Theory and Fact

Our facts convince us but do they convince ultimate reality?

There has been some discussion here recently about what a fact is and what it really depends on to get a hold on the world (i.e. our minds understanding it as “fact”).  The problem is our species believes all of these facts–which are abundant–stand on their own.  A person can state something–their belief–and name it “just a fact about the world” and assume his interlocutor (s) will buy into his worldview.  But that’s just it.  There is a worldview there, from which the so-called fact depends upon for its existence.

I’m not trying to use the highly abstracted hand of skepticism to wave reality away from knowing creatures like yourself.  I’ll leave that to Descartes or Berkeley or Putnam.  But my aim is to remind you that “facts” are highly theory-dependent.  There are theoretical presuppositions behind every fact a person can name, and the truth of the fact depends upon the robustness of the theory.  Else it falls into the category of opinion.

We understand that objects fall because of our theory, or mental concepts making sense of patters, of gravity.  Or if you have never had the privilege of studying gravity in a formal way (school), you were (in fact) born with the fear of falling, as experiments on children show given controlled circumstances.  So, biologically, you will understand gravityness as true, that falling objects will not suddenly start misbehaving.  You will not test this embodied truth on yourself by throwing it (your body!) over a cliff.  This is a positive example of a fact which holds some mass in our worldviews.  My assertions utilizing biology and observation of physical objects and common assumptions about instinct or cognition back these asserted “facts.”

However, one must be wary because moral kinds of “facts” (or any using good/bad, better/worse, etc.) masked under the sacrosanct markers of True or False, ought to be realized as idiosyncratic preferences of individuals often arguing for thier opinions of how they would prefer others to see the world.  This can often be self-serving, selfish, and potentially destructive (the opposite might make up the consequence as well, as a matter of opinion). Beliefs also comes from biases, prejudices, and that ilk.  They are not justified until proven so.  It takes a maturer mind to question its own beliefs and opinions, and test them against alternative beliefs–even unpleasant ones– judiciously.

There is a wonderful game to examine the theoryladenness of factual claims, and how much we rely upon them,  often taking them for granted.  We have rich worlds within ourselves coming from our unique experiences, real or imagined. Below are a list of “facts” all linked to a common theory.  It is a puzzle to figure out.  See if you can guess the correct “theory” which links the list of facts below.  Feel free to comment on this blog.  The answer (guiding theory) will be in the categories at the end of this post.  Good luck!

  • Newspapers are better than magazines.
  • The seashore is better than the street.
  • At first it is better to run than to walk.
  • It takes some skill but is easy to learn, even for young children.
  • It’s true that it needs lots of room.
  • Beware of rain; it ruins everything.
  • A rock will serve as an anchor.
  • If things break loose, you won’t get a second chance.
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