Friday, November 13, 2009

The problem of fact

The problem with facts is that they're not really facts.  When we use the word fact, we mean something indisputable, undeniable, objective, concrete.  However, as happens time and time again, facts sometimes prove to be false.  We then demote these facts to "belief".  For example: People used to believe the world was flat.

However, upon analysis, you'll realize that within the time frame supposed in the previous example, the world's flatness was a "fact" not "belief".  It is only our arrogant retrospective that diminishes the fact to belief.  (One wonders: Why is belief less valuable than fact?)  People at that time "knew" the world was flat.  It was obvious.  It was unquestioned.  It was undeniable and indisputable.  To rephrase the example, it would be more accurate to say: People used to know the world was flat.

What do we know now?  What "facts" do we hold so dear that we have built towering institutions of knowledge upon?  What will the future peoples denigrate us for "believing"?

We have to know with caution.  Knowing has to be accompanied by value (Nicholas Maxwell coming through here...).  It is actually our values that shape our knowing; knowing what is important; what is critical. 

The facts are a smörgåsbord.  My eyes can be bigger than my stomach, but my stomach still has limits.  I still must eat what beneficial.

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