Archive for September 26th, 2010

September 26, 2010

Facts, Truth, Correspondence

by Neil Rickert

In an earlier post, “What’s a fact, anyway?” I wrote about the dependence of facts on conventions.  Today’s post is intended as a followup, and perhaps it will clarify some of the issues.

In what follows, I shall use the acronym WAFA to refer to the earlier post.

A commenter to WAFA suggested as a corollary, that “the whole idea of ‘facts’ can be tossed out as well, since it is dependent on the conventions people set up.”  In this post, I want to explain why that problem does not actually arise.  And that, inevitably, gets us to questions such as “What is truth?”

Facts and brute facts

In his 1995 book The Construction of Social Reality, John Searle distinguishes between what he calls “brute facts” and what he calls “institutional facts.”  Searle mentions the height of a mountain as an example of a brute fact, and facts about money as examples of institutional facts.  That’s a good distinction, and not anything that I am attempting to undermine.

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