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RE: Facts - an attempted definition WAS: Re: [ba-unrev-talk] Not In Our Name

Since we all operate in a state of insufficient information, identifying
anything as truly incontrovertible is not really possible. The best we can
do is to get to a place where our level of confidence in the proposition is
such that we are willing to treat is as "true" instead of fully qualifying
the proposition at all times. Any "fact" of merit is subject to being shown
to be less than totally correct as a result of further evidence.    (01)

Since the amount of information that we can get about the world by our own
observation is limited, we are also constrained, sooner or later, to have to
choose what source or sources of information we are going to accept as being
most nearly correct in any given case. It isn't pretty, but it is true.    (02)

This is why it is so important to be able to backtrack to sources if there
is a strong need to evaluate statements effectively. When some study is
reported, there are all sorts of issues that we need to examine before we
can say that the results are "facts" in this broader sense:
* Who did the study?
* What are their credentials in this area?
* Are there any conflicts of interest or hidden agendas here?
* Was the reporting correct, complete, and in context?
* . . .    (03)

The tools that we should develop should support asking these sorts of
Absolute certainty is not possible, but something approximating full
disclosure should be.    (04)

Thanks,    (05)

Garold (Gary) L. Johnson    (06)

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-ba-unrev-talk@bootstrap.org
[mailto:owner-ba-unrev-talk@bootstrap.org]On Behalf Of Peter Jones
Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 12:39 PM
To: ba-unrev-talk@bootstrap.org
Subject: Facts - an attempted definition WAS: Re: [ba-unrev-talk] Not In Our
Name    (07)

Garold (Gary) L. Johnson wrote:
> ... The better an understanding that we can get of the *facts* of
> the problem and their relationships the better chance we have of evolving
> solutions that will work in the sense that they will eliminate rather than
> alleviate the problem.    (08)

Just thought I'd point out that 'fact' is one of those terms whose meaning
debated a lot in philosophy.
Here's a preliminary definition I cooked up a while back whilst thinking of
these same issues.    (09)

"What are facts?
A fact is an aspect of the percieved world, that if articulated in language
gives rise to a proposition that is an incontrovertible belief.
Not all beliefs about the perceived world are incontrovertible.
The incontrovertibility of the belief entails that the aspect of the
perceived world that is its subject matter should be classified as a fact.
By definition incontrovertibility survives communication."    (010)

Note that this makes the class of facts rather narrow - they are effectively
This suggests to me that if the data is obvious, then perhaps it is actually
differences in the way folks stitch it together that is the problem. Most
academic activity is built upon that idea.    (011)

Perhaps it is the links and inferences, and comparisons of such, that are
critical to the enterprise of problem solving after one has nailed the facts
tough job in
itself).    (012)

Peter    (013)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Garold (Gary) L. Johnson" <dynalt@dynalt.com>
To: <ba-unrev-talk@bootstrap.org>
Sent: Monday, September 30, 2002 5:38 PM
Subject: RE: [ba-unrev-talk] Not In Our Name    (014)

> > such differences of opinion/judgment among thoughtful men
> > . . . are mostly a matter of insufficient availability of shared,
> verifiable facts.
> This is certainly true, but it isn't all of the problem. As Joseph M.
> says: "It isn't what you don't know that hurts you; it's what you know for
> sure that isn't so." (multiple attributions). Not totally true, of course,
> what you don't know *can* hurt you also.
> The terms "everybody knows", "common sense", "obvious", "self-evident",
> "intuitive" and similar all denote knowledge that is claimed to be shared
> all an seldom is. One difficulty with most discussions is that they start
> the middle with all participants believing that everybody else shares what
> are to them are obvious bits of knowledge. This turns out to be true
> never. For this reason, going back to precise definitions becomes very
> important. Learning to use language as unambiguously as possible and to
> attention to such details as precise *shared* definitions is essential to
> progress in serious discussion.
> Gary Richmond's post on "Poor in Assets and Income" makes this point quite
> well. Given an inadequate definition of a single word can result in a
> failure of even the best intentioned to resolve the difficulty. In social
> problems, a major difficulty is getting a formulation of the problem that
> actually takes into account all the relevant factors and tries to
> which of those factors are causes and which are effects - a point that was
> made in the posts on the commons site. Failure to state the problem in
> adequate terms dooms us to trying to solve the wrong problem.
> Poverty is a classic case:
> "Poverty means that the poor don't have enough money" results in programs
> give them money, which have failed, because that is far from all that is
> needed.
> The asset definition may be a better one, but in the light of some of the
> commons information, sometimes "access to assets" is an important
> Something such as poverty is a complex issue because it has many causes,
> not all who are poor are so for the same reasons. Attempts to solve an
> such as poverty based on a simplistic definition results in "solutions"
> don't work. The better an understanding that we can get of the *facts* of
> the problem and their relationships the better chance we have of evolving
> solutions that will work in the sense that they will eliminate rather than
> alleviate the problem.
> Nearly all complex problems are also systems problems in the sense that
> there are very few "independent variables" - everything impacts everything
> else, and not all combinations of values are possible, and not all that
> theoretically possible are achievable.
> Thanks,
> Garold (Gary) L. Johnson
>    (015)