Part One – Exercise 1.0 The Construction of Social Reality

In his book ‘The Construction of Social Reality’ John Searle writes ‘There are portions of the real world, objective facts in the world, that are only facts by human agreement. In a sense there are things that exist only because we believe them to exist. … things like money, property, governments, and marriages. Yet many facts regarding these things are ‘objective’ facts in the sense that they are not a matter of [our] preferences, evaluations, or moral attitudes. (Searle, 1996)


A)  Objective facts according to John Searle:

Make a list of 10 such ‘things that exist only because we believe them to exist.’

Besides those mentioned ‘objective’ facts there are e.g.:

Family, EU, Parliament, Church, Religion, Education, Country, Law, Residence, Work

 

B) Difference between facts:

“One of Searle’s most important and controversial points concerns his distinction between brute facts and institutional facts and the role played by constitutive rules.” (enotes, 2017)

In approximately 150 words say how these things differ from e.g. mountains and forests. Why do you think Searle puts the word ‘objective’ in inverted commas?

‘Brute’ facts e.g. mountains exit even without the existence of human beings. The above mentioned ‘Institutional’ facts are facts by human agreement and exist only within a set of constitutive rules acknowledged by a group of human beings. Those ‘Institutional’ facts can be further distinguished between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ facts, the latter subject to our moral attitudes and preferences.

Searle differentiates the nature of statements or judgements (epistemology) as well as the mode of existence (ontology) of an entity into objective and subjective senses. E.g. a mountain as a brute fact does objectively exist, pain as a subjective ontological entity depends on being felt by a subject. Stating the fact that somebody lives in a specific place is an objective statement versus a subjective preference of an art piece.

Therefore family or marriage do ‘objectively’ exist only in dependence on human beings. Nature does not know those.

 

(word count: 147)

 

Reference:

  • Searle, J.R. (1996) The construction of social reality. London: Penguin Books

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