Thanks to postmodernism, we tend to see all facts as meaningless trivia, no one more vital than any other. Yet this disregard for facts qua facts is intellectually crippling. Facts are the raw material of thought, and the knowledge of significant facts makes sophisticated thought possible.
Facts are neutral until human beings add their own meaning to those facts. People make their decisions based on what the facts mean to them, not on the facts themselves. The meaning they add to facts depends on their current story ... facts are not terribly useful to influencing others. People don't need new facts""they need a new story.
What are the facts? Again and again and again "" what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what "the stars foretell," avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history" "" what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!
Robert A. Heinlein
I don't like realism. We already know the real facts about li[fe], most of the basic facts. I'm not interested in repeating what we already know. We know about sex, about violence, about murder, about war. All these things, by the time we're 18, we're up to here. From there on we need interpreters. We need poets. We need philosophers. We need theologians, who take the same basic facts and work with them and help us make do with those facts. Facts alone are not enough. It's interpretation.
Now, what I want is, facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts 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. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!
Truths emerge from facts, but they dip forward into facts again and add to them; which facts again create or reveal new truth (the word is indifferent) and so on indefinitely. The 'facts' themselves meanwhile are not true. They simply are. Truth is the function of the beliefs that start and terminate among them.
Let us, rather, gather facts, all the facts, regardless of aesthetic appeal or theoretical social worth, and spread those facts before us not as the soothsayer spreads the innards of a turkey but as a newspaper spreads its columns. Let us be journalists, then. And like all good journalists, we shall present our facts in an order that will satisfy the famous five W's: wow, whoopee, wahoo, why-not and whew.
A writer need not devour a whole sheep in order to know what mutton tastes like, but he must at least eat a chop. Unless he gets his facts right, his imagination will lead him into all kinds of nonsense, and the facts he is most likely to get right are the facts of his own experience.
W. Somerset Maugham
Facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away while scientists debate rival theories for explaining them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air pending the outcome.
Stephen Jay Gould
In order for a god to be all-knowing, he must know even the fact of his own omniscience. But can he do this? He may know the totality of facts constituting the world; call this Y. But in order to know that he has mastered Y, he must also know that 'There are no facts unknown to me' - and this is beyond Y. It seems impossible that a god (or anyone) could ever be sure that nothing exists beyond his ken. It makes no sense to imagine [a god] arriving at this limit, peering beyond it (at what?), and satisfying himself no further facts exist. But without this certainty he cannot be sure of his own omniscience, and so does not know everything. A theist might argue that his god has created all the facts in existence. But an omniscient god would have to be sure of even this - that he is the sole creator, and that there are no facts unknown to him. And how could he come to this knowledge?
I certainly incorporate facts into my fiction. I take the basic facts from the life of my subject and I pick and choose what to use to construct a really interesting novel. I don't let facts get in the way of my imagination and my exploration of the subject's emotions and relationships.
Reading things that are relevant to the facts of your life is of limited value. The facts are, after all, only the facts, and the yearning passionate part of you will not be met there. That is why reading ourselves as a fiction as well as fact is so liberating. The wider we read the freer we become.
It is safe to assume that any individual or group you wish to influence has access to more wisdom than they currently use. It is also safe to assume that they also have considerably more facts than they can process effectively. Giving them even more facts adds to the wrong pile. They don't need more facts. They need help finding their wisdom. Contrary to popular belief, bad decisions are rarely made because people don't have all the facts.
No longer can we afford to stuff the brains of the young with facts. The time is too short, the necessity for results too pressing. The new education must be based on the elimination of facts except as they illustrate principles. How to use facts, not how to accumulate them, is the purpose of true education.
Pearl S. Buck
No theory ever agrees with all the facts in its domain, yet it is not always the theory that is to blame. Facts are constituted by older ideologies, and a clash between facts and theories may be proof of progress. It is also a first step in our attempt to find the principles implicit in familiar observational notions.
Appearances are not reality; but they often can be a convincing alternative to it. You can control appearances most of the time, but facts are what they are. When the facts are too sharp, you can craft a cheerful version of the situation and cover the facts the way that you can covered a battered old four-slice toaster with a knitted cozy featuring images of kittens.
An application of judicial power that does not rest on facts is worse than mindless, it is inherently dangerous. If its deployment does not rest on facts - cold, hard, solid facts, established either by admissions or by trials - it serves no lawful or moral purpose and is simply an engine of oppression.
Jed S. Rakoff
I think it's my job or the artist's job, to try and find some solution or some reason to accept things. But given the grimmest reality, I feel the grimmest facts are the real facts, the true facts: that you're born, you die, you suffer, it's to no purpose, and you're gone forever, ever, ever, and that's it.
I have great hope and faith, but it's a humanistic faith based in facts; you have to believe that facts exist. We can all arrive at the same facts if we engage in the process of experimentation, observation, and verification, which can solve more of the world's major problems than a debate over whether God does or doesn't exist.
If you believe in the eighteenth century view of the mind, you will look and act wimpy. You will think that all you need to do is give people the facts and the figures and they will reach the right conclusion. You will think that all you need to do is point out where their interests lie, and they will act politically to maximize them. You will believe in polling and focus groups: you will believe that if you ask people what their interests are, they will be aware of them and will tell you, and will vote on it. You will not have any need to appeal to emotion-indeed, to do so would be wrong! You will not have to speak of values; facts and figures will suffice. You will not have to change people's brains; their reason should be enough. You will not have to frame the facts; they will speak for themselves. You just have to get the facts to them...
An enthusiastic philosopher, of whose name we are not informed, had constructed a very satisfactory theory on some subject or other, and was not a little proud of it. "But the facts, my dear fellow, " said his friend, "the facts do not agree with your theory."-"Don't they?" replied the philosopher, shrugging his shoulders, "then, tant pis pour les faits;"-so much the worse for the facts!
Our alleged facts might be true in all kinds of ways without contradicting any truth already known. I will dwell now on only one possible line of explanation, not that I see any way of elucidating all the new phenomena I regard as genuine, but because it seems probable I may shed a light on some of those phenomena. All the phenomena of the universe are presumably in some way continuous; and certain facts, plucked as it were from the very heart of nature , are likely to be of use in our gradual discovery of facts which lie deeper still.
Generally speaking, geologists seem to have been much more intent on making little worlds of their own, than in examining the crust of that which they inhabit. It would be much more desirable that facts should be placed in the foreground and theories in the distance, than that theories should be brought forward at the expense of facts. So that, in after times, when the speculations of the present day shall have passed away, from a greater accumulation of information, the facts may be readily seized and converted to account.
Henry De la Beche
Facts are certainly the solid and true foundation of all sectors of nature study ... Reasoning must never find itself contradicting definite facts; but reasoning must allow us to distinguish, among facts that have been reported, those that we can fully believe, those that are questionable, and those that are false. It will not allow us to lend faith to those that are directly contrary to others whose certainty is known to us; it will not allow us to accept as true those that fly in the face of unquestionable principles.
Rene Antoine Ferchault de Reaumur
To inquire into what God has made is the main function of the imagination. It is aroused by facts, is nourished by facts; seeks for higher and yet higher laws in those facts; but refuses to regard science as the sole interpreter of nature, or the laws of science as the only region of discovery.
Were I disposed to consider the comparative merit of each of them [facts or theories in medical practice], I should derive most of the evils of medicine from supposed facts, and ascribe all the remedies which have been uniformly and extensively useful, to such theories as are true. Facts are combined and rendered useful only by means of theories, and the more disposed men are to reason, the more minute and extensive they become in their observations
All good intellects have repeated, since Bacon's time, that there can be no real knowledge but that which is based on observed facts. This is incontestable, in our present advanced stage; but, if we look back to the primitive stage of human knowledge, we shall see that it must have been otherwise then. If it is true that every theory must be based upon observed facts, it is equally true that facts cannot be observed without the guidance of some theory. Without such guidance, our facts would be desultory and fruitless; we could not retain them: for the most part we could not even perceive them.
It surely can be no offence to state, that the progress of science has led to new views, and that the consequences that can be deduced from the knowledge of a hundred facts may be very different from those deducible from five. It is also possible that the facts first known may be the exceptions to a rule and not the rule itself, and generalisations from these first-known facts, though useful at the time, may be highly mischievous, and impede the progress of the science if retained when it has made some advance.
Henry De la Beche
Since my moral system rests on my accepted version of the facts, he who denies my moral judgments or my version of the facts, is to me perverse, alien, dangerous. How shall I account for him? The opponent has always to be explained, and the last explanation that we ever look for is that he sees a different set of facts. Such an explanation we avoid, because it saps the very foundation of our own assurance that we have seen life steadily and seen it whole.
The theories of the social sciences do not consist of 'laws' in the sense of empirical rules about the behavior of objects definable in physical terms. All that the theory of the social sciences attempts is to provide a technique of reasoning which assists us in connecting individual facts, but which, like logic or mathematics, is not about the facts. It can, therefore, and this is the second point, never be verified or falsified by reference to facts.