Brute fact

Brute fact

Brute facts are opposed to institutional facts, in that the former do not require the context of an institution to occur. The term was coined by G. E. M. Anscombe and then popularized by John Searle.

For instance, the fact that a certain piece of paper "is" money cannot be ascertained outside the institution of money in a given society. And that piece of paper will only be money as long as the members of that society believe that it is so. Being money is an institutional fact. On the contrary, being a piece of paper is a brute fact.

The status of brute fact is relative to another fact, such that what is a brute fact in some contexts may not be in another.

There is a strong connection between the opposition between brute fact and institutional fact, and the Humean opposition of the is and ought problem, the distinction between fact claims and value or normative claims, and the distinction in law between matter of fact and matter of law. Institutional facts are arguably conventional.

The more common but less technical definition of brute fact is "a terminus of a series of explanations which is not itself further explicable" Oxford Companion to Philosophy 2005 "Brute Fact".


* Anscombe, G. E. M. (1958): "On Brute facts". "Analysis" 18: 69-72.

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