The Simple Nature of Institutional Facts

Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Facts such as the fact that Donald Trump is the US president or the fact that Germany won the 2014 world cup final are commonly referred to as “institutional facts” (“IFF”). I advocate the view that the nature of these facts is comparatively simple: they are facts that exist by virtue of collective recognition (CR), where CR can be direct or indirect. The leading account of IFF, that of John Searle, basically conforms with this definition. However, in his writings Searle has considered or defended several other conditions as potentially necessary for the existence of IFF. In particular, he has considered whether (a) IFF necessarily involve deontic powers, (b) IFF are necessarily so-called “status functions”, (c) IFF require speech acts of Declaring for their existence, (d) IFF require language for their existence. Each of these considerations, if valid, would seem to render the nature of IFF less simple. In this paper, I argue that none of these considerations stand up to scrutiny. Being unaware of any other serious considerations of this kind, I conclude that the nature of IFF is simple as captured by my definition. There is a respect, however, in which my view is possibly less simple than Searle’s, for he suggests that CR is always direct, and never indirect. I reject this suggestion. Indeed, I think that most of the facts existing by virtue of CR exist by virtue of indirect CR. Some authors have (or at least might be construed as having) objected that CR is not even necessary for the existence of IFF. I argue that the account defended here is immune to these objections.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Upload history
First archival date: 2019-06-25
Latest version: 3 (2019-11-21)
View other versions
Added to PP index

Total views
74 ( #38,023 of 51,433 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
11 ( #38,327 of 51,433 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.