Brute Facts versus Constitutional Facts

Should you think about your duty, or about the consequences of your actions? Or should you concentrate on becoming a good person?

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Veritas Aequitas
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Brute Facts versus Constitutional Facts

Post by Veritas Aequitas »

There are different view on 'What is Fact.'

In Searles' article,
How to Derive "Ought" From "Is" John R. Searle[/list]
he argued why the proponents of 'No Ought From Is' are clutching to this maxim dogmatically and ideologically is due the failure to differentiate between Brute Facts from Constitutional Facts.
The inclination to accept a rigid distinction between "is" and "ought," between descriptive and evaluative, rests on a certain picture [this classical empiricist picture] of the way words relate to the world.
Searle stated the dogmatic empiricist picture generated descriptive statements of two types, e.g.
1. Its paradigms of descriptive statements are such utterances as
"my car goes eighty miles an hour," "Jones is six feet tall," "Smith has brown hair," and the like.

2. But it is forced by its own rigidity to construe
"Jones got married," "Smith made a promise," 'Jackson has five dollars," and "Brown hit a home run" as descriptive statements as well.
But there are significant differences between statement in 1 [Brute Facts] and those in 2 [Constitutional].
Though both kinds of statements state matters of objective fact, the statements [2] containing words such as "married," "promise," “home run," and "five dollars" state facts whose existence presupposes certain institutions:
  • i. a man has five dollars, given the institution of money. Take away the institution and all he has is a rectangular bit of paper with green ink on it.

    ii. A man hits a home run only given the institution of baseball; without the institution he only hits a sphere with a stick.

    iii. Similarly, a man gets married or makes a promise only within the institutions of marriage and promising. Without them, all he does is utter words or makes gestures.
We might characterize such facts [2] as institutional facts, and contrast them with non-institutional, or brute, facts [1]:
[e.g.] that a man has a bit of paper with green ink on it is a brute fact, that he has five dollars is an institutional fact.

Now the institutions that I have been talking about are systems of constitutive rules.
The institutions of marriage, money, and promising are like the institutions of baseball or chess in that they are systems of such constitutive rules or conventions.

What I have called institutional facts are facts which presuppose such institutions.

Once we recognize the existence of and begin to grasp the nature of such institutional facts, it is but a short step to see that many forms of obligations, commitments, rights, and responsibilities are similarly institutionalized.

It is often a matter of fact that one has certain obligations, commitments, rights, and responsibilities, but it is a matter of institutional, not brute, fact.
From the above Searle derived the following conclusion;
My tentative conclusions, then, are as follows:
I. The classical picture fails to account for institutional facts.
2. Institutional facts exist within systems of constitutive rules.
3. Some systems of constitutive rules involve obligations, commitments, and responsibilities.
4. Within those systems we can derive "ought's" from "is's" on the model of the first derivation.
My point here is not to argue the conclusion,
my point is, do you agree with the Brute Fact versus Constitutional distinction?
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