Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

What Does It Mean That Constitutive Rules Are in Force? [Special Issue]

Topics: History of Analytic Philosophy, Philosophy of language
Keywords: Constitutive Rule, Existence of Rules, Games, Ideal Referee, System of Rules


The aim of this paper is to shed some light on the issue of how we can understand constitutive rules as being in force for participants S in some rule-constituted practice. We take a look on complicated team-games that are broadly conceived as model example of rule-constituted practices. We claim that rules of games are dependent on mental states of participants in that practice. More precisely, they are in force for the participants S of such games if these participants jointly meet the following conditions: (1) every S has a working knowledge of the rules, (2) every S intends to and actually conforms to the games’ hard core rules and (3) every S respects the remaining rules (i.e. in the case of an alleged rule violation a player asks him or herself what decision an ideal referee would have made in those circumstances, and conforms to that decision).

John R. Searle (1969: 33-41) explicitly made the famous distinction between ‘regulative’ and ‘constitutive’ rules (it should be noted that Searle was neither the first nor the only philosopher to use a distinction of such type, as von Wright (1963) or Rawls (1955) also stressed the difference between these rules, yet the Searlean account seems to be the most influential one). The notion of constitutive rules is widely discussed in the philosophy of language (e.g. Gluër and Pagin 1999, Williamson 1996) or in the philosophy of law (e.g. MacCormick and Weinberger 1986, Marmor 2009).


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