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What are facts, again?

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  1. Nov 25, 2017 #1
    Take for example the following cases:

    • It is a fact that Sam is sad
    • That Sam is sad is a fact
    • That 2+2=4 is a fact.
    What's the purpose of placing 'it is a fact' or 'is a fact' to those sentences? It would seem that Sam is sad is the same as the fact that Sam is sad. Otherwise, is just adding that something is a fact just redundant and pointless or does it add any content to the statement?
     
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  3. Nov 25, 2017 #2

    phinds

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    2+2=4 is a fact and saying so is redundant. Sam being sad could be an opinion stated by the person who thinks that Sam is sad, so saying it is a fact is for the purpose of removing it from the realm of opinion. However, even if Sam himslef says he is sad, he could be lying and it might NOT be a fact. Sam can't lie about whether or not 2+2=4
     
  4. Nov 25, 2017 #3

    DaveC426913

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    Sam's state is problematic, since it's a tough call to make. What if Sam is an actor? There are many reasons why it might not be true. However, it may be the case that, as part of some argument, you are asserting it to be true. So, you could state it that way, but it could still be challenged, since it is not irrefutable.

    As for 2+2=4, it is redundant.


    But there are cases where 'it is a fact' is useful.
    It is a fact that that flying before or after a dive excursion increases the chances of pulmonary edema.
    This is stating something that is not merely opinion or ... surmission, but is also not widely known. It is verifiable.
    Saying it is a fact essentially means 'Don't take my word for it. Feel free to go and check.'
     
  5. Nov 25, 2017 #4

    fresh_42

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    Except that 2+2=4 isn't a fact without further assumptions :wink:
     
  6. Nov 25, 2017 #5

    phinds

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    Hey, I'm an engineer and go with what's practical. I don't need no steenkin' assumptions. :smile:
     
  7. Nov 25, 2017 #6

    DaveC426913

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    Those assumptions are the default.
    If you were to refute the statement, the onus would be on you to list the exceptional circumstances.
     
  8. Nov 25, 2017 #7

    fresh_42

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    To be aware of the assumptions implicitly made is never refute. It is a bad practice to do not, and sometimes even add up in a crash landing on another planet - just because "default" doesn't mean the same to everybody!
     
  9. Nov 25, 2017 #8

    DaveC426913

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    The example you gave was 2+2=4.
    2+2 does equal 4 - unless you qualify your exceptions.
     
  10. Nov 25, 2017 #9

    fresh_42

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    ... which is not a fact.
     
  11. Nov 25, 2017 #10

    DaveC426913

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    It is, inasmuch as there is anything can be called a fact.

    By your argument, it would seem there is no such thing, since all statements and observations require an unlimited list of assumptions.

    Where do you draw the line? Can you assume we are not all merely figments of your imagination?
    The keyboard in front of you might be an illusion; you could be a brain in a vat. You could be hallucinating what you think are facts.

    You would never get beyond Descarte's conito ergo sum.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
  12. Nov 25, 2017 #11

    DaveC426913

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    I'll grant though, that it is an assumption that we are using base 10 (or at least base 5).
    That's not always a good assumption on a science board. :wink:
     
  13. Nov 25, 2017 #12
    Here are examples of what facts are to answer my own question:

    • A fact is just a true truth-bearer,
    • A fact is just an obtaining state of affairs,
    • A fact is just a sui generis type of entity in which objects exemplify properties or stand in relations.
    Now, pertinent to this forum, under what category do scientific facts fall under? It would seem that scientific facts are the third option, 'a type of entity in which objects exemplify properties or stand in relations.'

    Does that sound correct because I am wondering if scientific facts are culturally bound or exist on a plane of their own, meaning in some sense observer-independent; but, obviously need some form of observation to confirm their existence?
     
  14. Nov 25, 2017 #13

    DaveC426913

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    Not sure about all those definitions.

    How about something simple, like a fact is a statement that is indisputably the case.

    Time dilation is indisputable.
    Einsteinian relativity is disputable.
     
  15. Nov 25, 2017 #14

    berkeman

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    Thread closed temporarily for Moderation...
     
  16. Nov 25, 2017 #15

    jim mcnamara

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    Enough epistemology. We can see that philosophy is generally a poor fit for the PF discussion model. Thanks for participating. Thread closed.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2017
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