Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Truth and Facts

When science turned our epistemological world from arguments to explanations, facts, the starting point of those explanations and crucible upon which they are tested, took on a certain  sanctity. They have tended to become truth itself, the only truth we can know directly, and hence all but synonymous with truth for many.  They have come stand on their own, taken as truth apart from all but their bare, literal expression.

Against this view:

"Truth and facts are woven together."
This is a quote attributed Shannon L. Adler, an LDS writer.  I'm not sure where she was going with it — I can't find a reference to the source — but for me it nails that Dragnet mentality of "the facts ma'am, just the facts."

On the one hand, facts are the result of diagrammatically abstracting certain indices and relationships from experience.  If not totally the product of the diagram, these abstractions reduce experience to just what will serve the diagram.  On the other hand, facts are the focal points for testing the consequences inferred from the diagram.  If a general law or principle is used to infer and/or explain a fact, that general law is not itself a fact.  It is a principle defined within and warranted by the diagram.  Those facts on either side of a diagram may be true or false, in a sense, but only within the context of being defined and employed by that diagram.

Facts are abstracted with a resemblance to experience and submitted to the ratification of experience using a "diagram, which if not exactly a fiction, is at least a creation" [CP1.383].  Not only are truth and fact interwoven, it is only in the interweaving of them into one consistent fabric that we have something that, if not true, is at least trustworthy.

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