do not have control of. This makes it seem as if baseball and money are somehow coercive and constraining, but it is important to remember that the institution itself creates possibilities that life would not have without that institution. Think of money,government, private property, cocktail parties, and universities, to take some examplesat random. All of these institutions enable us to perform kinds of activities that we couldnot possibly perform without them.I think this mistake in Durkheim derives from other, deeper, inadequacies in his work.He never, as far as I know, seriously attempts to describe the differences between humansocial reality and that of other social animals. All sorts of animals have social relationsand many species have social facts in Durkheim’s sense of external coercions. But thespecial feature of human beings is that they have
, and once you explore thelogical structure of these institutions, their enabling and empowering features becomeobvious. Language is the most important case, because the institution of language givesus enormous powers not possessed by other animals, not even by other primates. Andit provides the foundation for all other institutions. I believe it is at least in part becauseDurkheim fails to explore human social facts within the larger context of animal socialfacts that he fails to see the distinction between social facts and institutional facts. Hisanalysis does not even get up to the point where he is able to pose the questions that Iam posing. For example, how do human institutional facts go beyond mere ‘social facts’? What is the logical structure of institutions? How does language constitute institutionalreality in a way that it does not constitute brute reality?Because Gross prompts me to distinguish my theory from Durkheim’s, it is essentialto remind ourselves at the beginning that Durkheim was writing a century ago andlacked the resources of contemporary philosophy. For example, in a post-Fregean era,any philosopher will be alerted by the intensionality (with an ‘s’) of institutional state-ments.
For contemporary philosophers intensionality is a red ﬂag and prompts deeperinvestigation. Durkheim treats all these contexts as if they were extensional and I believethat is because he lacked the resources of contemporary philosophy. In what follows Iam not belittling Durkheim’s historical signiﬁcance but questioning the adequacy of hisaccount for contemporary theory.
I.TEN WEAKNESSES IN DURKHEIM
As a matter of my biographical history, Durkheim’s work had no inﬂuence whatever onthe writing of
The Construction of Social Reality
. However, Gross might have been rightin thinking that there are some important overlaps and similarities, even with no histori-cal inﬂuence, so with that question in mind I had a closer look at Durkheim’s work. Ican now report that the situation with Durkheim is much worse than I had originally thought. His conception of social ontology is not only inconsistent with mine, but isﬂawed in ways I did not originally realize. And the general philosophy is much worsethan Gross seems aware of. Here, for example, is one typical statement:How many well-established cases suggest that thought can travel over a distance? Thedifﬁculty which we may have in conceiving so disconcerting an idea is not sufﬁcientreason for us to deny its reality, and we shall in all probability have to admit the exist-ence of waves of thought.... (Durkheim, 1953: 19)
ANTHROPOLOGICAL THEORY 6(1)