In this talk I attempt to explain the distinctive features of human civilization. Animals have forms of social organization and communication but they do not have money, property, government, and marriage. Why not? Human institutional facts are created and maintained by a specific type of linguistic representation that I call a “status function declaration.” This operation can be performed over and over again on a wide range of subjects. It creates and maintains systems of deontic power: rights, duties, obligations and empowerments of various kinds. These provide the glue that hold human society together. They do that by providing humans with desire independent reasons for action, that is, reasons for doing things that are independent of their immediate inclinations.
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