From: L. Michael Hall
2021 Neurons #71
November 1, 2021
“Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”
Jack Webb’s Joe Friday of Dragnet
I noted in the last Neurons (#70) that we talk about facts as if they were things and objects, as if they were empirical and sensory-based. We talk about facts as if a fact will bring a controversy to an end.. “Now here are the facts; case closed.” But unfortunately, things are just not that simple or cut-and-dried.
On first glance, it seems that facts are ... well, factual— real, sensory-based and therefore uncontroversial. While facts seem like a solid things, they are not. Can you see a fact? What does a fact look like? Things are just not that simple. What we call “facts” are our concepts about things and not the things themselves. The word “fact” itself is not empirical. The word fact is a nominalization and a category. It refers to a category of things that normally we would consider sensory-based of something actually done. Yet sensory-based facts are, at best, facts at a macro-level. At worse, sensory-based facts may be illusions altogether. When you put a stick in water, you will see it as if it were bent and not straight. But it is not bent. It only appears that way to your eyes.
Kinds of facts: One fact about a fact (a meta-fact) is that there are many kinds of facts.