The Facts. Just the Facts.


Although at first glance, “facts” are the paradigms of straightforwardness, something about facts seems to invite perpetual controversy and dichotomizing. Innumerable bifurcations on the topic have included "Facts vs. Theories”, “Facts vs. Appearance”, "Facts vs. Values", ... and, popular nowadays, "(Real)Facts vs. Fake Facts". This paper most aligns with the facts vs. theories model, so far as whatever facts are, theories seem to be constructed stories that are necessary for connecting and interpreting the facts. Yet the boundary between the two is fluid and fuzzy: Fact in one context is theory in another, depending on what is being accepted or contested at the time. This paper’s views are compatible with—but neutral on the plausibility of having—an optimism like Peirce’s that scientific inquiry may nonetheless converge towards a consensus. To illustrate the challenges of finding “straightforward” facts, the paper includes a case example, related to research on possible health effects of exposure to electromagnetic-field radiation (EMF). _ The source paper for this 2018 update was originally presented at the University of Waterloo 30th Anniversary Philosophy Conference, 1993.

Author's Profile

William M. Goodman
University Of Ontario Institute Of Technology


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