Ibn Khaldūn and John Searle: The construction of the social world through reason and language

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This article undertakes a comparative examination of the social ontologies, or theories of civilization, proposed by John Searle and Ibn Khaldun. It suggests that a careful juxtaposition of Searle and Ibn Khaldun's social ontologies yields complementary perspectives on the emergence and nature of social reality. They both delineate a distinction between two categories of entities: humanindependent and human-dependent. The former makes up the natural world, while the latter constitutes the social world. Both scholars attempt to understand the second category of entities, which Searle refers to as human civilization and Ibn Khaldun calls ʿumrān. Although Searle and Ibn Khaldun share a common understanding regarding the importance of human activity in shaping social reality, their perspectives diverge when it comes to elucidating the mechanisms behind this phenomenon. Does the social world arise primarily from cognitive processes, or is it predominantly a consequence of linguistic expressions and speech acts? Searle asserts that language forms the basis of social reality, whereas Ibn Khaldun puts forth a social ontology based on reason. While Ibn Khaldun's social ontology explains the construction of tangible social entities such as buildings, Searle's theory can explain how is it that a mere physical structure transforms into an epistemologically objective fact—a university. Ultimately, this paper suggests that viewing the social world through the lenses of these two theories provides an intriguing and holistic perspective. This article suggests that the juxtaposition of these two ontological frameworks enriches our comprehension of the processes that give rise to the ontological-physical and epistemologicalinstitutional dimensions of social entities.


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Social Ontology, Theory of Civilization, Human Society, Umrān, Institutional Facts, Language, Reason, Ibn Khaldūn, John Searle


Beytulhikme-An International Journal of Philosophy

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Özalkan, S. (2024). Ibn Khaldūn and John Searle: The construction of the social world through reason and language. Beytulhikme-An International Journal of Philosophy, 14(1), 93-112. http://doi.org/10.29228/beytulhikme.72313