Philosophy Word of the Day – Brute Fact/Institutional Fact

“Brute facts, like volcanic eruptions or the number of electrons in a hydrogen atom, do not depend for their existence on human conventions or institutions; institutional facts, like those involving money, property, government, marriage, promising, games, etc., do so depend.  Anscombe used ‘brute’ in this sense in her ‘On Brute Facts,’ Analysis 18 (1958), and Searle introduced ‘institutional’ as a contrasting term, in ‘What is a Speech Act’ in Max Black (ed.), Philosophy in America 1965, and has elaborated on this distinction in later publications . . . “

The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy (2005), p. 88

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2 thoughts on “Philosophy Word of the Day – Brute Fact/Institutional Fact

    • Hi James,
      I think there is some overlap between brute facts and institutional facts with objectivity and subjectivity, but I don’t think they’re exactly the same things. For example, it’s objectively true that 100 pennies have the same value as a dollar in this country, but that’s not a brute fact (i.e., true apart from human involvement). There can be objective truths about institutional facts, as well as brute facts, so the two sets of ideas don’t exactly match up, I think.

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