Thursday, May 23, 2024

Children Social Life as Construction of Social Reality

Children’s sociality does not mean to do things together or together doing the same things. Being social means in philosophy to be engaged and committed in the same collectively recognized set of rules and to be able to understand other’s intentions and to predict other’s behavior. 

Therefore, sociality is expressed by a) the passage from a vague desire to an intention b) the capacity to stay focused and committed with a certain set of rules called “game” c) the importance of knowing and understanding and sharing the same context (that is that specific set of rules in that specific context) d) the assumption that all the other participants at the game know at least the rules of the game. 

What happens when young children  are playing together? The question appears quite obvious since the answer may be that “children play to stay together”. Nevertheless, a second and more functional answer could be that playing teaches children how to stay together.

Playing jointly, teaches how to predict other’s behavior and which feelings are involved beyond a simple, predictable move. Therefore, a game played rationally entails a language and children’ development of language is deeply influenced by joint activities.  

Of course, “together” carries an ambiguous sense. Children can be together just staying in close proximity or children can stay together by sharing the same context or state of affairs. The same game. Nevertheless, this passageway, from simply staying together to play together represents the theoretical knot of children’s social life. 


Humans have the capacity to impose functions on objects and people where the objects and the people cannot perform the functions solely in virtue of their physical structure. A branch cannot be used as a stick solely in virtue of being a branch.Children are imposed by adults to know objects’ status function. Therefore, it is pretty obvious that children and adults are building together the society where they are living in.

Children with autism and ADHD have quite big difficulties in keeping object’s and person status function stable. In turn, the lack of stable status function leads to the incapability of collectively recognizing a context. As a consequence, these children have difficulties in being social. The same object can be alternatively a brick, a plane, a butterfly a stone a piece of food. A context, in turn, depends on persistency over time. Children need a certain stability of context to act jointly.  

Therefore, we have to say that status functions depend on collective intentionality. Collective intentionality is the power of minds to be jointly directed at objects, matters of fact, states of affairs, goals, or values. Collective intentionality comes in a variety of modes, including shared intention, joint attention, shared belief, collective acceptance, and collective emotion.

Cooperation is maybe the hallmark of collective intentionality and joint action. In joint activity each agent is committed to supporting the efforts of the other to play her role in the joint activity (Bratman 1992).

Status functions exist in virtue of collective intentionality. But why are they so important? Without exception, status functions carry what Searle calls “deontic powers” and I call instead “social implication”. That is, they carry rights, duties, obligations, requirements, permissions, authorizations, entitlements, and so on.


Bratman, M.  1992. Shared cooperative activity. Philosophical Review 101:327-41.

_________    1993. Shared intention. Ethics 104:97-113.

_________  1999. Faces of intention: Selected essays on intention and agency. Cambridge:   

Searle, J.     1983. Intentionality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

_______.  1990. Collective intentions and actions. In Consciousness and Language 90;105 ed. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

_______   1995. The construction of social reality, New York: The Free Press Edition.

_______   2002. Intentionality and its place in nature. In Consciousness and Language 77;89 ed. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

________   The construction of social reality, New York: The Free Press Edition

________ 2010 Making the social world, the structure of human civilization, New York: Oxford  

Tuomela, R. 2013. Social Ontology: Collective Intentionality and Group Agents. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tollefsen D, 2005. Let’s pretend! Children and joint action, Philosophy of the Social science, 35:75, Sage publications.

Vandershraat P, Sillari G, 2014. Common Knowledge, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed) .

Luigi Amato Kunst

Luigi Amato Kunst is a philosophy consulting analyst. Specialized in Theoretical Philosophy, Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind, is the founder of PHILOACTIVA organisation.

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