Belgrade Legal Theory Group organized the last event in the autumn semester of 2023 with Prof. Cuitzhu Wang (Jagiellonian University) on the topic of institutional belief. The topic of the lecture is connected to her current project “Ethics of Institutional Beliefs” supervised by prof. Adam Dyrda and sponsored by Polish National Science Centre.

Professor Wang started the lecture by explaining that social institutions are social artefacts, which means they exist primarily because people bring them to life by acting and judging in a collective way. In the realistic theories of institutions it is assumed that social (legal) institutions are mind-independent only in a weak sense. Although they exist independently of the beliefs of individuals, their existence depends on the collective beliefs concerning their content, structure and way of functioning. The very fact that the existence of institutions depends on a specific type of conventional, collective human decision distinguishes them from natural kinds and it means that the beliefs which are collectively shared fulfil under certain conditions a performative role: without them, social institutions would not begin to exist in the first place.

Professor Wang explained that the existence of commonly shared beliefs of a certain type (so-called common, shared,  and reflexive beliefs) has been recognized by social ontologists (such as J. Searle, R. Tuomela, and M. Gilbert) as one of the necessary conditions for the existence of social institutions. However, Professor Wang stated that rarely (if never) they have asked the questions about epistemic (cognitive) and ethical criteria that such beliefs ought to fulfil, so she stated that it is justified to ask about the cognitive status and justification of beliefs which are focused on the constitution of social institutions and which are not true at the moment when they are held. In the end, Professor Wang said that in order to explore the nature of institutional beliefs, the various social experiments will be conducted.

In the lively discussion that followed as part of Q&A, Professor Wang answered to the questions of the audience regarding different concepts of social institutions, the methodology of experiments which will be conducted, as well as to some suggestions that were given to her towards improving her current work.

Ending the meeting, Mila Đorđević thanked everyone for an excellent discussion, as well as Prof. Wang for the interesting lecture.