The non-existence of institutional facts

Synthese 199: 4953–4974 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


That certain paper bills have monetary value, that Vladimir Putin is the president of Russia, and that Prince Philip is the husband of Queen Elizabeth II: such facts are commonly called ‘institutional facts’. IFF are, by definition, facts that exist by virtue of collective recognition. The standard view or tacit belief is that such facts really exist. In this paper we argue, however, that they really do not—they really are just well-established illusions. We confront realism about IFF with six criteria of existence, three established and three less so but highly intuitive. We argue that they all tell against the existence of IFF. An obvious objection to IFF non-realism is that since people’s behaviour clearly reflects the existence of IFF, denying their existence leaves an explanatory gap. We reject this argument by introducing a variant of the so-called ‘Thomas Theorem,’ which says that when people collectively recognize a fact as existing, they largely behave accordingly, regardless of whether that fact really exists or not.

Similar books and articles

Legal Facts and Dependence on Representations.Almäng Jan - 2016 - Journal of Social Ontology 2 (1):1-15.
Falsemakers: Something Negative about Facts.Michele Paolini Paoletti - 2014 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 90 (1):169-182.
Institutional Facts.Karol Chrobak - 2011 - Diametros:20-31.
Two Kinds of Soft Facts.Ciro De Florio & Aldo Frigerio - 2018 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 95 (1):34-53.
Art: What it Is and Why it Matters.Catherine Abell - 2011 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (3):671-691.
A Puzzle about Further Facts.Vincent Conitzer - 2019 - Erkenntnis 84 (3):727-739.


Added to PP

24 (#489,117)

6 months
4 (#200,315)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Matthias Holweger
University of Tuebingen

Citations of this work

Add more citations