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Abstract

Famously Ryle imagined a visitor who has seen the colleges, departments, and libraries of a university but still wonders where the university is. The visitor fails to realize that the university consists of these organizational units. In this paper I ask what exactly the relation is between institutional entities such as universities and the entities they are composed of. I argue that the relation is constitution, and that it can be illuminated in terms of constitutive rules. The understanding of the ontology of institutions that constitutive rules provide, however, is incomplete. In order to capture the practical significance of institutions, I introduce the notion of a status rule. Status rules concern the normative powers of institutions. The status account of institutions defended here is used to solve the problem of freestanding status terms: it turns out to be rather difficult to identify the entities of which statuses such as corporations and electronic money are composed. Unable to solve this problem, Searle concludes that they are created out of thin air. I criticize this claim and argue that these statuses are imposed on persons.