• Olivier5
    2.9k
    If we have different definitions of the term 'fact' what would determine who is right? I would say the only reasonable answer to that would be common usage, and from what I have observed common usage is on my side.Janus

    I don't think so. The common usage is rather: "a statement recognized as true by many folks, and beyond reasonable doubt". And for that to be the case, there needs to be evidence for the statement, therefore some accurate observation must be done.
  • Athena
    1.6k
    I thought long ago it was agreed we can not trust what we think we see and our experience of the same thing may not agree. Just because we think it, it does not make it true. If Israel and Palestine taught the same history there would be less friction between them and the US is waking up to a different understanding of confederate statues.

    My copy of the Democracy Series grade school textbooks begins each book with a list of democratic characteristics. One character of a democracy is the pursuit of truth. We can see from the examples I have given that agreeing on truth can lead to peace instead of war. That makes determining what a fact is very important.
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    we can not trust what we think we see and our experience of the same thing may not agree.Athena

    That makes determining what a fact is very important.Athena

    So how do you propose determining what is a fact and what isn't, if you cannot trust what you see?
  • Athena
    1.6k
    If we have different definitions of the term 'fact' what would determine who is right? I would say the only reasonable answer to that would be common usage, and from what I have observed common usage is on my side.
    — Janus

    I don't think so. The common usage is rather: "a statement recognized as true by many folks, and beyond reasonable doubt". And for that to be the case, there needs to be evidence for the statement, therefore some accurate observation must be done.
    Olivier5

    Excellent comments and Olivier I want to highlight your use of the legal term, "beyond a reasonable dought". However, Janus, you immediately made a Black man's trail in the South flash to mind. Horrible things have happened in the South because prejudice can so interfere with our judgment.

    As we shift from believing Darwinism to an understanding of the effect of poverty, our approach to social justice is changing. The democratic characteristic of equal opportunity requires things like free lunches because hunger interferes with the ability to learn and for sure we need to work on equal education because our children do not have an equal opportunity without equal education. Our understanding of facts makes a huge political difference.
  • Athena
    1.6k
    So how do you propose determining what is a fact and what isn't, if you cannot trust what you see?Olivier5

    In a trial, this is done by calling in many witnesses and questioning each one of them, and a jury of peers listens to the arguments and then debates a person's innocence or guilt. This is not perfect and it would be a whole lot better if attorneys were wo/men of integrity who understood the importance of knowing the truth and trial by jury, and if they lived for these values instead of a quick easy buck. Sigh, I think my love of the principles of democracy colors my arguments. But let us move to science.

    When Moa became the leader of China he had absolute power and made very bad farming decisions. This was called the Great Leap.
    The Great Leap resulted in tens of millions of deaths, with estimates ranging between 15 and 55 million deaths, making the Great Chinese Famine the largest famine in human history. — Wikipedia
    In modern countries today we have leaders who ignored the science of dealing with a pandemic and millions of people are dying. Something that could be avoided with leadership that relies on science. Truth in science is about observation and testing what is thought to be true with experiments and peer review. That is the best we can do to have some certainty about facts and our survival and liberty can depend on good science.
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    And good science depends on good observation.
  • sime
    601
    The actual referents of a belief are it's immediate physical causes; so whenever a speaker asserts a so-called "false" belief, any alleged epistemic error exists solely in the minds of the listeners, due to their misidentification of the causes of the speaker's assertion.
  • Athena
    1.6k
    ↪Athena And good science depends on good observation.Olivier5

    No, we must NOT stop at observation. For so many reasons we can be totally wrong and the link I posted is an excellent explanation of that. Please, pay attention to the explanation of fast and slow thinking before making another argument.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqXVAo7dVRU
  • Pristina
    13
    Please, pay attention to the explanation of fast and slow thinking before making another argument.Athena

    Good one! ☺
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    we must NOT stop at observation.Athena

    Who said anything about stopping there?
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k
    Here's another stab at what I've been trying to get at: within a given framework, there will be questions that count as questions of fact and ones that don't. There's no super-general framework where everything is a question of fact. It's shockingly easy to misuse part of a framework and think you're entitled to facts when you're not (either because you haven't brought along enough of the framework for the fact-question to work, or because you're trying to shove a piece of one framework into another).

    In my front-yard example, you get to ask exactly how many blades of grass there are if you've already settled what counts as being in the front yard and what counts as a blade of grass. That is, if you have in place a framework for which that's a factual question. That doesn't make it a factual question in every framework, and you don't get to assume that frameworks that generate facts where you want them trump other frameworks; all you can say is that this framework does what you want.
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    In my front-yard example, you get to ask exactly how many blades of grass there are if you've already settled what counts as being in the front yard and what counts as a blade of grassSrap Tasmaner

    These are actual botanical questions, and there are agronomic/ecologic methods to estimate via sampling the biomass per species in a given area or field. These methods can reliably estimate the population density (nb of plants per m2), and other important characteristics such the average number of stem per plant, the average number of grains per stem, and the average weight of one grain (say of wheat, or barley). This is useful in case of crop failure as it allows scientists (or farmers, as it's easy to do) to pinpoint the moment in the life of the crop when something wrong happened to the plants, and measure precisely the impact it had on yields. In forestry, cubing a forest helps you estimate its yield prior to harvest.

    So you are right that there exist frameworks (agriculture, forestry, ecology as a science) where such facts matter and are measured.

    It does not make them less factual. Just because all facts (observations) happen within a certain theoretical framework does not imply that they are not useful as facts, that you can't rely on when making decisions within this framework.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k
    It does not make them less factual. Just because all facts (observations) happen within a certain theoretical framework does not imply that they are not useful as facts, that you can't rely on when making decisions within this framework.Olivier5

    Exactly what I was saying, yes. I was relativizing facts, I guess, but I think fact-within-framework is the only kind we have.
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    Exactly.

    I can see an issue when the framework is chosen and or enforced purposefully to avoid certains facts to come out. Or more simply: certain frameworks leave certain facts out, and others tend to bring them up. I am thinking of race or gender or poverty, and how certain official statistical frameworks can be biased towards the positive, and hide some social ills more than reveal them. I guess this is a risk especially in social sciences.

    There are lies, damn lies, and statistics, they say.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k


    Absolutely. And though the conflict is actually between frameworks, it might be waged as a contest between facts.

    (Like the priest who says to the vicar, "Why are we fighting? We both work for the same Guy. So you go forth and teach His teachings in your way, and I'll go forth and teach His teachings in His.")

    For the conflict between frameworks, I got nuthin'.
  • Banno
    14.2k
    So how do you propose determining what is a fact and what isn't, if you cannot trust what you see?Olivier5

    See the goalposts move.

    The plain fact is that being true and being known to be true are two different things.
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    For the conflict between frameworks, I got nuthin'.Srap Tasmaner

    Methodological frameworks combining several methodological frameworks, e.g. quants and qual, in-depth interviews of a few informants and mass surveys. It actually exist in social sciences under the (confusing) name "theory-based approaches". Basically the idea is to approach an issue from several different angles.
  • Shawn
    11.7k
    Absolutely. And though the conflict is actually between frameworks, it might be waged as a contest between facts.Srap Tasmaner

    I don't think a 'framework' is the appropriate way to specify this. It seems much more to do with models, rather, no?
  • Banno
    14.2k
    Are these "frameworks" background, taken as granted in order to state a fact, or are they conceptual frames, within which coherence is to be maintained?

    What do they do?
  • DanLager
    25
    What do they do?Banno

    Frameworks make facts. A religious framework makes gods appear, a quantum field framework makes quantum fields appear. In reality.
  • Olivier5
    2.9k
    The plain fact is that being true and being known to be true are two different things.Banno

    But a fact is not just something true, it is something known to be true.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k


    I don't have a theory to offer, but I'd think we're looking for a battery of concepts with how those concepts are related and practices for applying those concepts. Anything from language-games to astrophysics.

    For everyday life, there are candidates like Sellars's "manifest image" or folk psychology, but everything's muddled and open to debate. Sellars, for instance, talks about the manifest image updating itself selectively to keep up with the times, but it's still fundamentally different from the "scientific image".

    I would hate to end up now in a discussion of incommensurability. Like I said, not offering a theory, just some thoughts and it seems plain to me that fact claims have to fit in with a whole battery of other concepts, beliefs, commitments, practices. If those are all presupposed, we get to argue about whether something's a fact; when those are not shared, or sufficiently shared, we talk past each other or get into conceptual muddles. (Like whether Everest has a height.)
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k
    Look at creationism. At some point they figured out they weren't making much progress just disagreeing with the top line claims of biologists and paleontologists, so they started attacking radio-carbon dating. Gotta take on the whole framework, and that's a step in that direction.
  • Janus
    10.7k
    I don't see a problem with us not being able to establish the truth of the matter. Maybe absolute precision, as you say, is not possible in some cases. So, maybe it is impossible to establish the exact boundary of your front yard (especially if it is not fenced), but nonetheless some allowance of error could be introduced; you could say it is a fact that the number of blades of grass in your front yard is between X and Y or it is not.

    I think all we are discussing is the logic of our understanding of what constitutes a fact, and I don't see that that logic demands that we be able to determine the truth.I'll give you another example; I live on 15 acres with about 10 acres of forest and the rest pasture with a fair bit of long grass. The property is fenced. Now I have no hope of discovering how many snakes are within my fences right at this moment, but I can't help believing that there is a fact of the matter. Once you start thinking about it, the possible examples of facts which we have no hope of confirming or denying seems almost endless.
  • Tom Storm
    2k
    Once you start thinking about it, the possible examples of facts which we have no hope of confirming or denying seems almost endless.Janus

    This has always struck me. How many leaves are there on the trees in my state right now? There is an exact figure but we cannot access this.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k
    A religious framework makes gods appearDanLager

    It makes the question of a god's existence intelligible. Religious people will tell you that when they pray they can feel God's presence. So there's a practice that helps them answer a question that counts as factual for them.

    Countering that with "no you didn't" isn't particularly effective. If you want to convince someone that their religious experience is not what they think it is, you have to offer them a different framework, and indeed people sometimes come to see their own experiences in a different light.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3k
    But is it inaccessible in principle, or only as a practical matter?
  • Banno
    14.2k
    Olivier5 gave a solid example.Srap Tasmaner

    The front garden grass count?
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