This essay sample on Brute Facts Vs Institutional Facts Mcat provides all necessary basic information on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.
Searle starts his explanation of social reality by outlining ‘brute’ or observer independent facts. Searle is a realist and does not subscribe to the view that ‘all of reality is somehow a human creation’ and that there are ‘only facts dependant on the human mind’.
The foundation of Searle’s construction of social reality to use his metaphor of construction is that ‘there is a reality totally independent of us’.
These facts, which act independently of us, are ‘brute facts’. Searle’s ‘rough and ready’ approach is to ask whether these features would exist if there had never been human beings or sentient creatures. Would a hydrogen atom contain one electron? Yes. Would a rectangle of plastic with a magnetic strip be a form of exchanging wealth? No.
Generally speaking the natural sciences deal with these features. In Searle’s theory the world is made up of particles in fields of force described by atomic theory and human beings have evolved from ape like creatures due to evolutionary biology.
The brute features of an object are an intrinsic part of its existence and are not affected by attitudes towards it, and it is therefore described as observer independent. Searle clearly distinguishes between the features of a stone that are observer independent and observer relative by comparing two statements; ‘that object is a stone’ and ‘that object is a paperweight’.
A stone is a stone because of its atomic structure and physical constituents, however the statement that it is a paperweight is dependant on attitudes towards it. Another person may think of it as a weapon, or as a building material.
The difference between brute and observer dependant is reasonably simple when applied to a stone if the barrier of language is ignored, brute facts require the institution of language in order that we can state the facts, but the brute facts themselves exist quite independently of language or any other institutions. Searle uses the example of colours as a more complicated example of brute reality. If Searle had published his theory before the work of seventeenth century physicists he would have asserted that colour only had brute features, however due to advances in light physics colour is now seen as observer relative.
Building on the foundation of a brute reality, which is not open to interpretation. Searle then arrives at social and institutional reality. His early example of sitting outside a cafe and ordering a drink in terms of social reality is extremely complex.
Searle states that there are three essential components of social and institutional reality that explain the ordinary social relations that occurred in the cafe: collective intentionality, assignment of function and constitutive rules.
The assignment of function can be seen as the first building block in Searle’s construction of social reality. Preceded by the idea that there are brute facts, which cannot be challenged by human thought or intentionality, the assignment of function is a product of thought and consciousness. There are no functions naturally occurring in brute reality.
Both humans and animals assign function and uses to objects. There are examples of simplistic functions in the animal world such as an animal using a lake or pool to drink from. The chair I sit on has been assigned the use of me sitting on it because it is the right height off the ground, can support my weight and is comfortable. It is also the product of an industrial process, which has involved the assignment of function at every level of production from the raw materials used upwards. The chair has been constructed with the intention of me sitting but I can also assign different uses to it.
Collective intentionality is the second step. Species of animals have a biologically innate collective intentionality, meaning that not only will they co-operate with each other on order to achieve a task, but that they share a collective intentionality.
Searle states that ‘we intentionality’ is irreducible to ‘I- intentionality and that the crucial element is a sense of doing something together, from this we derive our own individuals intentionality from the collective intentionality we share. Searle states that any fact involving collective intentionality is a social fact.
Collective intentionality and assignment of function are essential to the construction of social reality. A world of levers, screwdrivers and beauty all require thinking creatures to assign function and to behave with a collective will. Social facts do not require linguistic or cultural apparatus to exist. To use a log as a seat I do not have to possess the linguistic skills to identify the stone to another person through speech or to have seen someone else use it as a seat, it is simply the physical characteristics of the log that appeal to me.
This leads on to institutional facts, a special sub class of social fact. Where social facts are created by collective conscious activity, institutional facts also require the institutions of language and culture to exist. Only linguistic creatures can create institutions.
Institutional facts require the distinction to be made between regulative rules and constitutive rules. Regulative rules regulate the behaviour of those taking part in an activity. Constitutive rules bring behaviour into existence, the rules constituting that behaviour. A feature of institutional reality is that it can be created by performance utterances. Searle classes these speech acts as declarations, the utterance of ‘this meeting is adjourned’ creates the fact.
Searle’s explanation of constitutive rules forming an institutional fact is the example of money. His belief is that ‘x counts as Y’ or that ‘X counts as Y in context C. and this counts in the example of all institutional facts, institutional facts only existing within a system of these constitutive rules. Institutional facts require a set of systematic relations with other facts. Searle uses the example of money in that for money to function it requires other institutions, the institutions of exchange and ownership.
Money requires the next step from collective consciousness and imposition of function. The function of money is not assigned because of its physical properties in the way that a branch can be used as a lever. The function of money only exists because of cooperation and acceptance. This is the next logical step required for something to be an institutional fact.
To expand on this point Searle uses the example of a wall as an example of assignment of function, collective consciousness and finally institution.
Firstly the wall is constructed due to its physical properties, the imposition of function is due to its scale. Searle then imagines that the wall crumbles and gradually evolves from being a physical barrier to a symbolic barrier. The people that have built the wall still think of it as a wall and boundary but it no longer possesses the physical attributes. The crumbling wall has been assigned a status.
The example of a wall is central to Searle’s social reality and the idea of institutional facts, and reveals the continuous line from molecules and mountains to legislation and money, from basic assignment of function to the creation of hugely complex institutions like the stock market.