Facts Are Sometimes as Real as Anything Ever Gets

For most people what is real is answered by an appeal to “the facts”.

Criticisms of this approach range from “importantly accurate” references to 1. context, 2. the necessity of interpreting facts prior to deploying them, and 3. the historical evolution of what the very concept of “the fact” means (See Mary Poovey’s magisterial A History of the Modern Fact. ).

Perhaps a more foundational criticism is that a vision of reality focusing on the facts introduces greater expectation of certitude into our view of the world than is desirable.  Would any of us wish to join Thomas Gradgrind at the opening of Dickens Hard Times when he says:

Now, what I want is, FactsTeach these boys and girls nothing but FactsFacts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. ? 

However such criticisms should never overcome our respect for those elements of knowledge about which most reasonable and thoughtful people agree. Let’s call that knowledge “facts” and be pleased that we seem to know some things about our world with a high degree of certainty.

Furthermore, those facts should be learned and relied on when we construct our beliefs and behavior. Imagine the legion of mistakes the human community makes when it ignores facts. For example, even Kim Kardashian recognizes  the dangers of exaggerating the threat of Islamic terrorism in the United States.


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