, for Searle, is also broadly defined as an institution.) For the extra-linguistic or institutional performatives in the second category, the constitutive rules for language alone do not suffice, but those of an extra-linguistic institution are also required. For example, “The meeting will now come to order” requires the extra-linguistic Robert’s Rules of Order. A better example yet, because it contains a performative: “I now pronounce you husband and wife” will not constitute a marriage unless the laws of the state are followed.

Supernatural Declarations

In tracing the performatives relevant to the theological sense God’s speaking, a third performative is promisingly called a “supernatural declaration.” Interestingly enough, Searle maintains that it does not require an extra-linguistic institution. Institutional declarations or performatives are not excepted from this requirement, according to Searle, while the linguistic performatives and the supernatural performatives are.

In the case of the supernatural declaration, a performative verb is not necessary, because any act can be named by fiat, and it does not have to be in that small number of acts of that class of peculiar actions which are named by a verb and are capable of being carried out by the mere manifestation of an intention, (to reiterate a description of the performative again). For example, “I promise to give you an example about what I am writing about”. The previous performative sentence contains a performative verb, “promise,” while “God said, ‘Let there be light and there was light’” does not contain such a verb, and is thus performative by fiat. To talk about a promise, of course, is not to make one (J. L. Austin).

But immediately, two considerations come to mind. “By fiat” might undermine my position – that the performative and its dynamic could shed light on God’s speaking making creation come into existence. God did not need performatives if he spoke by fiat. God also did not need to use performatives explicitly, like, “I decree” or “I declare that there be light.” It is also absurd to think that God would have to get his grammar right in order to create the world by means of speech. Perhaps the performative is merely a dynamic feature of a form of language, which language as such performs as well, when spoken by God. But performatives may still be a version of action via language analogous to divine creation via language and could, possibly, shed light on divine creation, which theologians claim is carried out by God’s speaking.[26]

Secondly, Luther, in his Theology of the Word, relegated all things under law as command and all things under the gospel as promise, making the law and gospel divine performatives. Thus, all good things come to us from divine performatives. If we magnify such language acts to events, and even take a further step, then it could be argued that the good creation also comes by God’s Word of command and promise. Such performatives may further specify God’s Word speaking the creation into existence, or more specifically, the performatives of supernatural declarations would do so, to use Searle’s terminology.[27]

The supernatural declaration, (although Searle sees it merely as a limiting case and would not at all agree to this theological sense), points rather explicitly to the case where the Word of God brings into existence that which it utters. The commands and promises of God as the Word of God are performatives containing a reality changing force; their propositions do not correspond to reality, but have the power to bend realities to correspond to them. It is as if even more than a self-fulfilling prophesy for truth conditions becomes involved when “saying makes it so,” or “thinking makes it so,” or “believing makes it so”. These kinds of statements are intriguing, because they seem to hint that performative language has more to say about creation via language.

  Competence, Authority, and Constitutive Rules

If the performative contains an intention becoming an action named by the verb, the speech-act is still contingent on a speaker and the competence of the speaker, as to whether or not a promise can or cannot be fulfilled. Unsuccessful performatives are those that are outside of the competence of the speaker or hearer. Take an example from baseball: when a runner is sliding over home plate and the umpires yells, “Out!” then the runner is out; but not if someone yells, “Out!” from the stands. The words of the fan, yelling from the stands does not count, because the umpire has the authority by the constitutive rules of the game, while the fan does not.

Competence also spells the difference between a divine and human performative. God speaks in divine performatives, but we humans do not. If a person were diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and someone would say, “I promise you will not die of your lung cancer!” or “I command the lung cancer to leave your body.” It will all be to no avail and be an unsuccessful performative and the person will still die. It would have to be a divine performative and could not be a merely human one. It could be a human one if we already knew the cause and could cure cancer. But as opposed to God, the cancer would not be healed via the naked words spoken by God. Humans would still use medicine as well and treat the disease. In a promise the speaker takes an obligation, but how can the speaker fulfill an obligation beyond his or her competence to fulfill? In the case of a command, how can the hearer take that obligation when it is humanly impossible to carry out? The human performative here would also certainly violate the cancer victim’s truth conditions, while a divine performative would not. God is omniscient and knows the cure for lung cancer. Thus, God’s performative would bring about the state of affairs that God was declaring, namely, the healing of the disease. In this case language itself does not carry out the action, while at times language is action, and God’s speaking is action, even creation via language. I wonder if in the tradition of the prophets, there is any way that the human speaker in such a case can utter the Word of God?

After exploring performative declarations, the linguistic, institutional, and supernatural ones, human and divine, Isaiah’s words come to mind: “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways over your ways and my thoughts over your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 9). We could add to that, God’s speech acts over ours. Divine speech includes creation, in terms of bringing new physical realities into the world, which would include biological realities. With the Divine Word we can speak of creation via language. But human speech is capable of bringing new social realities into existence in terms of movements and the constitution of institutions.

Thus, the human performative that pronounced the healing of lung cancer here addressed biological conditions, which we humans are not yet competent to heal. That healing takes place at times and sometimes does not is true in spontaneous remission, but that healing does not relate to human performative pronouncements. When speaking of the divine creation via language, biological and physical realities are certainly understood to be involved. But Searle is dealing with the linguistic construction of institutional realities. Thus, it would also be fruitful to investigate performatives addressed to sociological conditions. Luther’s citation about God’s Word coming to change and renew the world primarily addresses sociological and personal realities.

Part II

Again, it is not here argued that the Word of God cannot heal cancer, but that we cannot yet pronounce that healing, because our words are still all too human.[28] We could pronounce the healing and believe it fervently, but if God does not act, it will be of no avail. Only God’s saying will make it so.

Now the question arises, in how so far does our human saying make something so? The Word of God cannot, of course, be easily equated with human words. The Thomist doctrine of analogy can help by making more distinctions, because the Word or logos, can also mean a pattern, archetype, or reason.[29] The analogy between human words and the Word of God, from this point of view, consists in God’s creating through speaking and not by making or forcing. Analogous with our speaking, God’s creating is called speaking, because it is meaningful and naturally brings our human response; otherwise God’s speaking continuous creation into existence is dis-analogous with our speaking in very basic ways.[30]

Furthermore, it may be fruitful to investigate whether or not more insight might be gained from within the human and divine analogy. The Psalmist says, “God speaks and it is done.” Luther says, “God makes the heavens and the earth solely by the Word God utters.”[31] Above we cited Luther saying, “God speaks realities into existence” and “that which among us has the sound of a word is a reality with God.”[32] And what has previously been said in this study about performatives is very similar: “a new state of affairs becomes created,” and “the proposition expressed is realized or brought into existence,” and “one brings a state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist”. I believe Austin’s discovery of the performative and his development of speech-act theory caught a glimpse of this theological sense of the word and that is why it felt so revolutionary and then seemed to evaporate into a technicality of language. Luther certainly felt an encounter with the Word:

Oh, if we were able to weigh, with the affectus [the feeling] that we ought, what it means to be saying, “God is speaking,” “God is promising,” “God is threatening”! Who I ask would not be shaken to their very depths? This is a great word, a great sound, and one to be feared: “Behold the Word of God!”[33]

To continue in a heuristic exploration, the understanding of the performative could shed some light on Luther’s strong sense of words and language as opposed to the vestigial sense, the weak sense, in which mere words are played off against actions. After all, Luther thought that creation amounted to God’s translating language into realities,[34] when God’s thoughts are brought to speech. Because the performative is a language-act, from which action issues out of speech, for God’s divine performatives, ontology, new creations issue from God’s speech. New institutional and and social realities can issue from our human performatives. Thus this study might also throw light upon the dynamic social movements and upheavals of the Reformation that Luther attributed to the Word.[35] Because language is integral to human society and its institutions, as this study of Searle will later show, there may be a more intimate role that language plays in the spontaneous action that becomes social change.

Reconsidering the Thomist analogy between God’s word and human language or human versus divine words, somewhat more insight can be attained approaching divine creation via language and the limitation of the human word by also considering St. Augustine. St. Thomas’s distinction between the divine and human word usually involves the attributes of God. St. Augustine specifically distinguishes between the divine and human word as well. He writes that God is saying: “My word was with me and proceeded into voice. The Word of God was with the Father and proceeded into flesh.”[36] (“Flesh” in the Hebrew sense of the word stands for a human being.) Mark Jordan, in his study of Augustine writes that the church Father was describing the passage from thought to sound or from langue to parole, to use de Saussure’s words.[37] (An analogy is there between thought to sound and word to human being, namely the Incarnation of Christ.) Mark Jordan interpreting St. Augustine goes on to support further study of the analogy between human words and the Word of God:

The two sorts of human verba (verbum interius, verbum prolatus) are meant to explicate the Incarnation of the eternal Verbum. But what becomes possible, once the analogy is constructed is the reversal of its direction.[38]

An internal word or a thought (verbum interius) can proceed to a word spoken aloud (verbum prolatus). By analogy the heavenly Word spoken by the Father can beget the Son. And the Son, who is the Word, speaks creation into existence. What Mark Jordan might mean by “the reversal” could be that the word spoken out loud can throw light on thought and the Son, the Word Incarnate, can throw light on the Father, and, to extrapolate with one more step: then human speech can throw light on Divine speech or the creation via language, if that is what Jordan’s “reversal of its direction” means.

This subtle reflection on Mark Jordan’s words provides some support for saying that our language, with due respect to the limits of analogy, can throw light on the Incarnation, from Augustine’s point of view; and our speech can throw light on Divine speech, to extrapolate further. Interestingly enough, language going from thought to speech in general is also similar to an abstract sentence grasped as a concrete speech-act in the Philosophy of Language and, furthermore, is also similar to a spoken intention becoming a manifest action in a performative utterance as another small “incarnational” increment. And when Searle describes the performative as executive self-reference, then how can one not think of the One who first refused to give the divine name to Moses from the burning bush that did not consume its branches; then finally saying, “I am who I am!” (Exodus 3:14)

Interestingly enough, to further support creation via language even from the human word, Heidegger says that Language is the house of being[39] and “It is language that first brings man about, brings him into existence. Understood in this way, man would be spoken by language.”[40] Persons become pronounced into existence. (Here Heidegger points to another power of language beyond mere action. Language can bring a self into existence and can be the vehicle for sharing oneself with another.) In Heidegger’s reversal, i.e., that human beings do not speak a language but are spoken by their language, one could speak of human beings being the vocabulary of the language of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God and we too, as Christs to others, also become God’s Words. Heidegger, the poet of being, I believe, is working well on the divine side of the analogy.[41]

   Language as the Source of Institutions

     Searle analyzes the key role that language, in terms of speech acts, plays constituting institutions and making them possible.[42] We will see that John Searle finds this key in what he calls the constitutive rule (CR). But while he sees this rule as bringing institutions into existence, I am looking for the language key to more spontaneous social change and creation via language. (See footnote 42.) I believe that Searle’s analysis of the role language plays in bringing institutions into existence can help understand the role language plays in social change as well. But in a peculiar way I will need to relate society and sociology to Searle’s philosophy of language, because although he makes a tour de force into sociology, which after all, according to Emile Durkheim, is the study of institutions, he never mentions sociology. Thus I’ll be asking, how does his Philosophy of Language relate to sociology?  This will require that I explore the performative per se, the performative or supernatural declaration and the constitutive rule according to John Searle. But I will also introduce the social matrix in which communication evolved and developed according to George Herbert Mead, who argues that significant gestures, vocal gestures or language, selves, minds, and society developed in a social process.[43] This approach will open the way beyond the relation of language and action, into the richer understanding of how language brings selves, minds, communities, societies, and worlds into existence, as well as changing them. That seems like an exaggerated statement, but the biblical language for it runs along the lines of “the Word became flesh.” I will begin with trying to understand the relevant kind of reflexivity and self-reference, which I believe is central to language.

What distinguishes reflexivity from circularity and infinite regress? Sin has been defined as the turning in upon the self, in Latin, curvatus in se, that is, self-absorption.[44] But how is this different from consciousness centering and intensifying back upon itself for a creative breakthrough? The Socratic “Know thyself!” is reflexive, but not self-absorption. Knowing what you know and what you don’t is important. The more you know the more you know that you don’t know and the less you know the more you think you know is the Socratic paradox. In reference to the self, the self is aware of the limits of its knowledge as well as the level of maturity of the knowing self.

Reflexivity and Self-reference: Searle, Mead, and Habermas

Searle described the performative as an executive, self-referential utterance. I want to investigate the self-referential aspect of the performative and relate it to the reflexive nature of language described by George Herbert Mead and then criticized by Jürgen Habermas, both of whose thoughts I am also including to provide a social matrix for Searle’s linguistic construction of institutional reality, which he may be without.

The performative is self-referential because, it is an utterance about itself. In most definitions of the performative, as previously noted, the self-referential or reflexive feature is indicated. In How to Do Things with Words, Austin states that performatives are verbs, e.g., like betting, promising, bequeathing, etc., “very commonly also used in naming the act which, in making such an utterance, I am performing.[45] Notice how in turning back upon itself, the syntax of his definition entails reflexivity: “naming an act which, in making such an utterance, I am performing….”[46] Reflexivity also seems to be in one of Searle’s definitions: a performative “is not merely the description of an intention but the manifestation of the intention by its very utterance.” “By its very utterance” is where the reflexive or self-referential feature again comes to light.

Now this self-reference is not the same as that of the meaning of a sentence doubling back upon itself as in Pascal’s famous example:

“All generalizations are false including this one.”[47]

A value loop comes about in such self-reference making it impossible to ascertain truth or falsity. For Mead the gesture or symbol is not referential to itself, but to the self of the speaker as if addressed by the other.[48] A value loop does not result, but rather, an increasing internalization for the emergence of the self.[49] A different kind of self-reference takes place in the performative. Searle speaks about the difficulty of getting inside its linguistic space:

To be performative the semantic content of the verb needs to function essentially and successfully in the saying of the sentence, in the performance of the speech act.[50]

{Notice the change in status function: “saying the sentence” (X) and “the performance of the speech act (Y).” (Cf. a package of cigarettes (X) becomes money (Y).}

The constitutive rule describes the particular reflexivity of the performative, because if language itself is an institution, according to Searle, and this rule is the basic building block of institutions, it should describe the inner workings of the performative, even if it does not touch upon all its features. (The self-referential or reflexive character is a feature shared by both the performative speech act and the constitutive rule.) The action-Y term loops back to the intention-X term and in such a way that it gives a new status function (from intention to action) inside the performative expression.[51]

Roughly speaking, what is self-referential is also self-reflexive, except that in the latter the meanings of words need not be involved. George Herbert Mead finds that language develops from gestures that become reflexive:

The vocal gesture becomes a significant symbol … when it has the same effect on the individual making it that it has on the individual to whom it is addressed or who explicitly responds to it, and thus involves a reference to the self of the individual making it.[52]

Mead theorizes a reflexivity inherent in language more basic than its ability to express reflexivity.[53] Habermas will nail down Mead’s kind of reflexivity more precisely below.[54]

To continue with Mead, a gesture or symbol becomes significant:

because it calls out in the individual making it the same attitude toward it (or toward its meaning) that it calls out in the other individuals participating with him in the given social act…

Gestures become significant symbols when they implicitly arouse in an individual making them the same responses which they explicitly arouse, or are supposed to arouse, in other individuals, the individuals to whom they are addressed.[55]

From Mead’s theory, the implicit arousal in the speaker, to use Searle’s terms and the explicit arousal in the hearer, provide the reflexivity that opens into the social selves of individuals.[56] Now in the inner operations of a performative, a verb that expresses an intention in the process of being spoken, doubles back and makes its intention into an action. Analogous with Mead’s theory, an increment of externalization takes place from speaking to acting while an increment of internalization takes place from meaning to a self.[57] I believe that iterations of reflexivity are involved in new levels of internalization from significant gesture, to language, to selves, minds, societies, and worlds in the social process described by Mead. (Of course the transitions from one to the next, i.e., language to self, to mind, to society, to world, are the burden of Mead’s whole social psychology.)

Anselm Strauss, in his introduction to George Herbert Mead: Social Psychology, notes that Mead

makes action toward the self an integral facet of the act. One takes himself into account while acting toward the non-self. This self-reflexivity is dependent on language….[58]

Anselm Strauss, who is the editor of G. H. Mead’s lectures, is right that this reflexivity of action is dependent on language, but Mead also maintains that language itself depends upon this reflexivity. A gesture or a vocal gesture, i.e., a word, becomes a significant symbol when it has the same meaning to the individual making it that it has to the individual to whom it is addressed,[59] and thus it involves a reference to the self of the individual making it. This reflexivity is not self-reference to the gesture but to the self of the individual making the significant gesture. And in the social process of this communication,

an individual is an other before he is a self. It is in addressing himself in the role of an other that his self arises in experience.[60]

     Here the words of Mead bring a famous passage of Luther, as well as insights from Heinz Kohut’s Self Psychology to mind. Luther concludes the popular version of his “Freedom of the Christian Person” with the person being outside him or herself, extra nos, in the sense of ecstasy:

Christians do not live in themselves, but in Christ and in their neighbor – in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith they ascend (are enraptured) above themselves into God. From God they descend through love again below themselves, yet always remain in God and God’s love.[61]

These insights militate against a self-centered and completely self-interested individualism that is not grounded in our social and self-transcending nature.[62]

Thus according to Mead, “the self is an other before he is a self.” This statement is quite literally true, because a baby is first inside its mother, internal to the mother, before being born. Mead continues, “It is in addressing himself in the role of an other that his self arises in experience.” Perhaps a psychologically parallel development takes place, where the baby’s self derives from the mother’s self, and is born again, so to speak, i.e., biologically and then as a new self out of the mother’s self.[63]

In Kohut’s Self Psychology, the mother is the other self, with all her self-functions that the child appropriates into its received-self by assimilation or merger and mirroring. When these two developmental processes have been inadequate, the self of the therapist is required to supplement this process by empathy and explanation. Again, Mead is not dealing with today’s psycho-social child development, but that of the evolutionary emergence of language and selves.

Jürgen Habermas follows G.H. Mead very closely, but also criticizes his simplification of the emergence of language.[64] Basically, he argues that Mead does not take the semantic problem of arriving at the same meaning into consideration, because he is more oriented toward mutual goals of action in its progressive adjustments and the socialization of the actors. The latter and the former cannot account for misconstrued symbolic understandings of the other. “Mead never did become sufficiently clear about the important step of internalizing the other’s response to a mistaken use of symbols,” and Habermas continues, “This gap can be filled with Wittgenstein’s analysis of the concept of a rule.”[65] Going from what Habermas calls “signal language” to “grammatical language” required rule-governed behavior. Mead also did not take the propositional content of language into account. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ brought about the possibility of normative action, that complied with, or was determined to be, against the rule. Habermas argues that Mead left these two crucial elements out of his theory.

Habermas recognizes the importance of Mead’s reflexive principle of the self, taking the attitude of the other. He states that Mead “explains this construction of the inner world once again by means of the mechanism of taking the attitude of the other.”[66] Habermas clarifies more precisely the kind of reflexivity that Mead has in mind:

Mead conceives of internalization as making objective structures of meaning internal [Verinnerlichung]. Unlike the case of reflective relations that come about when a subject turns back upon itself in order to make itself an object for itself, the model of internalization says that the subject finds itself again in something external, inasmuch as it takes into itself and makes its own something that it encounters as an object. The structure of assimilation [Aneignung] differs from the structure of reflection [Spiegelung] by virtue of its opposite direction: the self relates itself to itself not by making itself an object but by recognizing in an external object…something subjective that has been externalized.[67]

Notice that Habermas describes Mead’s reflexivity as very much involved in internalization. While working with language, philosophers have more than abstract ideas at hand. Language is like an organic system that contains the physical features of sound and the visual ones of written form. Language embodies ideas and its embodiment is concrete but much less so than the society and the institutions that it reflects and changes, (if I merely justify the latter with Searle’s concept of the direction of fit). When thinking about language we think we are only in the external features of its physicality whether in sound frequencies or visible writing, but we are not. We are also in its internal dimension. When Searle theorizes about the different ways that status functions are imposed he states:

the usual distinction between the internal and external points of view applies to institutional facts. In this book we are interested primarily in the internal point of view, because it is only from the internal point of view of the participants that the institution can exist at all.

The anthropologist from the outside may see an [institution]… [Searle continues, but it is such] in the first place only because of the collective intentionality and the imposition of status-functions by the participants and this, whether conscious or unconscious, can exist only from the internal point of view.[68]

Thus Habermas describes Mead’s reflexivity as very much involved in internalization and in such a way that it cannot be confused with the problematic self-referential statements, like that of Pascal above.

John Searle tries to free the self-referentiality of the definitions of social facts, like money, by use of the type/token distinction. How can money be defined, “if part of the definition is ‘being thought of, or regarded as, or believed to be money.”[69] He determines that the social concept of money is a placeholder for many economic activities, which could all be articulated instead of “money.” It could also be considered a type, i.e., an institution or general practice; and not a token, i.e., a particular instance, referring to itself.[70] A token as a particular instance referring to itself would bring about circularity or infinite regress.[71] In the reflexivity of Mead, I also can see by analogy how social selves as types are involved at the source of action and expression. There, I believe an internalization, not a value loop, circular argument, or infinite regression, is the result.[72]

I associate reflexivity with internalization, because of my studies of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. For Teilhard, the spiritual energy bending physical energy in upon itself, leads to a series of “in-rolling interiorizations,”[73] wherein the within breaks through in a birth of life, thought, and (he predicts) the crossing of the collective threshold of thought. Teilhard does not deal with the birth of language, but develops an anthropology by means of a very abstract spiritual physics, which he theorized in The Phenomenon of Man, The Divine Milieu, and The Future of Man, to mention just three of his works.

In this study I do not want to get lost in the technical complexities of language but to explore the theological sense of social action and creation via language. But here I have come upon the emergence of the self, mind, society, and (internal) world via language. Perhaps other social breakthroughs via language, as well as its future levels of internalization can be uncovered. Both Teilhard and Mead have the evolutionary sense of the emergent in their theories, while Searle speaks of facts and epistemic ontologies that seem to have no sense of social movement or struggle. His naturalism and individualism lack a sense of urgency for the necessary social breakthroughs that our time in history so desperately requires.[74] This study of the Philosophy of Language came about wondering how Luther’s language launched the Reformation and how positive social movements could be launched today.


Situating the Philosophy of Language in the Social Sciences

Searle speaks of brute facts and institutions and then transcends this distinction, classifying eight levels of facts, which he calls a “hierarchical taxonomy of (certain types of) facts.”[75] Searle’s contribution to sociology is very powerful, but his analysis of institutions, which goes to the heart of sociology, avoids any reference to sociology. He does not seem to recognize sociology as a level of description between biology and culture. Later I shall attempt a critique of his work by questioning his constant usage of the word, “facts” and whether they are linguistic or not, his kind of structuralism, that places layer upon layer of “archeological” status-functions upon each other, and the problem whether or not his work is a reductionism of sociology to biology. His facts may not become static entities with functions in a static structuralism. But language itself for Searle becomes a structural institution. His conclusion in The Construction of Social Reality is a vertical movement from biology through institutions to culture, leaving out sociology. Perhaps he thinks that his Philosophy of Language he is doing sociology.

George Herbert Mead has often been used against biological and individualistic accounts.[76] Searle may be vulnerable to the former critique, but not the latter. Mead makes clear that language is an immanently social activity that naming it an institution should in no way obscure. A sociological critique may well be needed to complement Searle’s theory.

Searle feels an urgency to defend the existence of an external reality and the grounding of all institutional facts in brute facts or language independent objective ontology. Meanwhile it is to be underscored that Searle makes no small contribution via the Philosophy of Language for the construction of social reality. If the social construction of reality is not used to erase external reality or make a claim to be the total reality, then it could be seen as an internal reality or externally, as an aspect of reality experienced by a certain society. If the emphasis on external reality and its philosophical concern make social realities and their change insignificant, it becomes problematic.[77] Even if a concern for external reality does not make a claim to exhaust reality totally, it may be used to dominate social reality to such an extent, that social reality becomes trivial and could be presented as only slightly or superficially changeable. Some external realities, however, are also not a given and need not be accepted as unchangeable. A landscape of mountains and valleys and streams can be changed into a disastrous strip mine, which leveled the mountains, filled the valleys, and clogged the streams. It could be reconverted into an ecological landscape once more by digging free the streams and planting trees, for example.

To his credit, Searle uncovers the linguistic construction of social reality and in limiting himself to institutional facts, he writes, “Even if I am right so far, this discussion is only beginning.”[78] Very much like early distinctions in the Philosophy of Language gave way to more specified distinctions, Searle notes that the distinction between brute and institutional realities has to be transcended and absorbed in a further set of distinctions.[79] Thus there is not only the iteration of the constitutive rule and the assignment of different kinds of status-functions, but they ascend from language independent realities, like snow on Mt. Everest to language dependent realities, like scores of six points for a touchdown in football. Searle describes eight of such levels to the point of linguistic functions, were functions themselves iterate on top of functions.[80]

Again, in this study I do not want to become lost in the complexities of the logical formulas for the iterations of institutional construction. My concern remains the theological sense of creation via language and the possibility of social change for the improvement of society in bringing about more humane conditions. Hopefully this excursion into a critique of Searle’s theory will be fruitful for understanding how language plays a role in divine creation and necessary social change.

Searle realizes that human beings do not know the constitutive rules in their progressive iterations that produced the institutions that they live and work in. He theorizes a Background, as opposed to an unconscious, where human beings learn adaptations to the different structures of these institutions, which come about through rules and processes that they are not aware of and do not know. Searle’s argument stands to reason, because, after all, we have learned to adapt with our bodies without understanding the functions of our internal organs. Why should we have been able to understand the inner workings of the institutions of our society? We have adapted to their emergence in society the same way, guided by our familiarity with the Background. An analogy can be made between the under-determination of sentences, which we understand because we interpret the Background in which they are spoken, and the adaptation to institutions because we understand the Background in which they exist.

Searle does not want to be considered a functionalist,[81] because he argues that his functions are always internal to the status. “It could not be a status, if it did not have that function.”[82] Functional sociology sees society as a body and its institutions like its organs each having their different functions. Searle’s functions are involved in the iterations of the constitutive rules that build up these institutions. But if the purpose of early functionalist sociology was stability and equilibrium, then Searle’s approach could lean toward discouraging social change. On the other hand, some of his analysis in the creation, maintenance, and destruction of institutions is very helpful in strategies for social change.

When social institutions are no longer accepted by the people, they lose their power. Searle notes that institutions and structures of property, as well as the state itself, are not maintained by armed police and military power, so that acceptance is compelled where necessary. In a democratic society armed might and the state depend on acceptance of systems and constitutive rules.[83] For example, “In many democratic societies, once the number of law-breakers reaches a critical mass, the police force is largely for show.”[84] We cannot assume, he continues, that the system of acceptance is backed by a credible system of force. The system of force is itself a system of acceptance and the system of force itself presupposes the other system of status-functions.[85]

The previous Luther citation where he claims that “the word is doing the work” while his friends, Melanchthon, Amsdorf, and he are having a beer together, refers to the power of Luther’s writing. It convinced large sections of the European population to no longer accept the institutions of the papacy, episcopal courts, canon law, the monasteries, and five of the seven sacraments, “for starters,” to use a Searle expression. The word of God performatively declared in Luther’s pamphlets, dismantled institutions that had existed over 1,000 years. The history of the Reformation provides powerful evidence for Searle’s argument that acceptance and rejection of institutions builds or dismantles them and the performative role language plays in that process.

Searle mentions the miraculous year 1989, when the Soviet Union came to an end, because it lost the support and the acceptance of its people. As with the armed forces of the Soviet Union, (Searle does not mention) those of East Germany and the Philippines under Marcos, (I might add) all refused to fire on the people, but joined them in their non-acceptance of their governing institutions and stood with them in the creation of new institutions more acceptable to them.[86]

Searle’s heavy usage of the word, “facts” remains problematical. His philosophical use of the word maintains that they are not linguistic entities, but his sociological use of the word certainly gives them linguistic elements.[87]  This word may well be the one most often used in his book.[88] After reading his defense of its usage, it may well be that my former teachers were what he called, “phenomenological idealists” and/or social constructionists.” The former believe that all of reality consists in conscious states and the latter, as Searle puts it, believe the “view that reality is socially constructed, that what we think of the real world is just a bunch of things constructed by groups of people.”[89] In phenomenological reductionism, however, one could suspend the ontological (Husserl) merely for methodological purposes. And social realities can be overcome in collective movements, because they are not the same as an external reality completely independent of language, human volition, and mind.

The anti-materialist argument by Bishop Berkeley that perception is reality is quite convincing to me, when the perception, that is divine, stands for internal and external realities, which exist apart from and independent of our perception, language and consciousness. Searle’s emphasis on external reality is not problematic, if it is not presented to confuse people into believing that it is identical with social reality. The people are then left with the impression that there is hardly a chance for changing inhuman conditions and overcoming adverse realities. The word, “facts” also comes into play here. If in spite of external realities, if they are not used to overcome the hope of change, then I will not conclude that the word is used to foster a realism of resignation[90] or a realism of repression.[91]

Indeed, Searle argues that there are social objects that presuppose or are prior to social acts and that process is over products. “In a sense,” he continues, “the object is just the continuous possibility of the activity.”[92] I imagine that for Searle this is ontological subjectivity. Searle also explains why in the priority of process over product, “institutions are not worn out by continued use, but each use of an institution is in a sense a renewal of that institution.”[93] While products wear out with use, each use of an institution means a renewal of commitment to it. This counter-intuitive reversal brings to mind the burning bush that did not consume the branches (Exodus, Chapter 3) and the spiritual reality about the more love you give away, the more you have.

As above mentioned, George Herbert Mead, according to Anselm Strauss, has often been used against biological reductionism of sociology and individualistic psychological accounts. Searle’s philosophical account does not seem to be individualistic, but it is vulnerable to the charge of reductionism, although he is almost doing sociology via the philosophy of language. Often the word choice of a thinker reveals his or her position. Searle will say, “biological beasts” instead of “sociological beasts.”[94] That is not merely a bent for alliteration. In his conclusion, he will use the word “culture” and avoid mentioning society. He seems to skirt the field of sociology while doing a tour de force into the heart of it by his analysis of institutions. According to Emil Durkheim, “Sociology can be defined as the science of institutions.”[95]

His feeling for social psychology comes through when in passing he mentions that social psychology is “one area where science fails to converge,” perhaps implying thereby, that it is not affirmed by the scientific community.[96] It may be that Searle considers sociology per se to stand for a social construction of reality, erasing the external reality he wants to emphasize and uphold. He does not tire of repeating that institutional facts bottom out in brute facts and writes:

A socially constructed reality presupposes a non-socially

constructed reality…. In a sense, one of the main aims of

this book has been to spell this out. It is a logical

consequence of the main argument of the book that you

cannot have institutional facts without brute facts.[97]

Sociology will speak of everyday realities or the different realities perceived by the different world religions, but it does not thereby need to erase the external reality, which is independent of our language and our mental states. In other words, sociology can accept a social reality that is in flux, is variable, and indeed, changeable. Sociology does not need to erase the ontologically, objective, external reality, however “objective” it would be, should no humans exist to perceive it and live in it. Sociology can grant Searle that the social reality that sociologists speak about is an ontologically subjective and epistemically objective reality.[98]

In a problematic way “facts,” as a word can be used in such a way that social objects like governments, money, universities, to use Searle’s examples,[99] seem to be given and unchangeable as much as the snow and glaciers on Mount Everest, where the snow fall and the intermittent avalanche are quite independent of our language, our collective intentionality, acceptance, and agreement. Meanwhile a few persons can declare a war, mobilize the armed forces, and create the inhuman conditions that result, filling the world with deleterious realities for years to come.

The word, “facts” for me implies that conditions of reality need to be accepted without the possibility of change. In any case I believe the word also brings a discrepancy between Searle’s philosophical argumentation and his theory about the linguistic construction of institutions, between his philosophical and sociological use of the word. For the former use, the point of the word “fact” is to have a concept for the non-linguistic reliability of a statement. For that purpose, Searle argues that facts are not essentially linguistic, that they are not complex objects, nor linguistic entities.[100] In the final chapters, where he deals with external reality and its proof, as well as that of the correspondence theory of truth, he suddenly writes:

It does not follow that facts are somehow essentially

linguistic, that they have the notion of statement built

into them. On the contrary, on the account I have given

they are precisely not linguistic (except, of course, for

the small but important class of linguistic facts)…[101]

But he is not only speaking about linguistic facts, but social, institutional, and functional facts throughout his study. This statement also conflicts with the strong claim about institutions that he proves: “Each institution requires linguistic elements of the facts within the very institution.”[102]

It is important to deal with the question of internal reality again, although I know that Searle merely speaks about an internal point of view. (Then this study will continue with Searle’s emphasis of biology over sociology.) By means of various modes of self-referentiality, it can be argued that we delve into different forms of internal reality and if these are language dependent, could language not play a crucial role in changing social realities and also external realities from within? This change could also proceed by collective intentionality, to use Searle’s terms, through the process of collective acceptance and agreement. Collective intentionality need not merely reside exclusively in individuals; with inter-subjectivity, groups can agree or clash, come to or not come to agreement.  The question becomes, to what extent is change coming from the internal possible? That Eucalyptus trees grow everywhere in San Francisco’s East Bay is an external reality, but they were introduced from Australia and they can be cut down, because of the fire hazard they represent. External reality is also changeable to a certain extent. The wisdom distinction of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer needs to come into play when introducing change: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”[103] We will return to this issue.

The question remains whether or not Searle presents a biological reductionism of sociology, because in his conclusion, he leaves sociology out altogether. In his words:

On my view the traditional opposition between biology and

culture is as misguided as the traditional opposition

between body and mind. Just as mental states are higher

level features of our nervous system, and consequently

there is no opposition between the mental and the physical,

the mental is simply a set of physical features of the

brain at a higher level of description than that of

neurons; so there is no opposition between culture and

biology; culture is the form biology takes. There could not

be an opposition between culture and biology, because if

there were, biology would always win.[104]

Perhaps with the Philosophy of Language, Searle feels that the whole field of sociology can be disregarded. Lars Udehn in Methodological Individualism: “If society is only in the minds of individuals and in the interactions between them, a reduction must be possible in principle.” Udehn calls that the “ontological twist” where suddenly individuals are the only reality.[105] Meanwhile he is doing sociology via the philosophy of language, because what else can such a theory of the linguistic construction of institutions be, if we take Durkheim’s definition of sociology into account? His concept of institutions is incredibly comprehensive, however, because, from his perspective, he is considering language itself an institution. From his iterations of status-functions he ascends up the eight-level hierarchy of facts, until functions become status-functions on top of other functions, and this whole structure arises in the Background and as in evolution, people find their adaptations to it. Brute facts are independent of language (and largely of society) – facts about nature, like molecules, planets, photosynthesis, etc. Then he often progresses to institutional facts, like government, marriage, money, war, universities, etc. But in a lecture he noted that these are in a “continuous flow of dynamic social relations”, and layer upon layer they form a “complex interacting structure of institutional reality” which “is linguistic down to the ground;” its skeletal structure turns out to be the constitutive rule, and thus, this whole archeology of iterated institutions, “has a speech act structure.”[106] Searle’s theory presented in that way is rather dynamic and sounds very much like sociology. But then early on in his book he exposes his naturalism when he writes:

Our aim is to assimilate social reality to our basic ontology of physics, chemistry, and biology. To do this we need to show the continuous line that goes from molecules and mountains to screwdrivers, levers, and beautiful sunsets, and then to legislatures, money, and nation states. The central span of the bridge from physics to society is collective intentionality, and the decisive movement on that bridge in the creation of social reality is the collective intentional imposition of functions on entities that cannot perform those functions without that imposition.[107]

The crucial move that Searle makes here is in collective intentionality, which, he asserts, is as easy to have in one brain as in another. Thus it is like speaking in the first person singular and then speaking in the first person plural. We can say, “I intend” as easily as we can say, “We intend” and Searle holds that collective intentionality is found imprinted on individual brains ready to construct institutional facts by means of the constitutive rule and the assignment of status-functions.[108] With that he can speak of social facts, a subclass of which, are institutional facts, and he continues analyzing institutional reality.

That social reality in all its fullness and complexity can come about as easily as by switching from a singular to a plural personal pronoun seems to confuse language with society. That collective intentionality is inscribed in our brains can explain all the dynamics, forces, tensions, and struggles involved in social reality seems like a drastic genetic reductionism of social experience. Searle is comfortable trying to move from physics to society, at that point, not even giving biology its sui generis principles, let alone grant them to sociology.

Searle believes that the “capacity for collective intentionality is biologically innate and the forms of collective intentionality cannot be eliminated or reduced to something else.”[109] Perhaps a philosophical alienation from the social sciences underlies this statement. It is not derived from an individualistic methodology and yet, it seems to disregard sociology and the social process. At one point in Mead’s study of the mind, he counters the approach that “assumes individual selves as presuppositions, logically and biologically, to the social process and order within which [these selves] interact.”[110] The “logically and biologically prior” critique in Mead’s statement applies to Searle. To quite a degree, the social process seems to dissolve into collective intentionality, which Searle considers “biologically innate.”

Although Searle and Mead have naturalism in common, the latter emphasizes the social process very much more. Ultimately, from a theological point of view, it is very much more possible to share Mead’s emphasis on the social process. Mead’s social theory of the mind is a critique of Searle, for a partially social view of the mind, according to Mead, gives it a “congenital or hereditary biological attribute.”[111] Accordingly, the mind

can get its expression only within or in terms of the environment of an organized social group, yet it is nevertheless in some sense a native endowment – a congenital or hereditary biological attribute – of the individual organism and could not otherwise exist or manifest itself in the social process at all; so that it is not itself essentially a social phenomenon, but rather is biological both in its nature and in its origin and is social only in its characteristic manifestations or expressions. According to this latter view, moreover, the social process presupposes, and in a sense, is a product of, mind; in direct contrast is our opposite view that mind presupposes, and is a product of, the social process.[112]

That Mead’s critique also applies to Searle becomes obvious in his statement that there is no opposition between biology and culture (Searle avoids using the term “society” or “sociology”), “because if there were, biology would always win.”

Emile Durkheim would not allow the reduction of sociology to biology, nor to individual psychology. In the words of George Simpson, Durkheim held that, “It was the mind that made society possible and morality that sustained it. Neither of these was reducible to biology or physiological psychology.”[113] In the words of Durkheim,

[The social realm]… is a category of facts with very distinctive characteristics: it consists in ways of acting, thinking, and feeling, external to the individual, and endowed with a power of coercion, by reason of which they control him. These ways of thinking could not be confused with biological phenomena, since they consist of representations and of actions; nor with psychological phenomena, which exist only in the individual consciousness and through it. [Social facts] constitute thus, a new variety of phenomena; and it is to them exclusively the term “social” ought to be applied.[114]

Durkheim goes on to carve out the relative independence of sociology as a science from biology, in which it is rooted. But in its association of aggregates, a whole forms, which is greater than the sum of its parts. Sociology becomes a sui generis science with society as its object, having principles of its own, above and beyond those of biology.[115]

But note that Searle’s approach coming from the Philosophy of Language is internal, because intentions and intentionality are internal, while a sociological approach is partially external and social facts from its perspective are considered relatively external.[116] While Durkheim describing the sociological method says, “All these questions of intention are too subjective to allow of scientific treatment,”[117] Searle has an understanding of intentions attained by his analysis of speech-acts in the philosophy of Language. His knowledge of intentionality is crucial for his extension and expansion of language analysis into his analysis of institutions.[118] Because sociology is the science of institutions, (Durkheim’s definition) his expansion takes in the heart of sociology itself, (again) without ever mentioning the field. As he begins to uncover the sociological level of description, he also should take seriously the sociological level of explanation, its sui generis principles, and its objective methodology,[119] which collective intentionality cannot fully explain. Because of his theory’s overlap with sociology, however, some of his internal features might well be recognized in sociological external ones, for example, collective intentionality and the assignment of status-functions could be inside collective representations and actions. Searle does not have anything resembling the imposition of constraints and the control of individuals by society, nor does he speak about social and moral forces, merely about illocutionary forces. He focuses on performative speech acts, declarations, and the constitutive rule that declare new status-functions and bring institutions into existence.

    A Selective Summary

     After reviewing Searle’s philosophy of language and arriving at his performative declarations, we again tried to fathom the analogy between creation represented as God’s speaking and our sense of language. Social change via language is also a main concern of this study. Creation via language seemed to show more promise if we explored it further by means of Searle’s lingual construction of social reality. Through George Herbert Mead we added the social matrix to Searle’s theory as well as a basic reflexivity or self-referentiality in the origination of language, only intuitively thereby introducing the internalizations of the self in their socially extensive as well as their psychologically deep forms. Habermas’ description of Mead’s reflexivity brought self-psychology to mind, and that Mead believed the “individual is an other before he is a self,” brought Luther’s extra nos theme to mind, that the self is in Christ and in the neighbor, always outside him or herself, never outside of God and God’s love. It is from Teilhard de Chardin that I have the conviction that self-referentiality or reflexivity is connected with internalization. It turns out that Searle’s collective intentionality is also internal, because intentions and meaning are internal. Searle speaks of an internal point of view that dissolves at a higher level of description, but one can begin to speak of internal realities, because the many internal phenomena dealt with by the Philosophy of Language, make them more than a point of view.

Then grappling with whether Searle’s concern for external reality and his emphasis on facts precluded the change of social realities, we concluded that they did not.[120] Durkheim also underscores social facts, giving them a higher reality, a higher being than brute facts, to use Searle’s terms. Durkheim held that social ontology was of merely a different type from physical ontology, and its higher reality could not be reduced to the lower one. Perhaps Durkheim would still maintain his position, even when Searle calls social reality ontologically subjective and epistemically objective.

Some social constructionists might want to exchange Searle’s philosophical epistemology for a sociology of knowledge and replace philosophy with sociology.[121] But Emile Durkheim does not erase the external reality, with which Searle is philosophically concerned. Assessing Searle’s position is not easy, because he delves into the heart of the field of sociology without mentioning it, doing so, however, quite uniquely via the philosophy of language. The concern that Searle commits a reductionism of sociology to biology runs into difficulty, because he seems to place physics, chemistry, biology, and culture – leaving out sociology, at different levels of description. Perhaps it is a naturalism and materialism of Searle that is at play and an attempt via collective intentionality to overcome the sui generis  domains and principles of each science in question. Thus Searle gives the impression that he can move easily from physics, forgetting about chemistry and biology even, right to culture, again, without even a mention of sociology.

Social realities and forces are higher than physical ones, just as real, but of another type, to reassert Durkheim’s position. Materialist monism, he claimed, erased social and psychological phenomena. But in all this discussion of reductionism, Searle demonstrates an exciting new entry into social reality via the Philosophy of Language. Durkheim, of course, excludes philosophy from being relevant to the science and the scientific methodologies of sociology. Perhaps that is why Searle, the philosopher, never mentions sociology.


     To take the hermeneutical integration of language philosophy with sociology somewhat further, the analysis of sociological approaches by Pierre Bourdieu as presented by Loїc Wacquant in An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology may help situate Searle’s philosophical language approach somewhat better. In Bourdieu’s analysis as presented by Wacquant, sociological approaches are divided between those resembling social physics and social phenomenological view-points.[122] In the first, the objectivist approach, the sociologist as an external observer can study the organization of society and the roles of persons in it. The weakness of this approach is that it can skip from model to reality, reifying the structures it conceptualizes by treating them as autonomous entities endowed with the ability to “act” like historical agents.[123]

The second sociological approach is the subjectivist or constructionist view point, which contends that social reality is a contingent and on-going accomplishment of social actors who continually construct their social world through their practices in everyday-life.[124] The sociologists of this variety look through the lens of social phenomenology and see society emerge via decisions, actions, cognitions, and produced by alert individuals for whom the world is familiar and meaningful.[125] Continuing with Bourdieu and Wacquant, this sociological approach gives pride of place to social agency and to the socially approved ways that persons endow their life-world with sense. The weakness of this approach lies in an inability to account for resilience and emergent, objective configurations of society as a whole, as well as its persistence, challenge, and principles beyond the mere aggregates of individuals. These sociologists also fail to realize that the categories that they themselves use are collectively produced.[126]

Searle is not doing social physics to be sure, but sometimes it seems as if he confuses the organism of language with social reality itself, to make an analogy with the model and social reality confusion of the first approach. Although Searle is basically using speech act insights to describe the structure of institutions, he does not lose sight of individual agency or collective agency, for that matter, except that he does not say who pronounces the constitutive rule that iterates the various archeological levels ascending into his linguistic construction of institutional structures.

It is also impossible to place Searle in the social phenomenology camp, because he himself disparages phenomenological idealism. Although he focuses on institutional structure, he is not a subjectivist, because of his approach to social reality through language and concrete speech acts. His Philosophy of Language also makes a more subtle understanding of action possible. The analysis of language discovers action embedded in speech and therefore speech acts, performatives, and performative declarations, as well as the constitutive rule, which all play a crucial role in the creation, maintenance, and destruction of institutions. As Habermas explains, “The theory of speech acts has used [performatives] to establish the inner connection between speaking and acting.”[127] Institutions are language dependent, because Searle carefully proves the strong claim that “each institution requires linguistic elements of the facts within that very institution.”[128]

Thus the two sociological approaches receive a philosophically linguistic grounding in Searle’s approach that now allows speech acts to play a role, where reified structures, on the one hand, were falsely endowed like historical agents with an ability to “act,” and secondly, where not subjectivity, on the other hand, but speaking, either individually or collectively, plays the crucial role in understanding and constructing institutional or social reality. Thus internal to words and language are the actions that can bring social change. Because Searle moves from the philosophy of language with a tour de force into the linguistic construction of institutions, his approach delivers more help than one would expect for understanding continuous creation[129] and social change via language.

In the words of George Herbert Mead, “You cannot convey language as a pure abstraction, you inevitably in some degree convey also the life that lies behind it.”[130] Thus Searle, in his extension and expansion of language philosophy to the social reality lying behind it, gives language a crucial role in the creation, maintenance, and destruction of institutions. Thus his language analysis is more conducive to my theological sense of the performative, i.e., to continuous creation and social change via language.

Although Searle argues that language is also an institution in the broad sense of the term, he does not emphasize the fact that language is a social accomplishment, collectively instituted as well as individually spoken, and of course reified in a variety of technical extensions from writing to printing to its proliferation in the electronic mass media. In the latter mass production of visual as well as speech acts, an individual speaker is often not even heard. But this obvious power to define and shape our realities is not what I am dealing with right now.

Searle is trying to explain how language is intimately and crucially involved in the construction of social reality. The discovery of the performative by J.L. Austin in How to Do Things with Words, by his asking how it is possible that “saying something is actually doing something” brought about the study of speech act theory. It is not an overstatement to say that Searle argues for the linguistic construction of social reality and would underscore, not the “social construction of reality” per se. Berger and Luckmann were on the right track when they called for a sociology of language; language analysis, however, because of John Searle, has started pioneering this field via philosophy.

The sociological method is externally scientific and one would wonder how a sociology of language would relate to the field of linguistics, the scientific study of language. The aversion that linguistics has to the internal is exemplified by its begrudging acceptance of a modicum of meaning in the distinction between phonetics and phonemics. That bias makes it problematic for what needs to progress from an internal perspective. Meaning, collective intentionality, the self, and the mind, all exemplify this truth. Society, institutions, as well as language, also have an internal dimension, without which they become incomprehensible.

In developing his arguments for the strong language claim, i.e., “that each institution requires linguistic elements of the facts within that very institution,”[131] Searle uncovers the constitutive rule of “X counts as Y in C.” Although “counts as” is a performative verb, the constitutive rule (CR) is not a performative, per se, because it is not in the dramatic present and does not contain a first person pronoun. But, of course, if spoken by fiat, it does become a performative declaration. “Let there be light!” if spoken by the One whose speaking is creation, light will come into existence.

Searle notes that the move from the X to the Y is eo ipso a linguistic move, even in cases that have nothing to do with language.[132] In this linguistic move, Searle states that “the Y term [of the CR] must assign some new status that entities named by the X term do not already have, and the new status must be such that human agreement, acceptance, and other forms of collective intentionality are necessary and sufficient to create it.”[133] He continues, “Now, you might think, that is not much of an apparatus to work with, but in fact, as we will see in detail, the mechanism is a powerful engine in the generation of social reality.”[134] Obviously, sociology as an empirical social science, whether in the form of social physics or phenomenology, does not isolate the “inner connection between speaking and acting” (Habermas) in the new way that the Philosophy of Language does; making the latter more conducive to creation and social change via language, the concern of this study.

Searle’s standpoint that the constitutive rule (CR) is a very adequate apparatus to work with, entailing a “powerful engine in the generation of social reality,” relates to this important emphasis on creation and social change via language, because a “linguistic move” is involved from the Y to the X terms. Thus CR interjects language into the heart of social institutions and whether declarations are spoken by fiat or explicitly performative declarations are pronounced, social change via language becomes comprehensible in terms of the creation, maintenance, and destruction of social objects, to use Searle’s words. He offers the governments, money, universities, etc., as examples of “social objects.”[135]

Coming from the analysis of language Searle makes a distinction between social and institutional facts. Not all social facts are language dependent, (a pack of hyenas hunt quite well together without language, is his example). But all institutional facts are language dependent and for such institutional facts, two conditions have to be met: mental representations, such as thoughts, have to be partly constitutive of the fact and secondly, the representations in question must be language dependent.[136] Searle continues, “From the fact that the status function of the Y term can be fulfilled only if it is recognized, accepted, acknowledged, or otherwise believed in, it follows that the institutional fact in question can exist only if it is represented as existing.”[137]

With the last statement, I believe that Searle takes performativity or the creation of social reality to a new level, a higher level of description, if you will. It is one thing to find that “saying something makes it so” on the level of language and action. On this level, we reiterate that Searle defines a performative in terms of executive self-referentiality and by its means, the performative translates an expressed intention into a manifest action. Or when the X term is a speech act, the CR will enable the speech act to be performed as a performative declaration creating the state of affairs described in the Y term.[138] But now on a new and higher level, where such an institution can exist only if it is represented as existing, more than an action becomes manifest. A whole “placeholder for patterns of activities,”[139] i.e., an institution, comes into being.

In this place Searle says that the apparent primacy of social acts over social objects is that these “objects” are really designed to serve agentive functions, and what we think of as social objects, such as governments, money, and universities, are in fact placeholders of patterns of activities. Searle breaks through some of his structural language, like “agentive functions,” for example, by continuing, “I hope that it is clear that the whole operation of agentive functions and collective intentionality is a matter of ongoing activities and the creation of the possibility of more ongoing activities.[140]

The higher level of description ascends from 1/ a promise, where an expressed intention becomes a manifest action to 2/ an operation, like a CR spoken by fiat, where a speech act is given a new status function by a performative declaration, which now creates an institution or a placeholder for a pattern of activities. Such an institution is created for a particular type of ongoing activities carried out collectively by human beings. Again, the more the institution is used the more it is strengthened. It is important for a structural discussion not to eclipse real concrete, historical human beings, because often a structural analysis fails to let them play a role, because of the tendency to reify the structure as if such concrete, historical human beings were irrelevant.

Back to Searle and what I consider his faith statement: a language dependent institution can exist only if it is represented as existing. Then if such an institution exists, it must have been because performative declarations were spoken in the form of the CR, ‘X counts as Y in C’, bringing it into existence through any number of levels of iteration, and with that it became “recognized, accepted, acknowledged, or otherwise collectively believed in.”[141]  Thus the concept of faith comes to mind again and again for the emergence of an institution, especially when Searle says, “A status will exist only if people believe it exists.”[142] In a later place, similarly, Searle states, a representation can be a declaration, which creates the institutional status by representing it as existing.[143]

In this place, Searle also shows that the CR can be made up of the X term only, where it becomes a symbol pointing beyond itself. For examples he offers, kings wearing crowns, husbands and wives wearing wedding rings, etc. In this limiting case, “we treat the X elements themselves as conventional representations of the Y function.”  Here in the limit case of the CR, the X term is a symbol, not only in the sense of it surpassing a sign by pointing beyond itself and participating in what it represents, but in terms of being like a word itself, which is a symbol. Mead called it a significant vocal gesture.

Again Searle refers to a function the same way: “One way to impose a function on an object is just to start using the object to perform that function.”[144]  The presupposition to such action is “believing in” what you are doing and then attaining the collectivization of its acceptance.  In Searle’s apparatus of concepts, by which he analyzes speech acts and performatives, he speaks about a “sincerity condition”: a performative has to be made in good faith and, of course, “It is one thing to talk about a promise and another to make one” (J.L. Austin). A disposition of sincerity as well as collective intentionality, are necessary.

Searle also writes about General Charles De Gaulle during World War II and his insistence that the government and nation of France be recognized, although, indeed, it no longer existed.  Even so he also insisted on its being honored by continuing all the pomp and circumstance as if it did. In that way, he brought about a continuity of France and its government.  Thus Searle states, “One way to create institutional facts in situations where the institution does not exist is simply to act as if it did exist.”[145]

I believe such acting is again a slightly higher level of performative description than the last level, that “an institution can only exist if it is represented as existing.”  Here a whole nation and government are called and maintained in existence, because the General acts as if they existed.  A great deal of faith has to go into that kind of counter-intuitive disposition that acts as if reality (the conquest of France and the Nazi, puppet, Vichy Government of 1940-1944) were not the case. Although they existed, De Gaulle considered them unreal institutions that would be overcome, when victorious France with her very own government would come back into existence.

In this level of performativity, a great deal of faith is involved, and what’s more, precisely a biblical faith.  Listen how the “Epistle to the Hebrews” in the New Testament defines faith:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen….By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible (11:1-3).

The direction of fit that faith stands for in this passage is world-to-word, because to speak biblically, the Word spoken in faith, or more biblically, the Word of God is spoken in faith, because, even though it has no referent, it calls that referent into existence; as St. Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans, “God calls into existence things, which do not exist” (4:17).

In the words of Searle, who would not, of course, think in this theological sense of the performative: “a new state of affairs becomes created” or “the proposition expressed is realized or brought into existence” or “one brings a state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist.”

In another sense of the word “state” from that of the last assertion,[146] we can think of De Gaul’s France: “One way to create institutional facts in situations where the institution does not exist is simply to act as if it did exist.”

Is that the earth-shaking discovery that J.L. Austin sensed, but then felt that it had evaporated into a technicality of language?  Searle sometimes also used such expressions about world change via performatives, but then his direction of fit can be very mundane: (I’m repeating an example:) to fill a shopping cart from a shopping list by placing the items into the cart is world-to-word, because the list is changing the world by moving around objects. But checking whether the items on the list are in the cart is word-to-world, because the words on the list are being checked by the objects in the cart.[147]

Performative Theology

Luther had very much more in mind when he was overcome by awe before the Word of God and when he states in the Bondage of the Will, “For the Word of God comes, whenever it comes, to change and renew the world.” And now to revert to New Testament figures again, look at John the Baptizer. (He was not a Baptist as opposed to being a Lutheran.)  He started using baptism by water to usher people into a new life of repentance.  To use Searle here, “One way to impose a function on an object is to just start using the object to perform that function.”  What do Christians declare to be the new status? “Now your selves are no longer of the old Adam and Eve, but you have become a new species, the species of Christ, as your new selves emerge up out of the water” (to use words of St. Paul, but also those of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin). The old person, the old self is the X term and the water together with the Word of God, declare the one baptized a new person, a new self, the Y term, a very child of God. In Searle’s words, “This status exists only if the people believe that it exists”[148]

When Jesus proclaimed, “The Kingdom of Heaven is near at hand!” to use the language of St. Matthew, then St. Paul would say in Romans, “God calls into existence things that do not exist,” and Searle shows that you can bring that state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist. And Jesus’ proclamation is intended as a performative declaration and because of the continuous creation via language and the executive self-referentiality of I am who I am, almost less faith is needed for Jesus’ Kingdom, than a De Gaulle ever needed for the nation of France. That might be overstated. Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven does require somewhat more faith than that of De Gaulle, but it is of the same quality. To use the words of Luther when he depicts God’s creation via language, “This is surely a new state of affairs, brought about by a new Word.”[149] What is the Kingdom of Heaven? Paul Tillich would speak about a place that transcends every place, a place beyond our present realities, where the New Reality in Jesus Christ is pronounced, in which all the forces of dehumanization and depersonalization are overcome.[150]

Now that does require an increase in faith over that of General De Gaulle, although an abyss of evil swallowed up the world because of the German Nazi genocide and its war machine that had rolled over France as if it had been given a red carpet to walk on.

But in the promises that we claim in good faith, Luther would say, “If you believe it you have it; if you don’t believe it, you don’t have it.” In his Early New High German:

   Glaubstu, so hastu; Glaubstu nit, so hastu nit.

     That kind of faith, then I submit, creates our social realities and a lack thereof brings about their demise.

Searle first thought that a taxonomy of status functions included the symbolic, deontic, honorific, and procedural. The symbolic status functions create meaning; those of the deontic create rights and obligations; the honorific, create status for its own sake; and the procedural, take steps to attain power.[151] But then Searle discovered that they all boil down basically to creation and destruction of power. He specifies that it is the kind of power that does not come out of the barrel of a gun,[152] but in fact grows out of organizations, i.e., systematic arrangements of status functions. Thus it can be argued that these come out of the good faith that performatively declares them into existence for their collective acceptance.

Luther, Performatives, and the Language of Creation

     Luther, of course, precedes Darwin and the theory of evolution. His theological depiction of God’s speaking spontaneously constituting creation, however, can be separated from his sixteenth century grasp of science. His words in his Genesis Commentary are still worth considering from the standpoint of the analogy of God’s speaking as opposed to ours, as well as for the implications of the logos as the uncreated Word of God, i.e., the Second Person of the Trinity.

Luther argues that in the creation there is a plurality of Persons in God, because one Person is that of the speaker and another is that of the Word or logos. He cites Psalm 33:6, “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were established.”[153]

A word of explanation: here heaven and earth should not be thought of in terms of location. Wolfhart Pannenberg would say that the heavens represent what is completely above and beyond human capacity to do and the earth represents those things in which, to a certain extent, we can participate by our own doing.[154] When Searle speaks about external reality, he is speaking about something that is changeable to a degree, as I have argued before. Luther would argue that “change and improvement are two different things: one lies in human hands and God’s ordaining; the other in God’s hands and gracious favor.”[155] The latter is God’s continuous creation even on earth, the former represent changes that need God’s gracious favor to make them improvements of our conditions.

External realities are not unchangeable, except of course because of inherent physical limitations and/or matters of scale. Lead could not be turned into gold by alchemists in medieval days and we cannot cure many cancers today, and although we can change the course of a river, we cannot move the Pacific Ocean. Archimedes said, “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the world.” Language could be our leverage if it is pronounced with executive performativity. Even mountains could be moved. As Jesus said, “Amen I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). And St. Paul says that if he had complete faith, he could move mountains (I Corinthians 13:2), and surely, he also understood a faith that performed these actions via words. Jesus speaks of the mustard seed, because this tiny seed produces a very large bush, meaning that a little faith can accomplish great things.

Often Scripture speaks figuratively and ordinarily with natural objects as metaphors. Mountains can very well represent monumental social breakthroughs for humanity, such as making wars a thing of the past, for example, or subsuming the nations of the world into a harmonious planetary order, in which the powerful states serve the weaker and impoverished ones, and the resources of the earth are no longer wasted on conflict and war and destruction, but are placed at the service of God’s continuous creation, so that this sorry world receives a new and more human social reality with concomitant personal transformation.[156]

Now continuing with Luther’s Commentary on Genesis, more specifically to his passages about creation via the Word, he quotes Psalm 33:6, “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were established,” to bring that passage to mind again. He states that through the Word, as the Second Person of the Trinity, all things were created and preserved until the present day, as said in Hebrews, “Upholding all things by the Word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Now a significant Luther passage verbatim:

Here attention must be called to this, that the words, “Let there be light” are the Words of God, not of Moses; this means that they are realities. For God calls into existence the things which do not exist (Romans 4:17). He does not speak grammatical words; He speaks true and existent realities. Accordingly, that which among us has the sound of a word is a reality with God. Thus sun, moon, heaven, earth, Peter, Paul, I, you, etc. – we are all Words of God; in fact, only one single syllable or letter in comparison with the entire creation. We, too, speak, but only according to the rules of language; that is, we assign names to objects which have already been created. But the divine rule of language is different, namely: when He says, “Sun shine,” the sun is there at once and shines. Thus the words of God are realities, not bare words.[157]

Luther does not interpret the first light to be that of divine intelligence, but one that spontaneously sets the sun shining through God’s declaration, “Let there be light!” Perhaps even thinking that Searle’s performative declaration of the Y Term giving a new status function to a speech act in the X term, as linguistic a move as it may be, might not explain what Luther calls, the divine rule of God’s language. For Luther, the language of God creates ontology, the way human language makes sound. God’s language does not consist of a flow of words, with their referents, i.e., the objects they refer to, merely named; but God’s language brings its very referents into existence. God’s flow of words issues into the creation of what the divine words pronounce and as easily and spontaneously as words coming out of our mouths. In our human language, the rules of grammar obtain, but in God’s language divine rules structure all the realities we live, move, and have our being in.[158]  God’s speaking calls creation into existence and we struggle for the language to understand it.

When Luther says that the Sun, moon, Peter, Paul, you and I are all words of God, J. G. Hamann (1730-1786), a contemporary critic of Immanuel Kant, most likely having read this passage by Luther, wrote, “Every phenomenon of nature was a word”[159] and the difficulty of understanding such statements comes about because the analogy between divine and human language has become a deep metaphor. God’s speech takes place in eternity and his spoken words enter existence here in our history of space, time, and creation. As Luther says,

God through his Word extends his activity from the beginning of the world to its end. For God there is nothing that is earlier or later, swifter or slower; but in His eyes, all things are present things. For He is simply outside the scope of time.[160]

The idea seems to derive from all things communicating the good wishes of the Creator to the creation. And thus all things, even nature or ontology as external and physical are like linguistic symbols or words for Luther, while Searle claims this status only for institutional facts, saying, that these symbolize, mean, and express something beyond themselves in a way that is publicly understandable.[161] Luther and Hamann are saying that brute facts and objective ontology are linguistic as well and language dependent, being God’s Words of the creation. In church language, all the phenomena of nature are the outward signs of God’s invisible grace.[162]

When Searle separates brute reality or external reality from social or institutional reality, it is tempting to keep the idea of creation in the latter realm. But Luther’s point is that the former is also spoken into existence by the Creator. The creation should not be identified with the awakening of our consciousness, as important as that is: (the light in which we see light.) It is not identical with our emergence as sentient beings, nor with the existence of our internal realities alone. God’s creation should not be interpreted as describing our conscious awakening to its phenomenological grandeur, in the way light brings the whole world out of the darkness into visibility. Because creation via language makes visibility a metaphor for existence, the light of the Word brought about all that exists with its visibility. Nor should creation be interpreted narrowly to bring about only life, or even more narrowly, only social life with a social epistemology; nor just life, thought, and crossing the collective threshold of thought, to use concepts Teilhard de Chardin. Creation brings the internal and external into existence.

For the purposes of this study, external reality as featured by Searle, is not an accurate term, because it is also humanly changeable. What exists completely outside of any human existence and our capacities to change and control is also created by God and expresses something beyond itself through the Word of God, for example, when gold is fashioned in the core explosions of supernovas, and scattered with star dust over the earth: that is God speaking.

For God created the internal dimension of life, thought, the self, mind, society, and world, as well. As much as we are enamored more by externals, what would remain for us if we were locked out into a total externality?  In the words of Christ, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” (Luke 17:21). It is from that source that we receive refreshment for our lives and it can be argued that the vital internal dimension is opened by the Philosophy of Language more than empirical sociology.

Searle lists the features that are essential for a full blown natural language: infinite generative capacity, the presence of illocutionary force indicating devices, quantifiers, logical connectives, and most importantly symbols, such as words, that by convention mean or represent or symbolize something beyond themselves, in a way that is publicly understandable.[163]

We have been featuring words in our language of creation and human language analogy all along. How interesting to use the “infinite generative capacity” of language for the purposes of our analogy as well. In God’s language of creation, like our full blown natural languages, the infinite generative capacity is the infinite creativity of God. Using Luther’s words, it would be analogous to the divine rule of language that has infinite ontological creative capacity. Linguistic force can assert, direct, question, promise, command, etc. It is not in the scope of this study to go into the persuasion of rhetoric and/or reason, gentle or even violent use of language, but to limit it to social change that can come about through language as opposed to force of arms. As Luther said, while he slept and drank Wittenberg beer with my friends, the Word did everything and he did nothing. That that language needs to be publicly understandable can be analogous to creation having to be objectively external and have physicality as well, and not only be representative of the internal dimension.

Now in continuing with our citation of Luther, he makes us mindful that the language of God comes out of eternity. We left off with the sentence: “Thus the words of God are realities, not bare words.” Luther continues:

Here men have differentiated between the uncreated Word and the created Word. The created Word is brought into being by the uncreated Word. What else is the entire creation than the Word of God uttered by God, or extended to the outside? But the uncreated Word is a divine thought, an inner command which abides in God, the same as God, yet a distinct Person. Thus God reveals Himself to us as the Speaker who has with Him the uncreated Word, through whom He created the world and all things with the greatest ease, namely by speaking. Accordingly, there is no more effort for God in His creation than there is for us in the mention of it. With thoughts of this kind the good fathers Augustine and Hilary also delighted themselves….[164]

Luther does not speak of the extension abstractly as an

idea extending into existence, the way Descartes will do later, but “the Word of God uttered by God, extends outward.” For Descartes the body may not need to come into being when the idea is extended. He does not need to cross over the boundary of the concrete and can remain in the abstract, the idea in thought as well as an abstract geometric third dimension can still remain in the mind, unless he stipulates extension as existence.  For Luther, however, this extension is a concrete linguistic one, with internal and external dimensions, with sentience and physicality. The Cartesian extension of the idea into existence ignores the suit of clothes the idea wears when it has the physicality of words.[165] The Philosophy of Language shares this sense of concretion, when it speaks of utterances, speech acts, and performatives, making it a vehicle that is also capable of exploring social realities. Luther remains concrete and his ideas are always enfleshed, embodied, not deserting the Incarnation for the sake of conceptual and systematic abstraction.

Luther further maintains that the “uncreated Word is a

divine thought, an inner command that abides in God, the same as God, yet a distinct Person of the Trinity.”  Luther here corrects a thought that I entertained, namely, that God’s thoughts created our internal reality and God’s Word our externality. God’s Thought abides in God and as the uncreated Word and Command of God, the Word having both an internal and external dimension created both the internal and external worlds. Luther also describes the continuous creation as spontaneous creation, like the flow of speech: the way we speak, God’s creation fills nothingness with the whole articulation of our creation.

The analogy here is also situated between the uncreated

Word, as the Word of God, and the created Word, as the creation, that we live in. The uncreated Word is begotten not made. The created Word – the articulation of creaturely existence, is still divine speech and not yet the language that we have learned.[166] Luther asks, “What else is the entire creation than the Word of God uttered by God, or extended to the outside?” To make the point again somewhat more plainly: Luther is no Cartesian dualist. The extension of the Word with physicality and meaning, becomes the external and internal dimensions of our existence. The uncreated Word is a divine Thought. In the Godhead, the internal Word is the blessed Second Person in the perfect relationality, mutuality, reciprocity, and indwelling in the unity of all Three Persons, which is known as the perichoresis of the Holy Trinity.

When Luther struggled with Romans 1:17:  “For in [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith,’” he experienced a language event. The language of God made him righteous via faith, i.e., in the continuous creation of God via the Word, Luther was made righteous. The experience of such a language event creates the person anew and provides a new command of language. Luther is known for his language of address, which speaks right to a person with the performative promises of God. The citation in the second half of the verse is the oracle of Habakkuk (2:4). Luther caught a glimpse of God’s continuous creation in it. “Let there be light” is a divine performative, which opened the gates of paradise once more. The Word of God could not only make a person into a new creation, but renew the face of the earth via the language of creation. In the words of Psalm 104: 30: “When you send forth your spirit [creatures large and small] are created and you renew the face of the earth.”

The following series of citations from Luther reiterate the

themes that come out of Luther’s theological sense of creation via language, the theological sense of the performative, because there is not only an inner connection between speaking and acting, (Habermas) but between divine speaking and creation. Luther says,

We say only this: that these things were created in this manner and are being preserved by the Word as all nature will be changed in the end….[167]

God is the Creator of all things without means, through the Word, “He said” which is far simpler method of procedure [than that of the philosophers]….[168]

[God] governs and preserves these creatures by the power of His Word, by which he also directed them….[169]

Thus we see how the Holy Spirit also has His own language and way of expression, namely, that God, by speaking, created all things and worked through the Word, and that all His works are some words of God, created by the uncreated Word….[170]

St. Paul says that the whole creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8:19). The word “revealing” here should be understood as their continuous creation by being addressed by the language of God. Thus the children of God are Words of God. (Here we are not far from Heidegger’s dictum that human beings are spoken by language.) Becoming Words of God also makes them change and renew the world, for that is what happens, “when the Word of God comes, whenever it comes.” Social change can thus be integrated into the continuous creation, because those who have been addressed by the Word of God become the children of God and learn to speak the language of God that continues the creation to the end of the world, the purpose for which God created it. Thus continuous creation via language includes personal and social change.

In Luther’s day scientists were still called natural philosophers. We will see how Luther has a unique way of understanding how God created the world. He must have followed Thales of Miletus (580 B.C.E.), who taught that the first principle and basic nature of all things was water. The big bang theory in physics and the theory of the evolution of life in today’s science, still agreeing with Luther’s words today, are far more complex than the simple method that God had for speaking the creation into existence. Luther also thinks that the coherence of God’s language preserves, guides, directs, and holds this whole world together.

A passage in the Epistle to the Colossians points out how God contains, sustains, and makes the whole world hold together, in the sense that Luther is writing about:

[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him. He is himself before all things, and in him all things hold together (1:15-17).

     In our lives without language, we are debilitated and shut out into the externals. Language pervades the internal dimension, and it is essential, ubiquitous, pervasive, and typically invisible, to use some Searle phrases.[171]  It mediates all our relations “permeating every nook and cranny of our social lives, and it is a precondition of our active, communicative existence. This could well be a thick description of the human language analogy for God’s language of creation, sustaining, containing, and preserving our whole creation that way, holding the whole universe together. Then Luther goes further to speak about the Word of God as the language of the Holy Spirit. In the following citation, Luther has several more substantial thoughts:

God speaks a mere Word and immediately the birds are brought forth from the water. If the Word is spoken all things are possible, so that out of the water are made either fish or birds. Therefore any bird whatever and any fish whatever are nothing but nouns in the divine rule of language; through this rule of language those things that are impossible, become very easy, while those that are clearly opposite become very much alike, and vice versa.

Nothing, even raising the dead is comparable to the wonderful work of producing a bird out of the water. We do not wonder about these things, because through our daily association with them we have lost our wonderment. [172]

But anyone who believes them and regards them more attentively, he is compelled to wonder at them, and his wonder gradually strengthens his faith. Since God is able to bring forth from the water the heaven and the stars, the size of which either equals or surpasses that of the earth, likewise, since He is able out of a droplet of water to create sun and moon, could He not also defend our body from Satan or, after it has been placed in the grave, revive it for new life? Therefore we must take note of God’s power that we may be completely without doubt about things which God promises in His Word. Here full assurance is given concerning all His promises, nothing is so difficult or so impossible that He could not bring it about by His Word. The heaven, the earth, the sea, and whatever is in them prove that this is true…. [173]

[Luther continues with, God said, God made, God saw, pointing to all three Persons of the Divine Majesty. The verb, “said,” is used for the Father.] Therefore they have attributed the verb “made” to the Person of the Son. The Son has in Himself not only the image of the Divine Majesty but also the image of all created things. Therefore He bestows existence on things. Just as the objects are spoken by the Father, so all things have their existence through the Son and the Word of the Father. To these, however, is joined the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, who “sees” the created things and approves them. [174]

Luther ascribes saying to the Father, making to the Son, and seeing to the Holy Spirit.

In the medieval days, some philosophers developed a speculative grammar, where nouns signified substances and verbs signified becoming, while their infinitives were thought to signify matter.[175] Luther seems to have a conception of performative grammar. Pronouncing the noun, “bird,” brought a bird into existence by the language of creation. He evidently thinks that God made the birds and the fish out of water, along the lines of the first natural philosopher, Thales.[176] Luther associates fish and birds, while in evolution we derive birds from dinosaurs or perhaps reptiles that came out of the water. If the language of creation is spoken by God in eternity, that would not rule out evolution in space-time, although Luther, of course, in no way anticipates Darwin’s theory.

I’m using the phrase, the “language of creation.” Luther speaks of the “divine rule of language.” Grammatical rules are constitutive, witness Habermas’ using Wittgenstein’s game theory to introduce such rules in the origination of language. Luther may have a unative conception of language as well as considering language sub species aeternitatis, because he describes how impossibilities become easy, opposites become alike, and what is alike becomes opposite. Perhaps, more precisely then, a reversibility would describe Luther’s concept of language more than the word “unative.”[177] Very often Luther places opposites together in a creative tension that is at the heart of change. To refer to a Pre-Socratic philosopher again, Heraclitus believed that everything changes and presented many paradoxes that can be described by the concept of the coincidence of opposites.[178] As the inner dynamic of change, it may also perform the reversal, making like things into opposites.

For Luther the creation is the miracle par excellence, a greater one even than raising the dead. We lose our awe and wonder of the creation because we have become so familiar with the miraculous. We have to observe how a child responds to such wonders as a bird, a dog, a flower, when seeing it for the first time.

Luther presents a somewhat less dramatic version of the Big Bang theory, imagining that God created the heavens and stars, sun and moon, out of a droplet of water. He realizes that their size could be equal to or surpass that of the earth. In the Big Bang theory, the universe exploded out of a dimensionless, microscopic, infinitesimal point, and after the first microseconds, the universe exploded from the size of a golf ball into its space-time that can be measured only in light-years. Luther also shared a kind of faith that scientists display today, when through the Big Bang Theory, they describe the origination of the expanding universe.

For Luther in those pre-Cartesian days, the moral dimension has not yet been separated from the physical creation. The One who created the universe by the Word, can also defend us from evil, and God’s promises, God’s divine performatives, can be believed, because the creation witnesses that nothing is too difficult for God, and therefore we can even trust God about raising us up from our graves. In this way the creation speaks to us,[179] assuring us of the almighty creative love of God, who is capable of fulfilling all of the divine promises to us.

Then Luther ascribes three verbs from the creation narrative to the three Persons of the Trinity. God “said” as the Speaker, the Father; God “made” as the Word, the Son; and God “saw” as the Holy Spirit, who affirms that the creation is good.

Hegel must have understood Luther’s following insight into the Second Person, the Son, the Word. Inside his Person, the Son has both the image of the Divine Majesty and the image of all created things. Hegel often has difficulty distinguishing the Incarnation as creation from that of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Seeing the universe in the Body of Christ as its creation and his birth in Bethlehem for the Redemption, has made philosophers feel that Hegel just took Spinoza’s pantheism another step into panentheism or a pantheism of the Second Person of the Trinity.

That the Son bestows existence on all things, is again saying that continuous creation via the Word of God is taking place. That creation can be contained image-wise in the Word while the Word also has the image of the Divine Majesty in Himself, still allows for a distinction and separation to exist between the Second Person of the Trinity and the creation. Speaking about that distinction in terms of the uncreated Word and the created Word makes the Word provide a commonality or a bridge between God and creation. That agrees with Christ having the role of the Mediator, which still presupposes separation of God from the creation and does not necessitate a panentheistic position.

Pantheism holds that God and the world are identical while panentheism holds that God is more while the world is God’s body. Creation is not compatible with both of these philosophical positions. With performatives we are arguing that God’s speaking continues the creation via language and social movements that sincerely believe God’s promises continue the creation, which God declared good, indeed, very good when it came to human beings.

Appendix I.

Definitions of Performatives:

Searle in a lecture of January 18, 1996:

To be performative the semantic content of the verb needs to function essentially and successfully in the saying of the sentence, in the performance of the speech act.

The only semblance of a definition I found hidden away in Austin’s How to Do Things with Words, and not really designated as one:  Performatives begin with a highly significant and unambiguous expression, such as ‘I bet’, ‘I promise’, I bequeath’ an expression very commonly also used in naming the act which, in making such an utterance, I am performing, e.g., betting, promising, bequeathing, etc.[180] It’s syntax shows that reflexivity is being described: “naming an act which, in making such an utterance….” (This is the passage in full length. page 32.)


Appendix II.

The Symbolic Structure of the Declaration

I would now like to make a comparison of the symbolic structures of assertives, directives, and commissives with the structure of the declaration class of speech acts. After reading “How Performatives Work” Searle has shown that the assertive is derived from the declaration and the declaration cannot be derived from the assertive, because the self-guaranteeing aspect of the performative cannot be achieved in this way. When Searle noted in class that the psychological state of the declaration could not be a null set  but was most likely a belief, want, or intention, then the symmetry between the assertive and the directive, comprising the declarative; or the assertive and commissive doing so, seemed to be obvious from a comparison of their symbolic structures:


Just reading this from the symbolic structure certainly does not do enough, but to think that you can change the state of affairs by just representing it as having been changed shows the double nature of the performative declaration. As superficial as this level of description is, it shows that the declaration cannot be a combination of the promise and the order, because then the word to world direction of fit would not be achieved. Thus, belief needs to be a component with the want, desire or intention. The fact that the proposition is combined with an act either by the speaker or hearer is interesting. In a performative declaration, there is the intention which becomes manifest, and the proposition is made true by the speech act. The double direction of fit is achieved, the world to word and the word to world. But while the promise and order speak of a future voluntary act, in this extra-linguistic performative, the action now takes place in the extra-linguistic institution simultaneously with the utterance, just the same way the pure linguistic institutional fact takes place in the promise or the order. It might be worth considering if the promise or order are the prior intention (  p.i. ),  while the future voluntary act is the intention in action ( i.a. ), which of course can only be so in a communicative relationship in an order, because the speaker and the one carrying out the order are different individuals for it, but in the promise the speaker also has the obligation to carry out the future voluntary action, and in this case then, the promise is the promised intention (  p.i. ) for the later intended act ( i.a. ), although other  p.i. (s) may certainly play a role.

Appendix III:


Note how the assertive could be the X term to which the promise or order, the Y term, could give a new status function as a linguistic act C, and how a certain linguistic act, e.g., could count as, or receive a new status function Y term, as an extra-linguistic institutional fact. This is a crude approximation which needs more specification.

In performatives the proposition seems to receive a new status function because of the illocutionary force, and instead of reflecting reality truly or falsely, it actualizes, becoming the actual state of affairs. The intention X has become the manifestation Y in a new act (linguistically) or institution (extra-linguistically). But this cannot be read from the symbolic notation as such. Searle’s F (p) needs more specification.

Examples of knowing the constitutive rules for an extra-linguistic institution, and not needing to know them for the prophetic or supernatural declaration:

Knowing the constitutive rules for an extra-linguistic institution can be illustrated more extensively, as well as the non-requirement in the case of the supernatural declaration: a justice of the peace, a pastor, a rabbi, or a priest may pronounce a couple husband and wife,[181] after the bride and groom have made their speech-act promises. In some states, the clergy person must be registered and needs to have been sworn in (to abide by the laws of that state). The Catholic Church, technically speaking, will not recognize a marriage not carried out by a priest, and will not honor a divorce, only an annulment, etc. The chairperson of a church assembly may not participate in the discussion on the “floor”, but presides over it, accepts the “motions”, stops the discussion when the “question has been called”, and if the “aye votes have it”, then the motion “carries”, and s/he states: “So ordered.” And an “action” of the assembly/council is communicated to all its members and agencies. The parliamentary rules need to be studied and used skillfully to influence these collective speech act declarations.

In the above cases, the linguistic competence of the speaker and hearer are not sufficient for the successful declaration speech acts, but the position and authority of the speaker and the constitutive rules of the extra-linguistic institution obtain as well. But imagine that a contingent of Native Americans burst into a church with all its delegates assembled and in session. The Native Americans begin charging that a building being erected by this denomination was on an Indian burial ground.[182] Without being on the agenda, without having voice or vote, an eloquent speaker charges the assembly with this institutional insensitivity. Now the speaker does not know the parliamentary rules, does not have voice or vote, nor the authority to speak. Here an approach to Searle’s dictum that a supernatural declaration needs no extra-linguistic institution can be seen functioning in this prophetic moment. A higher authority from God is accepted, and the good will toward the Native Americans felt by the delegates brings about an action in the assembly which orders the building constructed at a different site. With this example, a mere inkling of God’s authority appears, which in larger vistas, for the sake of the renewal of all extra-linguistic institutions, can make divine declarations, without any extra-linguistic institution, out of the Word alone, so to speak.[183]

Of course, a much richer performative declaration has been presented above where the state of affairs represented (in the proclamation of the Gospel) is realized or brought into existence by the self-referential (I am who I am) executive (Believer) brings a state of affairs (the Kingdom of Heaven) into existence by declaring it to exist and living in its reality.



[1]Luthers Werke, Weimar Ausgabe, vol. 18: 626. This sentence reminds one of Karl Marx, who stated, in his eleventh thesis on Feuerbach: “Philosophers have merely given the world different interpretations; the point, however, is to change it.” Karl Marx and Friedrich, Engels, Ausgewählte Werke in sechs Bänden, (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1974), p. 200.

[2] Luther writes in his Genesis Commentary: “Through his speaking God makes something out of nothing.” And on the same page: “God is, so to speak, the Speaker, who creates; nevertheless, He does not make use of matter, but He makes heaven and earth out of nothing solely by the Word which He utters.” Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Luther’s Works, Vol. I, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), page 16.

[3] Again Luther in Genesis, “For God calls into existence the things which do not exist (Romans 4:17). He does not speak grammatical words; He speaks true and existent realities. Accordingly, that which among us has the sound of a word is a reality with God” (Ibid., page 21).

[4] Right now I thought that the linguistic performative, in which a verb expressing an intention and in so doing becoming an action, could be one version of other possibilities. Language can bear feelings, thoughts, and even selves from one person to another. Language may also come to us from the signs of nature and thus do away with Searle’s brute versus socio-linguistic reality distinction (Jürgen Moltmann, Sein Name ist Gerechtigkeit, (München: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2008). See footnote 101.

[5]J.L. Austin, How to do things with Words, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1962), p. 7.

[6]Ibid, p. 3-4 and p. 5.

[7]John R. Searle, Expression and Meaning, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 29. Searle also takes into account, direction of fit, sincerity condition or psychological state, and the proposition or one of its transformations as property, state, or act.

For Searle’s five classes of performatives, see their symbolic representations toward the end of this paper.

[8]Ibid., p. 17-18.

[9]At University of California in Berkeley, on January, 25, 1996.

[10]John R. Searle, Expression and Meaning, p.18.

Searle can also make the world-changing language seem very trivial, however. One direction of fit bends language to correspond to the world, while the other bends the world to correspond to the language. He illustrates the two with an example of a shopping cart. When filling it with items from a list, you are changing the world with your words. When at the check-out counter, you check if you have everything on your list, you are making the words correspond to the world by checking to see if you have each item on the list.

[11]John R. Searle, Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 66. See their symbolic representations at the end of this paper.

[12]Searle now feels that this explanation cannot be right. The illocutionary force indicating devise does not capture what really happens in the performative. He corrects it with the self-referential executive theory in his article “How Performatives Work”. (See below.)

[13]John R. Searle, Expression and Meaning, p. 16.

[14]J. R. Searle, Expression and Meaning, p. 18. Searle mentions these declarations as one of the two exceptions to the rule of the extra-linguistic institution requirement, and concerned only with language itself. This group of speech acts does not concern our subject.

[15]John R. Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, (New York: The Free Press, 1995), p. 54.

[16]Ibid., Searle leaves out the term “declaration” in this heading. It reads: “The Use of Performative Utterances in the Creation of Institutional Facts”.


[18] Ibid.

[19]John R. Searle, “How Performatives Work”, Linguistics and Philosophy 12: 535-558, 1989. The Construction of Social Reality was, of course, written by Searle in 1995, but I myself discovered Searle’s “How Performatives Work” at this point in my study.

[20]Ibid., p. 543-544.

[21]Ibid., p. 552.

[22]Ibid., p. 553. Interestingly enough, theologically, we could argue that God’s name, “I am who I am” is executively self-referential and thus is the One who calls us into existence.

Intentions are internal. The executive self-referentiality seen internal to meaning and the speaker in the first person pronoun singular: “I”. Of course, everyone walks around, lives, moves, and has his or her being in this “I”, because it is indexical, i.e., everyone refers to him or herself by saying “I”.


[24]Ibid., p. 556.

[25]Ibid., p. 549 and 554-555.

[26] When saying “which language as such performs as well” it should not mislead us to think that there is autonomous language. Whereas writing or speech stands by itself and has an independent life of its own, e.g., even in sound, when recorded; originally language has to have had a speaker and hearer to have communicative action take place, to use Habermas’ term.

[27]The term “supernatural” is very foreign to Lutheran theology.

[28] Once we had a whole healing service for a pastor dying of lung cancer. We all believed fervently for his healing. He reported that the service made him feel good, but it did not cure him. I had to deal with angry feelings toward God for a while thereafter. It felt like I had steel in my chest and like I had gotten in trouble with God for a while. The pastor died about three months after the service.

[29] I thank John Searle’s Teaching Assistant, Eric Kaplan for some of this critique.

[30] Ibid.

[31] LW 1:16. WA 42:13.

[32] LW 1:21. WA 42:16-17.

[33] WA 4:380.15-18. Quoted from James Samuel Preus, From Shadow to Promise, (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of the Hard University Press, 1969), p. 253. John Searle also has a similar statement: “An utterance is an intentional performance, a manifestation of the human mind. I shiver when I think about this” (from January 16th 1996 Lecture in his course: Philosophy of Language, at University of California at Berkeley).

[34] Perhaps language always has the ability to issue into actions that shape new realities and these can again issue back into language. Thus Habermas calls language the currency of the life-world, because similarly, things change into money and money can be changed back into things.

[35] About the Reformation movement Luther states:

“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26-29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip [Melanchthon] and Amsdorf, the Word so weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”  (T. Lull, ed., MLBTW, p. 421-422. LW 51:77. WA 10III: 18c-19c.) Luther here makes a contrast between God’s Word and the use of force, but he saw God doing battle through the word, i.e., his publications, which, at the time, were coming off the presses in many cities.

[36] Mark D. Jordan, “Words and Word: Incarnation and Signification in Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana” in Augustinian Studies 11:177-96, (1980), p. 187.

[37]Ibid. See Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1959).

[38] Ibid. To translate the Latin: Two sorts of human words (internal words/words spoken out loud) are meant to explicate the Incarnation of the eternal Word.

[39] Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, (New York: Harper Rowe, Publishers, 1971), p. 132.

[40] Ibid., p. 192.

[41] Luther says, “One who hears the word becomes like the word, pure, good, and just” [Philip and Peter Krey, editors, Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), vide page 74-75 and footnote 18 on page 268]. Perhaps Luther refers here to the Word of God, Jesus Christ, as “the word become flesh,” i.e., a human being.

[42] Language sometimes constitutes action and must in some way launch social movements. But I cannot as yet provide the connection.

[43] Anselm Strauss, ed., George Herbert Mead: On Social Psychology, (The University of Chicago Press, 1956). G.H. Mead has an interesting theory of the origination of language from gestures made by humans in a social act. Mead is famous for his concept of the “generalized other”. I will cite his words describing reflexivity again: “The vocal gesture becomes a significant symbol…when it has the same effect on the individual making it that it has on the individual to whom it is addressed or who explicitly responds to it, and thus involves a reference to the self of the individual making it” (page 15).

[44] What follows is a subtle reflection on how a returning to itself can be a sin as well as a good, such as attaining a higher level of consciousness or a higher status function. Perhaps it would be easier to follow Paul Tillich and just say that all human phenomena are ambiguous, capable of being used negatively and positively, for evil or for good.

[45]Austin, p. 32. I rearranged Austin’s cumbersome definition without changing its substance.

[46] Ibid.

[47] It would help to investigate if self-reference in the one case takes place on the level of meaning, while in other in language per se, in the structure of language itself.

[48] See the more precise description of Mead’s reflexivity by Habermas page 23 of this study.

[49] See Teilhard de Chardin, Phenomenon of Man, (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1959), page 72: Consider the thought of Teilhard: “Matter no longer spreads out beneath our eyes in diffuse and undefinable layers. It coils up around itself in a closed volume. How will its ‘inner’ layer react to such involution?” On the next page Teilhard says “the “growth of the ‘within’ only takes place in the doubly related involution, the coiling of the molecule upon itself and the coiling up of the planet upon itself.” And page 61: “We are seeking a qualitative law of development that from sphere to sphere should be capable of explaining, first of all the invisibility, then the appearance, and then the gradual dominance of the within in comparison to the without of things. This law reveals at once the universe is thought of as passing from State A, characterized by a large number of very simple material elements (that is to say, a very poor within), to State B defined by a smaller number of complex groupings (that is to say with a much richer within.” My intuition takes Teilhard’s theory of cosmogony, where he speaks of crossing “a strange point of in-rolling interiorization” (page 48) into language and the interiorization of the self, mind, society, and world via reflexivity. I am extending his “spectrum of the ‘within’” (page 307) through language to the self, the mind, society, and world. Teilhard’s crossing the “collective threshold of thought” aligns with my intuition here and the word “reflect” can be seen as the mind turned back upon itself, the within first upon the without, and then proceeding into richer and deeper levels. Teilhard is, of course, thinking in terms of an evolutionary genesis: the birth of life, the birth of thought, and then crossing the threshold of collective thought. Teilhard’s involutions make me think of the involuted form of the brain, where I imagine the “reflexivity” is biologically extremely complex.

[50] This citation is from a Searle lecture at University of California at Berkeley on January 18, 1996.

[51] The following statement is not reflexive, but repetitive and used to underscore commitment: “Saying you are going to do something, means you are going to do it.” This is also not a disquotational statement (See Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 201), because it does not speak about words and their meaning, but words and their fulfillment with action. The action will demonstrate that you mean the words, i.e., your intentionality is sincere. Saying will mean doing: the communication assures the hearer of follow-through.

The first of the three principles of thought, the principle of identity is similar, but remains abstract in relation to action: “If any statement is true, then it is true.” Here it might be considered reflexive, in that the consequence loops back to the antecedent of this conditional making it a valid Modus ponens argument.

[52] G.H. Mead, page 158.

[53] To say: “I shave myself” makes “to shave” a reflexive verb, because its subject does both the acting and the receiving of the action; “myself” is a reflexive pronoun, because it turns the action of the verb back upon its subject.

[54] This reflexivity reminds me of a cartoon: GI Joe is asked by an illiterate comrade to read a letter from his lover back home. He holds his fingers in GI Joe’s ears, so that he cannot hear her words, thinking that way he won’t know what her intimate words say. But of course, if he is reading it, then he has the internal words or thoughts directly from his sight and he does not have to hear them to know what they say. Reading words we now no longer need the physicality of sound to understand them.

[55] Ibid., pages 158-159.

[56] Even if I am building on Teilhard, I confess that this assertion and following ones rely mostly on my intuition. Pierre Bourdieu champions intuitions, because they verify or falsify themselves in empirical operations. (Admittedly, I cannot speak of “empirical operations” in my work.) But if my intuitions are incorrect, then their correction will hopefully be fruitful. See Pierre Bourdieu and Loїc Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, (University of Chicago Press, 1992), page 108, footnote 62. I realize, however, that my study remains very theoretical.

[57] This is a hypothesis, psychological in nature beyond sociology even. Instead of meaning to self, one could say word to self, but because the word has physicality, it would have to be the word to the embodied self. I wonder how the physicality of words relate to actions as in speech acts? We can speak of ideas in order to strip words of their physicality, but the Philosophy of Language emphasizes physicality, e.g., going from abstract sentences to more concrete utterances, to the “total speech act in the total situation” (Austin), and further to language events.

[58] G. H. Mead, page xxi.

[59]  Jürgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume Two, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), page 5. Habermas believes that Mead simplifies the account of the emergence of language and he cannot claim that the ego and the alter, to use his terms, already arrive at the same meaning. Mead views linguistic communication almost exclusively under the following two aspects: social integration of goal-directedness and the socialization of subjects capable of acting. He neglects the mutual understanding and the internal structures of language.

[60] G. H. Mead, page 348. For Mead socially communicative action as conceived by Habermas seems to be understood. From a social act in which the individuals adjust themselves toward each other by means of gestures, he theorizes the evolution of language – from gestures to vocal gestures or words. Mead thus describes the emergence of gestures, language, and selves, going on with the emergence of minds and society in a social process.

[61]  Peter and Philip Krey, Luther’s Spirituality, page 90. WA 7:38.6-15.

[62] Paul Tillich sees our social nature as capable of an “I-Thou” relationship as well. Vide: “The Person in a Technical Society,” in John Hutchison, editor, Christian Faith and Social Action, (New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1953), page 148.

[63] It is necessary to differentiate between a social psychological process of today and a theory of its evolutionary origination, and its questionable recapitulation in the social psychological process of today. In this internal socio-psychological morphology, if I am permitted biological words, it must be said that ontogeny does not recapitulate phylogeny. In child development, the baby seems to have a pre-lingual self and it may well be that its mind is already well “formatted” for the learning of language. In the evolutionary origination of the self, it may have been initiated by the reflexive lingual address, i.e., being spoken to. Also moving from pre-history to history, for the question of the origination of language, primal languages have to be involved and they become the mother languages of various language families. Mead’s theory of language originating from gestures would relate to the development of a primal language.

A woman disagreed with my comment here. When she was pregnant, she did not feel like the embryo was part of her body, but another growing in her body. But a mother’s mentality is distinct from her baby’s.

[64] Jürgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume Two, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989). Notice we are in an inner reality. Habermas is theorizing about “the construction of the inner world.” This inner world, I am arguing, is constructed by Mead’s reflexivity. But reflexivity takes various forms. Perhaps one form becomes the social extensive self and another form becomes the deep psychological self in their respective social and personality orders. This kind of theory cannot be proven by strict logical argumentation because it does not remain in pure philosophy, because it is exploring social psychological development. Searle cannot use such argumentation either until the end of his study, The Construction of Social Reality, in which he is no longer dealing with language and institutions, but purely philosophical questions. My relating reflexivity and internalization is supported by Teilhard de Chardin, but some criticize his thinking as poetic, so my theory still remains intuitive in delving into different contours of the inner world.

[65] Ibid., page 15.

[66] Ibid., page 24.

[67] Ibid., page 9. The elision in this citation is Habermas’ inclusion of Piaget’s “interiorizing” action schemata and Freud’s “internalizing” relations to social objects. Mead’s finding that the internal self emerges in this reflexive appropriation of the other’s meaning, attitude, or self, is much like the appropriation of the self-functions from an other in Kohut’s Self Psychology. Habermas even mentions assimilation and mirroring, since he uses the words, “Aneignung” and “Spiegelung.”

[68] The Construction of Social Reality, page 98. That the institution was a potlatch feast and such was left out of the citation. In a lecture during course, Searle noted that the internal and the external dissolve as distinctions at a higher level of description.

[69]Ibid., page 52.

[70] Ibid., page 32-33.

[71] Ibid.

[72] When standing between mirrors, so that looking in the front one makes you see yourself in the back one, an infinite regression or progression is seen that tends to seem as if it enters a depth, where at last your image is so far way that it can no longer be seen.

[73] Teilhard de Chardin, Phenomenon of Man, page 48 in the footnote.

[74] The call is usually for the study of science, technology, and mathematics and furthering those frontiers of knowledge are indeed important. But our social problems have come to the point where a person “walking around being a bomb ready to explode” is no longer a metaphor. Throwing light on our human condition, the immediate social emergency, and the present crying need, for which scientific and technological solutions are irrelevant or exacerbate the human failing, is certainly also of utmost importance. We used to speak of the culture/ technology gap, and now we speak as if technology itself can close the gap!

[75] The Construction of Social Reality, page 121.

[76] Anselm Strauss, editor, George Herbert Mead on Social Psychology, page xii.

[77] Emile Durkheim counters those who argue that “it is not only paradoxical but ridiculous for us to compare the realities of the social world with those of the external world. But our critics have curiously misinterpreted the meaning and impact of this analogy, for it was not our intention to reduce the higher to the lower forms of being, but merely to claim for the higher forms a degree of reality at least equal to that which is granted the lower. We assert not that social facts are material things, but that they are things by the same right as material things, although they differ from them in type.” George Simpson, editor, Emile Durkheim, (New York: Thomas A. Crowell Company, 1963), page 28. Obviously, Durkheim does not erase external reality in the slightest by his position.

[78] The Construction of Social Reality, page 112. Searle qualifies his statements carefully in other places, e.g., “but my account is right as far as it goes…” (page 29).

[79] Ibid., pages 121-122.      [80] Ibid., page 126.             [81] Ibid., page 114.

[82] Ibid., page 88.                  [83] Ibid., page 90.                 [84] Ibid., page 91.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Ibid. Also see Searle’s discussion that continues with, “One of the great illusions of the era is that ‘In fact power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’ In fact power grows out of organizations, i.e., systematic arrangements of status-functions. And in such organizations the unfortunate person with a gun is likely to be among the least powerful and the most exposed to danger” (page 117-118).

[87] Ibid. See pages 211 and then compare that with his earlier usage of social, institutional and functional facts. See page 34 or 122, just as one of many, many examples.

[88] Ibid. On page 122 itself, he uses it 24 times. And that’s a fact!

[89] Ibid., page 183.

[90]  Paul Tillich’s concept. See Faith and Social Action, page 146.

[91]  I will say more about Searle’s use of the word “facts” later.

[92] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, pages 36 and 56-57. (The italics are his).

[93] Ibid., page 57.

[94] Ibid., page 29.

[95] George Simpson, editor, Emile Durkheim, (New York: Thomas A. Crowell Company, 1963), page 36.

[96] Ibid., page 179.

[97] Ibid., page 191. On the cover of Searle’s book jacket, a “brute reality” is referred to that seems to oppose social change: “The Social Construction of Reality is an original exposition of the structure of social facts and a powerful defense of the logical priority of brute reality that is independent of human agreement, a reality that provides the foundation for all social phenomena.”

[98] Ibid., page 63.

[99] Ibid., page 57.

[100] Ibid., page 208, 211, and 112. some of Searle’s ideas in the final purely philosophical chapters of his book are not informed by the insights that he gained in the course of his study. In the Preface he notes that these three chapters were written first and then tagged onto the end of his book.

[101] Ibid., page 211. Jürgen Moltmann would critique Searle’s concept of brute facts, saying they are linguistic in the sense of being signs. The difference is inherent in the scientific division of nature to conquer and harness it for our use and standing in awe of the whole of nature as it speaks to us. See for a critique of Searle’s approach to facts, which he separates from signs.

[102] Ibid., page 60.

[103] Fred R. Shapiro has questioned whether or not this prayer really derives from Reinhold Niebuhr. Similar prayers recorded in newspapers from a YWCA source, Miss Mildred Pinkerton, and from another social agency source, Miss Constance Leigh, date back to 1936 and 1938. Niebuhr, who thought he wrote it in 1943, may have blended these prayers for his own use as a preacher or his prayer might have been used by these sources, who may have heard him preaching or speaking. See New York Times, 7/12/2008, page A1 and A12. The prayer’s sober nature bespeaks the spirit of Niebuhr’s Christian realism.

[104] John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 227. Compare this George Herbert Mead citation with that of Searle’s. It is obvious why Mead is used to defend against biological reductionism in psychology and he is useful when it appears in philosophy, as well. Mead states,

Out of language emerges the field of the mind. It is absurd to look at the mind simply from the standpoint of the individual human organism; for although it has a focus there, it is essentially a social phenomenon; even its biological functions are primarily social.[104]

George Herbert Mead, On Social Psychology, Anselm Strauss, ed., (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1956), p. 195.

[105] Lars Udehn in Methodological Individualism, (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), p. 349.

[106]These citations are from Searle’s Lecture of May 2, 1996. As opposed to the statement of the book jacket, these Searle assertions imply the changeability of the institutions of society. Because of the speech act structure of institutions, performativity can be considered crucial to its change.

[107] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 41. I did not notice that Searle might want his concept of a “basic ontology” to include lower and higher realities, brute ones all the way up to institutional ones. But I do not think that this philosophical conception can bear the weight of all the sui generis principles inherent in the diverse social and physical sciences he is referring to.

[108] Ibid., page 25-26. I wonder if people are more like ducks and geese, that collectively flock together, or like chickens that go all over the place and require pen to keep them together?

[109] Ibid., page 37. He does not explain the latter part of this citation.

[110] Alselm Strauss, George Herbert Mead, page 242.

[111] Ibid., page 243.

[112] Ibid. Mead certainly features the social process here, even saying that it produces mind.

[113] George Simpson, Editor, Emile Durkheim, page 3.

[114] Ibid., page 25. I wonder if collective representations (Durkheim’s term) could be compared with collective intentionality (Searle’s term). These two terms could designate the same social-linguistic fabric from the diverse perspectives of Sociology and the Philosophy of Language.

[115] Emile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method, Steven Lukes, ed., W.D. Halls, trans., (New York: The Free Press, 982), page 177. Durkheim states, “The assertion of the unity of nature was indeed not adequate for social facts to become the content of a new science. Materialistic monism likewise postulates that man is a part of nature, but by making human life, whether of individuals or of societies, a mere epiphenomenon of physical forces, it renders both sociology and psychology useless. On this view sociological phenomena, like individual representations, appear as if assimilated to their substratum….”

[116] George Simpson, editor, Emile Durkheim, page 18.

[117] Ibid., page 31.

[118] Anselm Strauss, Mead Social Psychology, page 258. In Mead’s words, “You cannot convey language as a pure abstraction, you inevitable in some degree convey also the life that lies behind it.” Thus philosophy turns upon language as its object, and continues with the society that lies behind it, the society that it pronounces, to use my words, viz., making a theory of institutionalization by means of speech acts and attempting various logical formulae in their description. To pronounce the society, the constitutive rule could be used performatively as a fiat, and thus, as I will theorize hereafter, it becomes a “powerful engine in the generation of social reality” (Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 51).

[119] George Simpson, Editor, Emile Durkheim, pages 29-30. For Durkheim, to penetrate the social world is to penetrate the unknown, a vast new continent to be explored. He maintains that social phenomena are external to the individual (page 29). They represent a social and moral force upon individuals from without, indeed, a constraint, a coercive force. He too sees in the word “institution” as in “collectively instituted,” a word that “well expresses this special mode of reality, provided that the ordinary significance of it be slightly extended” (page 30). Thus sociology can be defined as the science of institutions. Its objective methodology for social facts is their concomitant variation or correlation searching for a direct proof that they are united by an internal bond (page 36). Sociology also uses interviews, opinion surveys, and statistical analysis for causal effects and functions that benefit social ends. Social life is roughly defined as a correspondence between internal and external milieu, the active agentive milieu, being human beings (page 32-33). Searle would specify Durkheim’s active milieu further with performative speech acts. Durkheim excludes philosophers from sociology but was not aware of the expertise of the philosophers of language.

Note that because it has physicality, language also has external reality as well as internal dimensions, such as meaning and intentionality. Thus language can also be said to have internal and external milieu.

[120] Searle explores the internal dimension of society or institutions via Language Philosophy, meanwhile championing external reality (ER).

[121] Searle, the philosopher is fighting back, it appears. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, in The Social Construction of Reality, (Garden City, New York: Double Day & Company, Inc., 1967), speak of society as objective reality and subjective reality and pretty much replace philosophy with social theory. They speak about a sociology of language that needs to be explored. Perhaps because of the linguistic turn of philosophy, they believe that philosophy deserted the battle for epistemology and metaphysics and sociologist have stepped in their place with a philosophical anthropology that subscribes to a sociology of knowledge and a socially produced reality for the legitimation of the social order, leaving humankind with the conflict of symbolic universes and worlds. Thus it seems that Searle, by means of the philosophy of language is trying to reassert the universality of Philosophical ontology, but without having sufficiently taken the sui generis domains and principles of the social sciences into account.

I believe it is one thing to write philosophy against sociology and the other social sciences, and quite another thing to write philosophy, having appropriated the profit of the social sciences; just like I can imagine a philosopher returning from a focus on language back to philosophy with a profit.

[122] Pierre Bourdieu and Loїc Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, (University of Chicago Press, 1992), page 7.

[123] Ibid., page 8.

[124] Ibid., page 9.

[125] Ibid.

[126] Ibid., I’ve tried to make Wacquant’s sentence here more comprehensible by mixing in some of the concepts from Emile Durkheim.

[127] Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. II, page 62.

[128] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, pages 60-78.

[129] Luther did not see creation as having happened at the beginning of the world, as a thing of the past; he considered it as on-going.

[130] Anselm Strauss, George Herbert Mead, page 258.

[131] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 60.

[132] Ibid., page 63.        [133] Ibid., page 51.         [134] Ibid.        [135] Ibid., page 57.

[136] Ibid., page 62.        [137] Ibid., page 62-63.    [138] Ibid., page 54.    [139] Ibid., page 57.

[140] Ibid.         [141] Ibid., p. 63.       [142] Ibid., p. 69.     [143] Ibid., p. 74.

[144] Ibid., p. 126.             [145] Ibid., p. 118.

[146] Going from the first sense of the word “state” to the second, there is a move from the epistemic to the ontic social entity. Many words have the same pattern.

[147] This example comes from a Searle lecture at University of California at Berkeley, his Philosophy of Language course, in the Spring semester, 1996.

Searle has a humorous illustration to help understand his direction-of-fit concept.  It is non-linguistic and uncontroversial. “If Cinderella goes into a shoe store to buy a new pair of shoes, she takes her foot size as a given and seeks shoes to fit (shoe-to-foot direction of fit).  But when the prince seeks the owner of the shoe, he takes the shoe as a given and seeks a foot to fit the shoe (foot-to-shoe direction of fit). Searle, Intentionality, page 8n.

[148] Searle, The Social Construction of Reality, p. 69. He continues, “And reasons function only if people accept them as reasons.”  Thus, if someone does not believe in baptism, this institution will hardly exist for that person. Objectively, however, it is powerfully real for Christian believers.

[149] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 76. Here Luther is speaking about how birds like the peacock are created by God through language. The serpent also first had legs and by God’s pronouncement, then had to creep on its belly.

[150] John A. Hutchison, ed., Christian Faith and Social Action, page 153.

[151] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, pages 109-110.

[152] Ibid., p. 117.

[153] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 20. These passages can be found in the definitive Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works, volume 42, pages 16ff.

[154] From a guest lecture at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, by Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Luther’s Contribution to Christian Spirituality,” October 7, 1999.

[155] From Luther’s 101 Psalm Commentary (1534), H. H. Borcherdt and George Merz, editors. Martin Luther: Ausgewählte Werke, vol. 5, 2nd ed.,(Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1936), p. 428. WA 51:200-264, (my translation).

[156] I do not believe that change of the social order necessarily entails personal transformation or vice versa. From my observation the change of the social order of the socialist German Democratic Republic did not seem to accomplish personal transformation.

[157] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 21-22. WA 42: 16-17.

[158] Luther’s divine rule of language reminds me of Leibniz’s universal, logically perfect language. “Like Galileo,” William Lawhead states, “Leibniz believed the universe a harmonious system written in a mathematical language by God.” See William F. Lawhead, Voyage of Discovery: a Historical Introduction to Philosophy, 2nd Edition, (Stamford, CT: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning, 2002), page 258-259. Lawhead explains that Leibniz broke mathematics, geometry, jurisprudence to their most elemental units. Thus he discovered the binary system of counting made up of 1 and 0. He used simple triangles and circles for geometry; action, promise, sale, for jurisprudence in order to get to a comprehensive symbolic alphabet of human thought. His purpose was to make the grammar of this symbolic language correspond to the logical structure of the world. Which symbols followed which by the new grammatical rules would yield the solutions to controversies and necessarily lead to the discovery of new truths. (Ibid.)  Luther’s language of God, however, spontaneously speaking things into existence, goes farther than Leibniz.

[159] Walter Leibrecht, God and Man in the Thought of Hamann, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 43.

[160] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 76. WA 42: 57-58.

[161] Searle, The Social Construction of Reality, p. 60 and 66.

[162] Luther added the crucial role of the Word in his teaching about the sacraments. The critique that Luther’s Theology of the Word verbalizes reality, places human language where the ontology of God’s language belongs.

I will bring insights of Jürgen Moltmann to bear here from his new book, Sein Name ist Gerechtigkeit, (München: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2008). I will be able to argue that nature itself is brought into being by speech. For example, reading his discussion about genetic codes, it occurred to me that they could be considered biological performatives producing the living organism which they are expressing. But their language, their speech acts are those of God. Moltmann argues that facts of nature are a reductionism of modern science, because nature also contains signs that speak to conscious human life. Thus Moltmann would surely be adverse to what Searle calls brute facts. See footnotes 4 and 101.

[163] Ibid., page 60-61. The italics are his.

[164] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 21-22.

[165] When Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” he thought he was merely in the ideas of the mind, but those words themselves have physicality, body.

[166] We saw how Augustine presented the divine Word as opposed to human words.

[167] Ibid., p. 31.

[168] Ibid., p. 33.

[169] Ibid., p. 47.

[170] Ibid.

[171] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, p. 94. I use some of Searle’s language here. He is speaking, however, about “institutional power relations through collectively imposed status-functions.” Searle says, “Institutional power relations are ubiquitous and essential. Institutional power – massive, pervasive, and typically invisible – permeates every nook and cranny of our social lives, and as such it is not a threat to liberal values but rather the precondition of their existence.” (page 94)

[172] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1 , p. 49. WA 42: 36-37.

[173] Ibid.

[174] Ibid., p. 49-50.

[175] See F.C. Copleston, A History of Medieval Philosophy, (New York: Harper Torch Books,1972), pages 169-170.

[176] In the biblical narrative of the creation, God first creates the heavens and the earth, with the implication of creation out of nothing. But “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” Then the Spirit of God, the Breath of God, a mighty wind [Ruach Elohim] swept over the face of the waters. After the creation of light, space is created by separating the waters of the sky from that of the earth and then gathering the waters of the earth into oceans, so that the dry land forms continents. Then on the fifth day God says, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures.* And let the birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky” (Genesis 1:20). Thales thought water was the first principle and source of all life. Luther interprets this passage to mean that birds and other animals were later created out of water. Thus creation ex nihilo need not apply for the continuation of God’s creation, according to Luther. *Luther interprets this sentence (my italics) to mean creation. It might just mean the living creatures came out of the water.

[177] The unative concept may still apply for the identity or unity of opposites.

[178] While searching through Heraclitus fragments, I found that he himself did not actually use the concept “coincidence of opposites.” Interestingly enough, what he says about fire can be true for language as well. “Everything is compensation for fire and fire is compensation for everything, as goods are for gold and gold are for goods” (from Robin Waterfield, The First Philosophers, (Oxford University Press, 2000), page 42).  Habermas speaks of language as the currency for the life-world as money is, for the economic system.  Thus everything can be turned into language and be brought back into existence out of language again. Like money it can also be a store-house or a treasury of value in the meantime.

[179] Moltmann asserts that every environment is filled by meaningful symbols and that the speech of nature is directed to people (my translation). Sein Name ist Gerechtigkeit, page 175.

[180]Austin, p. 32.

[181]To pronounce them “man and wife” does an injustice to women, because it places the woman into a role and the man into the dignity of his person. Thus, by the first speech act itself the marriage institution is launched with an inequality of privilege and responsibility.

[182]This scenario is fictitious.

[183]Solum verbum (the word alone) was an important tenet of the Reformation.

Selected Bibliography

J.L. Austin. How to do things with Words. Cambridge, Mass:         Harvard University Press, 1962.

John R. Searle. Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of         Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

————-. The Philosophy of Language. Oxford: The Oxford      University Press, 1971.

————–. Expression and Meaning.  Cambridge: Cambridge      University Press, 1979.

————–. Intentionality. Cambridge: Cambridge University    Press, 1983.

————–.  The Construction of Social Reality. New York: The

Free Press, 1995.

Articles from Journals:

John R. Searle. “Austin On Locutionary and Illocutionary Acts”.    Philosophical Review 77: 405-424, October, 1968.

————–.”How Performatives Work”. Linguistics and           Philosophy 12: 535-558, 1989.

Luthers Werke. Vol. 18.  Weimar Ausgabe.

George Herbert Mead. On Social Psychology. Anselm Strauss, ed.     Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1956.

Karl Marx and Friedrich. Engels,  Ausgewählte Werke in sechs Bänden. Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1974.

Paul Ricoeur. The Conflict of Interpretations. Evanston:           Northwestern University press, 1974.

W.T. Stace. The Philophy of Hegel. New York: Dover Publications,   1955; originally 1924.


Written by peterkrey

May 30, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Conversion of the World into God’s Creation: a Reaction to a sermon at St. Paulus in San Francisco, May 14th, 2017

leave a comment »

Text: John 14:1-31

14‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe* in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?*3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’* 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know* my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me* for anything, I will do it.

The Conversion of the World into God’s Creation

At St. Paulus in San Francisco, Pastor Dan Solberg’s sermon moved me deeply. He has a very existentialist bent and his style, to have a collaborative sermon in asking the congregation questions, lets all who would, participate.

“If you had one question you could ask God, what would it be?” he asked.

One person asked, “Why does God damn so many people and only save a few?”

I asked, “Is the afterlife here on earth or elsewhere or in some sense inside us and to become real?” I know that Jürgen Moltmann teaches that eternal life starts right here and now with our baptism. “Passion is loving something enough to suffer for it.” is one of his quotes.

I thought that if God really does have a hell, then he would be a dictator like Hitler running a concentration camp. God is not like that. Jesus relates to Thomas that God is reflected in him, that when he wants to see God he merely has to contemplate Jesus. And if that does not convince him, then to believe Jesus because of his works. Thomas had asked Jesus to show him the Father and Jesus says, ”So long I have been with you and you do not recognize me?…I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

“So it’s just Jesus, not some omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, but this vulnerable human being oriented to life and healing.” Pastor Solberg maintained. Long ago it struck me that  Jesus did not run military campaigns to enhance his power to rule God’s kingdom, but healing campaigns. He wanted to bring the renewal of life to scale by sending out the twelve and then the seventy – twelve for the twelve tribes and seventy for all the nations on earth.

The truth of the matter is that we make lives a living hell here on earth, for example, Assad with a crematorium in his prison to burn all the bodies of those of his own people whom he tortured and murdered. Jesus was ushering in the new creation out of his “I am” and our “I am’s” as the way, truth, and life in the Gospel of John. The world is locked into coercion that threatens violence and death to those who speak truth to power or get outside of a tyrant’s control. Stalin, “Trust is good; control is better.” Jesus would say, “Some control is necessary, but trust is better.”

Jesus showed us the way below the way of the world, unfolding God’s creation, which is based on love, healing, and forgiveness, which in turn is about spreading abundant life. With deep feelings I felt that we are in a vortex which had swirled upward into distortions of God’s creation and Jesus was bringing about a conversion of the world back to God’s creation by his healing, life, love, and forgiveness.

But we are all still locked in the archeological layers of violence, coercion and fear and in Jesus God is going below these layers and ushering in the way of life, which is the truth that gives birth to life and love; while lies bring hate and mother violence.

We raise hell here on earth and Jesus was about converting all our sin by forgiveness to bring heaven back down by the strength that comes from above. Thus, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  

A pastor who is a member of this congregation quoted the theologian Ted Peters that we have to live prolepticly, meaning to live as if we are already were in heaven, thereby living the new way of life into existence.

In my question above, I realize that the afterlife begins right here and now with the human vulnerability of our earthly powerlessness that is tantamount to spiritual power or angel power as I like to call it. What is the angel power in your engine of love and compassion? Notice how a baby wraps its parents around its little finger with the power of their love. That is also why for the incarnation, Christmas proclaims the Christ-child.

But here on earth we still raise hell and think that God is like one of our tyrants thirsting for power and wealth, while Jesus showed us God’s way in his “I am,” dying for us in the love and forgiveness that ushers in the on-going, unfolding, conversion of the world into God’s creation of the beloved community, the friendship of nations, the salvation of the people of God. God’s love for us continues the conversion of this world into creation by continuing the incarnation. Are you just a Christian or a Christ to your neighbor?

Despite all my sin and the sin that the world is in, these feelings welled up inside me and gave me a vision of the reaches of heaven in Jesus’ conversion of the world.

Pastor Solberg then mentioned the story of the footprints in the sand, where in the most difficult and trying times, the two sets of footprints become one set. “Why did you leave me, precisely at the time I needed you the most?” the one suffering asks Jesus. “Not at all. That is when I had you on my back and carried you.” And we get to be the “I am’s” like Jesus and we carry those whose troubles could sink a battleship with heaven’s love and strength enfolding in oneness down and around us.

Written by peterkrey

May 18, 2017 at 11:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Jesus is the Way: the Road to Emmaus, April 30, 2017 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA

leave a comment »

Easter III April 30th 2017

Acts 2:14a,36-41 Psalm 116:1-4,12-19 1 Peter 1:17-23 Luke 24:13-35

    The Youtube video of our Luther Musical is playing Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God! What a home, what security, what a protection our God is – in the time of Martin Luther of old, he called God his fortress – his refuge, a very necessary place to go for safety in time of trouble. The fortress up behind the city made medieval people feel safe and really protected them when armies invaded and come to kill them in war. Our Luther Musical Showcase took place last Wednesday, and I thank the contingent that came from Bethlehem to experience it. I hear a Mighty Fortress playing from our Youtube video as I write these words. 

Our Showcase of Selections from the Luther Musical by Peter and Mark Krey


This is the place in the song, Mendicant Monks, where we are hitting the “money” note!

Jesus is the Way

     Now just the way we are doing here today in church, those two disciples on the road to Emmaus were trying to understand what seemed to be impossible to understand. Who was this Jesus? He had organized healing campaigns instead of military ones. He had ridden into his capitol city of Jerusalem on a donkey, as the Prince of Peace, as the prophets foretold – and then precisely the religious leaders, who should have recognized him, turned him over to the Romans to have him crucified. And he was going to redeem Israel. He was going to set God’s people free. But look at the bad end he came to! Were God’s promises empty and was it impossible for God to keep them? Did God let his people down?

     We can well look at our time as well. With all the bad news going on, we can feel the same way that those disciples felt on the road to Emmaus. Dear God, where are all your promises? Our hearts can really take a down-turn – but like those disciples on their way experienced, Jesus did not leave them alone. He joins them and becomes really present with them, although like our eyes, their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

     Jesus first asks them questions – Jesus wants to know what is troubling your heart and what is troubling my heart. And we tell him about discrimination and persecution, about a racist in the White House: you say, “What else is new?” About our society acting as if Black lives do not matter. But then also personally, the amount of times I fail, the amount of times I deny my faith in so many ways. Is it the same for you? And this amounts to not really believing that Jesus was raised from the dead for his vindication by the glory of God! The disciples did not really believe the women about Jesus having been raised from the dead. Their sound and sorry sadness registers in their discussion!

     And Jesus chimes in: “O how foolish you are – how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets declared!” Just like the Messiah, like Jesus had to suffer, we too have to suffer to enter the glory of God. Then Jesus opens the scriptures for them showing from Moses through all the prophets, how Jesus was the Holy One of God.

     And here we do the same thing every Sunday: we read the Old Testament Lesson, the Psalm, the Epistle, and the Gospel to show that Jesus is really present, living within us, because

Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

Every Sunday we start from Moses and all the prophets, interpreting all the things about Jesus in the scripture. Can you see how Christ is alive? We find that our eyes are often kept from recognizing him – but Jesus is alive in us right here and now and not only for Sundays at worship, but when we are on the way, trying to figure out what God meant by Jesus’ having gone through the Holy Week Passion, having been crucified and then raised back up by God on the third day.

               Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

     Sure, Peter of old, who had denied Christ three times, could preach and experience how 3,000 became baptized in one day. They were gathered in the one temple, in the center of Jerusalem, in the center of Palestine, as the Romans called Israel, the country they were occupying. On Easter 1972 I was in Moscow Russia and there were 6,000 people in one church and crowds who could not get through the doors of another church, it was so full. But then I discovered all the other churches had been turned into museums and like the temple in Jerusalem, it was the central place in the city where people worshiped.

     Peter reproached the people, cut them to the quick: you crucified the Christ! You tried to destroy the only future that humankind had. Like you denied climate change until it was too late! No matter that the whole city of New Orleans flooded and the ocean went into the New York subways. You deny it. Through his preaching 3,000 people repented and were baptized. Many Jewish pilgrims from the whole diaspora must have still been in the temple for Passover. I was going to say there were not yet any synagogues, so everyone had to worship in the temple, but then I remembered how Jesus preached in the one in Nazareth. Synagogues did not first become places of worship after the temple was destroyed.

     But imagine how many churches and people around the world right now are hearing these words of Jesus: “O how foolish you are – how slow of heart you are to believe all that the prophets declared!”

     Here in Oakland, the East Bay, San Francisco, and over the whole United States and around the world, we may have more people than Peter brought to their knees on that day. Do you realize that there are over 2 billion Christians in this world?

What is important, however, is not that number, but you and me! Are you in that number? Do you want to be in that number? Don’t you want to be in that number of those who see the way, who see Jesus up ahead, who see the way that God sets before us – through suffering, like in the words of Churchill – blood, toil, tears, and sweat…the suffering that ushers in the life and the more abundant life promised to you and me? It’s much like a woman giving birth to a child. With the sweet new life in her arms, her heart becomes filled with joy, despite all the suffering. Because it is in the cross of Christ that we glory, because through it comes the new life of the resurrection.

Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

     Death does not get the last word. Those who inflict death have become powerless. The one who brings life, healing, and new meaning and hope into our lives – here in Bethlehem, that like your mother church Bethlehem in New Orleans – has shown us the way – it goes through the cross to God’s glorious resurrection!

     Jesus did not lead military campaigns. He organized healing campaigns, sending out the twelve and then the 70, because the twelve represented the twelve tribes of Israel and the 70 represented all the nations of the world. We can look at the nations of this world and say, “It does not work.” States will still put one victim after another to death, for the absurd reason that a lethal medication might expire, to control people with the fear of death. Armies are still mustered to fight an enemy. We fire 59 tomahawk missiles to blow up an airport in Syria and hit our enemy with the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan and has it worked? Think about Jesus, whom we call the way! He did not make thousands of soldiers die for his power! He died for us, so that we can place one foot after another on the way of life and have life lived more abundantly following our Prince of Peace.

     So, orienting our whole lives around him, O people of Bethlehem, falling on our knees, and repenting of being so foolish and slow of heart to believe, we recognize the Holy One present among us. And then, then we can go on our way rejoicing, rejoicing in our suffering, because we have seen the way!

Christ is risen!

           He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

     Yes, Jesus goes out ahead of us, and we beg him like Abraham did the angels, who visited him: “Stay with us, because fast falls the evening tide, and the day is almost spent.” Yes, “the darkness gathers, Lord, with us abide!”

     And as sinful as we are, Jesus relents and sits down with us at this table and suddenly is no longer the guest, but becomes the host and when he breaks the bread – when he took the bread, blessed, and broke it, our eyes and their eyes were opened and he vanished from our sight. But we say as they said, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us as he showed us the way, while he interpreted the scriptures to us?”

     And so, from old and tired dragging feet, our replaced hips and artificial knees, we get to happy feet that have no trouble running the seven miles back to Jerusalem, not minding the darkness, not minding our sleeplessness, not minding the whole day’s weariness and lack of rest, we run back to the other disciples, and before we can tell them the good news, or even get a word out of our mouths, they say:         

Christ is risen!

         He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

Because he appeared to Simon Peter. And then we tell them what happened to us on the road to Emmaus and how our eyes were opened in the breaking of the bread! And together we exclaim:

  Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!  Amen.





Written by peterkrey

May 2, 2017 at 8:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized