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Naive Realism

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Posted by Harvey on May 28, 2002 17:11:51 UTC

Aaron,

You are expressing the view called 'naive realism'. The world is how it appears.

***n 1: a piece of information about circumstances that exist or events that have occurred; "first you must collect all the facts of the case" 2: a statement or assertion of verified information about something that is the case or has happened; "he supported his argument with an impressive array of facts" 3: an event known to have happened or something known to have existed; "your fears have no basis in fact"; "how much of the story is fact and how much fiction is hard to tell" 4: a concept whose truth can be proved; "scientific hypotheses are not facts"***

You're not at the point in your life where you question the definition in dictionaries. Where you are right now the dictionary appears to be the ultimate correct answer (or, maybe right underneath the authority of Leviticus and Deuteronomy).

The problem with the dictionary.com definition is that it is based on an objective rendering of a fact. However, there is no such thing as an objective rendering. We are all humans and all of our explanations are subjective. For example, countless numbers of supposed 'facts' are no longer considered facts. The details of our subjective knowledge changed such that new facts contradicted old facts, and the old facts eventually were discarded. Hence, we always must regard truth from a subjective framework. These subjective frameworks are called beliefs. Beliefs lie on a continuum from verified to unverified, from logically derived to postulated as an axiom, etc.

***So any thing that was well accepted was a fact, pending certain context. Those last 2 words are a very nice loop hole.***

Context is the key to determining a fact. For example, if I say it is 12PM, you might accept it as a fact, but first you need to confirm what timezone I am saying it is 12PM. You might say that it is a fact that you are travelling 60 mph, but I might need to confirm that your speed odometer is working properly and that you are actually on the road (versus on some automotive shop where you are simply pressing the accelerator to where the odometer reads 60 mph).

***Thanks, but your definition just doesn't make any sense to me especially when one can determine the context by your self and not by definition. That is falling down a very dark hole in human thought. After all in the Nazis context it was a fact that the Jews were mere animals that must be exterminated and the KKK's context was the white people were better than black people. Since context of a fact by your definition is determined by the person and not the definition, the person determines the factual value of something and not the fact it self. And I just can' agree with that deffinition.***

I said facts have a subjective quality, but not completely subjective. Humans in order to effectively communicate must accept certain beliefs as 'true' in order to function. Part of doing so is building a list of criteria that can meet this quality. For example, consistency and coherency is required to effectively communicate. If we changed the meaning of words each time we spoke to someone, then we could never communicate. We must also accept some type of logical rules and definitions that are beyond the point of being questioned (i.e., facts). We can deny them as real facts, but that doesn't change the requirement that they are still needed to be held in highest esteem in order to communicate effectively.

Using this understanding of 'facts', we are no longer naive in our understanding of our beliefs. At the same time, we are able to extend our knowledge of the world. This is what scientific theories do for us. They give us a sense of 'facts', but ultimately we understand that 'facts' simply lie on a continuum between not-likely-to-be-true to this-must-be-regarded-as-true. Scientific theories produce a great many 'facts' that are equivalent to this-must-be-regarded-as-true.

Where you misunderstand science is that you think a fact has no loose ends. This is an incorrect understanding of science. Something can be regarded as true by science as still have a great many loose ends.

Warm regards, Harv

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