More Problem With Facts
From: L. Michael Hall
2021 Neurons #83
December 31, 2021
With this article, I am concluding this series on Critical Thinking about Facts. With the new year, there will be a new series. In the last post I noted that facts become really problematic when—
- They are out of context so that there’s no way to evaluate them.
- They are partial and many things which need to be said about them are not said, but left out.
- They are anonymous and not owned by whoever identified or created the fact.
- They are coded in vague, abstract, evaluative terminology rather than descriptive empirical language (sensory-based language)
Another problem concerns the fluidity versus immutability of a given fact. Generally, the word fact carries an unstated implication, namely, that it is immutable. “This is the way it is, it is a fact.” Yet while some facts are immutable (they don’t change), many are fluid. They change. And they are facts which are more likely to change over time.
Sometimes a factual statement asserts something that just is, something that is immutable. It is something that you cannot change or alter, something that is a given. “Like what?” you may ask. Well, like the old joke, “There are two inevitables in life—death and taxes.” Factually, you and I are going to die. Factually, every person who has ever been born before the last generation has died. That’s an immutable fact that you cannot gainsay. Argue against it all you will, rage against it, protest by raising your fist to the heavens—and the fact remains.