Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Thinking Tools / Reason
2001 07 14 Fact: wow, is that ever a tricky concept! For starters I quote Nietzsche on the subject:
There are no facts, only interpretations.
OK, I’ll say a fast word. If ever there were a species that should be humble, it’s Homo sapiens sapiens. Humility, when it’s trundled out and displayed by a kleptocratic institution such as a church (has there ever been a church that didn’t represent some society that stole its territory? stole from the commons?) is typically a mask for pride: see how humble we’re being: while the true owner of this territory loves and forgives us. It’s very hard for kleptocratic citizens (virtually all of us) to confront the implications of the humbling but necessary science of semiotics: we see light; never things: form maps, have no direct contact with territory … Our reality is symbolic, our symbols fallible.
Our concept of “fact” is a vanity that believes we can know, know easily, know in large numbers, what’s “real.”
Charles Dickens made fun of people who thought they restricted their attention or their teaching to “facts.” I’d like to see Karl Popper critique a Dragnet script where Joe Friday iterates “Just the facts, ma’am.”
Everyone has the right to their own opinion,
but no one has the right to their own facts.
Ideally the fact is what’s irreducibly true, in correspondence with reality. Great. Now: can we know what that is? Unimpeachably? Irrefutably? Infallibly? Only if we burn the heretics before they can speak. And wholly, infrangibly, wall ourselves off from the Tao. Such a wall can be called “church,” “government,” “university department,” “committee of scientists” …
His lies were not fabrications.
They were a brilliantly devised distorting lens that turned facts into monsters,
yet left them looking like facts.
Did you ever notice how rarely “fact finders” publish dissent? The court keeps a record of dissenting judges, but dissenting fact finders are flushed from the fact finding task force. Where dissent is published, then the publishers are real scientists. When do we see them? One percent of one percent of one percent of the time?
Facts should be reviewed by the most (rationally) skeptical epistemologists. Would there by anything left firmly in the set? Now that residue should be honored. Known. Publicized.
Rots of ruck.
The facts, if not true, were well invented;
the arguments, if not logical, were seductive.
Wittgenstein’s comments are delicious:
|I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again “I know that that’s a tree,” pointing to a tree that is near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell him: “This fellow isn’t insane. We’re only doing philosophy.”|
People get indignant when they hear that philosophers ever discussed whether or not you can prove that you exist. But indignation is no refutation. Lots of things that seem obvious from a distance get fuzzy or contradictory (or both) up close. The way to never need to prove anything is to never get close to anything. And if you do what you’re told, study what you’re told, when you’re told, then you’ll never even get close to the subject you’re supposedly studying.
For example: we all know that General Relativity was a hard theory to prove merely in terms of finding examples that agreed let alone finding examples that falsified it. We all know that Eddington set up an experiment that measured whether light was bent around a star by using a solar eclipse. We all know that the measurements “confirmed” Einstein’s theory. A long time passed between my first hearing that and my learning that three measurements were taken: one was more, one was less, and the third was way off. So the scientists said that it all agreed! (See Evidence [coming shortly].) Understand: I follow this stuff. The best I can in my poverty. The best I can without sacrificing good eating, good fishing, good loving, good sleep … and lots of music. And I can’t provide you with the actual figures. Because I’ve never seen them. Oh, I don’t doubt I could find them. (Could I do the math if I did? Could I trust my agreement or disagreement?) I don’t have to. I recognize the pattern: it’s fuzzy.
Facts will never be agreed upon so long as objectives differ.
“Facts” have a social dimension. A fact will never be agreed upon so long as objectives differ. Dishonesty will jump to disagree, but honesty too may disagree. An entire culture may temporarily enforce an agreement, backed by school and church. Weeding false facts after that will be hard, very hard.
Objectivity may be unreachable by human nature, but kleptocracy adds to the difficulty: and all civilized men are kleptocrats.
Note however, as I shall illustrate in another module momentarily: kleptocracy involves not only theft we are helpless to do anything about — European ethnics sweeping aside indigenous ethnics in the Americas — but fresh active thefts contaminate the young as well as the old.
2002 08 30 The concept of fact inevitably and ineradicably has a semiotic fault line: Do we mean some irreducible quantum that’s true? Or do we mean some irreducible quantum that’s accepted as true?
And wouldn’t we have to be infallible to distinguish them?
Infallible? Social man? The kleptocrat? A costumed liar? A predator masked as a photosynthesizing scion of God?
I love it in the fiction of Stephen Hunter when a “fact” firmly established in novel N becomes exposed in novel N + n to be false. Little is as it seems. I’m reminded of the Twain novel where the racists discover that they themselves are of mixed blood. Once again King Oedipus discovers that he’s the murdering motherfucker he’s looking for!
2001 10 18 I think Nietzsche’s point must be accepted: there are no facts, only interpretations. We must satisfy ourselves with interpretations, know that our reason is relative only, but strive to achieve honest consensus of interpretation. Interpretations must be reviewed by each generation and after each paradigm shift. Dogma must die.
2002 09 11 In kleptocracies it’s the state that decides what the “facts” are. But how truthful are governments? How sophisticated their epistemology? How disinterested? How routinely do governments falsify [qv] their beliefs?
2005 10 14 Consider the social dimension of the concept fact: if something is true, but no one in the society believes it, can it be a “fact”? Fact implies social acceptance, does it not?
What’s more common than for opinion, particularly mistaken opinion, even deliberately mistaken opinion, to parade as fact?
I remember thrilling to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series when it was first broadcast. But he drove me crazy when he said, Dr. Carl, “Evolution is fact!” No, no, no, that’s the worst kind of epistemological confusion. Evolution is theory. Evolution is great theory, one of the best ever, especially after a century and a half of improving tinkering; but theory and fact are of different existential species.
It doesn’t matter how many of the “facts” are actually fiction
so long as the story is true.
Fact: a truth permitted, admitted, by the kleptocracy
2010 09 14 Fact: a concept that only intelligences honest as well as imaginative have a right to. Respect for evidence, for experience, is paramont. In other words, fact is a sensible word only in science. Elsewhere it’s misdirection, bluff … fraud.
But of course I mean science as in a factual intelligent, honest, imaginative god’s eye; not under the authority of any church or government or university. I don’t believe that the concept can be well-introduced or explained in any of those institutions.
2013 03 26 There are true “facts” mixed in with our fictitious facts. But which are which?
Reification by Repetition
2015 03 03 Jan and I just watched PD James Death Comes to Pemberly. Wickam stands on the gallows, the rope around his neck, when Elizabeth produces a confession signed by the real murderer. The officials have talked about “facts” through legal ritual after legal ritual without ever having anything right.
How much of culture is made of falsehoods presented as facts?
These legal rites are actually magical rites: as though filling a church with kleptocrats, all of them mumbling “God”, will indeed produce the god. If “Justice” is chiseled over the door, why then the kleptocrats inside must deal in justice. The sheep go baa, baa: the kleptocrats go fact, fact. Who’s fooled? besides the kleptocrats themselves?
Notice also this: Elizabeth gets the rope off Wickham’s neck, but the fools are still in power. The government is the government no matter who gets hanged. Sherlock is the miracle worker whose genius improbably makes reason triumph, but what happens without the Sherlock? Baby, he gone.
Is That a Fact?
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