The Info List - Fact

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A FACT is something that is postulated to have occurred or to be correct. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability —that is, whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to experience . Standard reference works are often used to check facts. Scientific facts are verified by repeatable careful observation or measurement (by experiments or other means).


* 1 Etymology and usage

* 2 In philosophy

* 2.1 Correspondence and the slingshot argument * 2.2 Compound facts * 2.3 Fact–value distinction * 2.4 Factual–counterfactual distinction

* 3 In science

* 3.1 The scientific method

* 4 In history

* 5 In law

* 5.1 Legal pleadings * 5.2 Submissions by _Amicus Curiae_

* 6 See also * 7 Reference


The word FACT derives from the Latin _factum_, and was first used in English with the same meaning: _a thing done or performed_, a meaning now obsolete. The common usage of "something that has really occurred or is the case" dates from the middle of the sixteenth century.

is sometimes used synonymously with _truth _, as distinct from opinions, falsehoods, or matters of taste. This use is found in such phrases as, "_It is a fact that the cup is blue"_ or "_Matter of fact"_, and "... not history, nor fact, but imagination." Filmmaker Werner Herzog distinguishes between the two, claiming that "Fact creates norms, and truth illumination."

also indicates a _matter under discussion_ deemed to be true or correct, such as to emphasize a point or prove a disputed issue; (e.g., "... the _fact_ of the matter is ...").

Alternatively, _fact_ may also indicate an _allegation or stipulation_ of something that may or may not be a _true fact_, (e.g., "the author's facts are not trustworthy"). This alternate usage, although contested by some, has a long history in standard English.

may also indicate findings derived through a _process of evaluation_, including review of testimony, direct observation, or otherwise; as distinguishable from matters of inference or speculation. This use is reflected in the terms "fact-find" and "fact-finder" (e.g., "set up a fact-finding commission").

Facts may be checked by reason, experiment, personal experience, or may be argued from authority. Roger Bacon wrote "If in other sciences we should arrive at certainty without doubt and truth without error, it behooves us to place the foundations of knowledge in mathematics."


In philosophy , the concept _fact_ is considered in epistemology and ontology . Questions of objectivity and truth are closely associated with questions of fact. A "fact" can be defined as something that is the case—that is, a state of affairs .

Facts may be understood as information that makes a true sentence true. Facts may also be understood as those things to which a true sentence refers. The statement "Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system" is _about_ the fact Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system.


Engel's version of the correspondence theory of truth explains that what makes a sentence true is that it _corresponds_ to a fact. This theory presupposes the existence of an objective world.

The Slingshot argument claims to show that all true statements stand for the same thing - the truth value _true_. If this argument holds, and facts are taken to be what true statements stand for, then we reach the counter-intuitive conclusion that there is only one fact - _the truth_.


Any non-trivial true statement about reality is necessarily an abstraction composed of a complex of objects and properties or relations . For example, the fact described by the true statement " Paris
is the capital city of France
" implies that there is such a place as Paris, there is such a place as France, there are such things as capital cities, as well as that France
has a government, that the government of France
has the power to define its capital city, and that the French government has chosen Paris
to be the capital, that there is such a thing as a _place_ or a _government_, and so on. The verifiable accuracy of all of these assertions, if facts themselves, may coincide to create the fact that Paris
is the capital of France.

Difficulties arise, however, in attempting to identify the constituent parts of negative, modal, disjunctive, or moral facts.


Main article: Fact–value distinction

Moral philosophers since David Hume
David Hume
have debated whether values are objective, and thus factual. In _ A Treatise of Human Nature
A Treatise of Human Nature
_ Hume pointed out there is no obvious way for a series of statements about what _ought_ to be the case to be derived from a series of statements of what _is_ the case. Those who insist there is a logical gulf between facts and values , such that it is fallacious to attempt to derive values from facts, include G. E. Moore , who called attempting to do so the naturalistic fallacy .


Main article: Counterfactual conditional

Factuality—what has occurred—can also be contrasted with counterfactuality: what _might have_ occurred, but did not. A counterfactual conditional or subjunctive conditional is a conditional (or "if-then") statement indicating what _would be_ the case if events had been other than they were. For example, "If Alexander had lived, his empire would have been greater than Rome." This contrasts with an indicative conditional, which indicates what _is_ (in fact) the case if its antecedent _is_ (in fact) true—for example, "If you drink this, it will make you well."

Such sentences are important to modal logic , especially since the development of possible world semantics.


Further information: scientific method and philosophy of science

In science, a _fact_ is a repeatable careful observation or measurement (by experimentation or other means), also called empirical evidence . Facts are central to building scientific theories . Various forms of observation and measurement lead to fundamental questions about the scientific method , and the scope and validity of scientific reasoning .

In the most basic sense, a scientific _fact_ is an objective and verifiable observation, in contrast with a _hypothesis _ or _theory _, which is intended to explain or interpret facts.

Various scholars have offered significant refinements to this basic formulation. Scientists are careful to distinguish between: 1) _states of affairs_ in the external world and 2) _assertions_ of fact that may be considered relevant in scientific analysis. The term is used in both senses in the philosophy of science.

and clinical researchers in both the social and natural sciences have written about numerous questions and theories that arise in the attempt to clarify the fundamental nature of scientific fact. Pertinent issues raised by this inquiry include:

* the process by which "established fact" becomes recognized and accepted as such; * whether and to what extent "fact" and "theoretic explanation" can be considered truly independent and separable from one another; * to what extent "facts" are influenced by the mere act of observation; and * to what extent factual conclusions are influenced by history and consensus, rather than a strictly systematic methodology.

Consistent with the idea of confirmation holism , some scholars assert "fact" to be necessarily "theory-laden" to some degree. Thomas Kuhn points out that knowing what facts to measure, and how to measure them, requires the use of other theories. For example, the age of fossils is based on radiometric dating , which is justified by reasoning that radioactive decay follows a Poisson process rather than a Bernoulli process . Similarly, Percy Williams Bridgman is credited with the methodological position known as operationalism, which asserts that all observations are not only influenced, but necessarily defined by the means and assumptions used to measure them.


Apart from the fundamental inquiry into the nature of scientific fact, there remain the practical and social considerations of how fact is investigated, established, and substantiated through the proper application of the scientific method. Scientific facts are generally believed independent of the observer: no matter who performs a scientific experiment, all observers agree on the outcome. In addition to these considerations, there are the social and institutional measures, such as peer review and accreditation, that are intended to promote _factual accuracy_ (among other interests) in scientific study.

One researcher described the place of facts in science as follows: In case the difference between evidence and medical evidence or the difference between facts and scientific facts eludes you, let me explain. If I have a headache or a fever, that’s not a fact except to me. If I tell a doctor about it, that’s what doctors call anecdotal evidence or testimonial. If the doctor takes my temperature and writes it down, the headache becomes medical evidence. If another doctor copies it, it becomes a scientific fact. Should I need proof that my fever was 101 last Tuesday and ask my doctor for my chart, it will not be given to me. That plain garden variety fact has now become a scientific fact. It’s only available to another doctor. If I complain the doctor won’t give me the scientific facts about my past condition, that’s anecdotal evidence again.


Further information: Historiography

A common rhetorical cliché states, "History is written by the winners ." This phrase suggests but does not examine the use of facts in the writing of history.

E. H. Carr in his 1961 volume _ What is History? _ argues that the inherent biases from the gathering of facts makes the objective truth of any historical perspective idealistic and impossible. Facts are, "like fish in the Ocean," of which we may only happen to catch a few, only an indication of what is below the surface. Even a dragnet cannot tell us for certain what it would be like to live below the Ocean's surface. Even if we do not discard any facts (or fish) presented, we will always miss the majority; the site of our fishing, the methods undertaken, the weather and even luck play a vital role in what we will catch. Additionally, the composition of history is inevitably made up by the compilation of many different biases of fact finding - all compounded over time. He concludes that for a historian to attempt a more objective method, one must accept that history can only aspire to a conversation of the present with the past - and that one's methods of fact gathering should be openly examined. Historical truth and facts therefore change over time, and reflect only the present consensus (if that).


Further information: Evidence (law) and Trier of fact

In most common law jurisdictions, the general concept and analysis of fact reflects fundamental principles of jurisprudence , and is supported by several well-established standards. Matters of fact have various formal definitions under common law jurisdictions.

These include:

* an element required in legal pleadings to demonstrate a cause of action;

* the determinations of the finder of fact after evaluating admissible evidence produced in a trial or hearing; * a potential ground of reversible error forwarded on appeal in an appellate court ; and * any of various matters subject to investigation by official authority to establish whether a crime has been perpetrated, and to establish culpability.


Main article: Pleading

A party to a civil suit generally must clearly state all relevant allegations of fact that form the basis of a claim . The requisite level of precision and particularity of these allegations varies, depending on the rules of civil procedure and jurisdiction. Parties who face uncertainties regarding facts and circumstances attendant to their side in a dispute may sometimes invoke alternative pleading. In this situation, a party may plead separate sets of facts that (when considered together) may be contradictory or mutually exclusive. This (seemingly) logically-inconsistent presentation of facts may be necessary as a safeguard against contingencies (such as _res judicata _) that would otherwise preclude presenting a claim or defense that depends on a particular interpretation of the underlying facts.


The United States Supreme Court
United States Supreme Court
receives and often cites 'facts' obtained from amicus briefs in its decisions. That is not supposed to happen, according to Justice Scalia,: "Supreme Court briefs are an inappropriate place to develop the key facts in a case. We normally give parties more robust protection, leaving important factual questions to district courts and juries aided by expert witnesses and the procedural protections of discovery." “untested judicial fact-finding masquerading as statutory interpretation.”

Nonetheless, 'facts' introduced in amicus briefs are cited in some Supreme Court decisions, bringing up the need to distinguish between _real facts_ and _internet facts_: “The Supreme Court has the same problem that the rest of us do: figuring out how to distinguish between real facts and Internet facts...Amicus briefs from unreliable sources can contribute to that problem.”


_ Wikiversity has learning resources about FACING FACTS _

* Brute fact * Consensus reality * Counterfactual history * De facto * Factoid * Lie


* ^ "Fact". OED_2d_Ed_1989, (but note the conventional uses: _after the fact_ and _before the fact_). * ^ "Fact" (1a). OED_2d_Ed_1989 Joye _Exp. Dan._ xi. Z vij b, _Let emprours and kinges know this godly kynges fact. 1545_ * ^ "Fact" (4a) OED_2d_Ed_1989 * ^ " Werner Herzog Film: Statements / Texts". Wernerherzog.com. 1999-04-30. Archived from the original on 2014-07-15. Retrieved 2014-07-14. * ^ "Fact" (6c). OED_2d_Ed_1989 * ^ (See also "Matter" (2,6). Compact_OED) * ^ "Fact" (5). OED_2d_Ed_1989 * ^ According to the _American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language_, " Fact
has a long history of usage in the sense 'allegation'" AHD_4th_Ed. The OED dates this use to 1729. * ^ "Fact" (6a). OED_2d_Ed_1989 * ^ "Fact" (8). OED_2d_Ed_1989 * ^ Roger Bacon, translated by Robert Burke _Opus Majus_, Book I, Chapter 2. * ^ "A fact, it might be said, is a state of affairs that is the case or obtains." – Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. _States of Affairs_ * ^ _See_ Wittgenstein, _ Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus ,_ Proposition 2: What is the case -- a fact -- is the existence of states of affairs. * ^ "A fact is, traditionally, the worldly correlate of a true proposition, a state of affairs whose obtaining makes that proposition true." – _Fact_ in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy * ^ Alex Oliver, _Fact_, in Craig, Edward (2005). _Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy_. Routledge, Oxford. ISBN 0-415-32495-5 . * ^ Engel, Pascal (2002). _Truth_. McGill-Queen's Press- MQUP. ISBN 0-7735-2462-2 . * ^ The argument is presented in many places, but see for example Davidson , _ Truth
and Meaning_, in Davidson, Donald (1984). _ Truth
and Interpretation_. Clarendon Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-824617-X . * ^ "Facts possess internal structure, being complexes of objects and properties or relations" Oxford Companion to Philosophy * ^ _Fact_, in _The Oxford Companion to Philosophy_, Ted Honderich, editor. (Oxford, 1995) ISBN 0-19-866132-0 * ^ Gower, Barry (1997). _Scientific Method: A Historical and Philosophical Introduction_. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-12282-1 . * ^ Ravetz, Jerome Raymond (1996). _Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems_. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 1-56000-851-2 . * ^ (Gower 1996) * ^ (see e.g., Ravetz, p. 182 fn. 1) * ^ Ravetz, p. 185 * ^ _A_ _B_ Gower, p. 138 * ^ Gower, p. 7 * ^ Ravetz p. 181 et. seq. (Chapter Six: "Facts and their evolution") * ^ Cassell, Eric J. The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine _ Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
_. Retrieved 16 May 2007. * ^ (Ravetz 1996) * ^ William Dufty (1975) Sugar Blues , page 93 * ^ Ed. note: this section of the article emphasizes common law jurisprudence (as primarily represented in Anglo-American–based legal tradition). Nevertheless, the principles described herein have analogous treatment in other legal systems (such as civil law systems) as well. * ^ Estrich, Willis Albert (1952). _American Jurisprudence: A Comprehensive Text Statement of American Case Law_. Lawyers Co-operative Publishing Company. * ^ Elkouri, Frank (2003). _How Arbitration Works_. BNA Books. ISBN 1-57018-335-X . p. 305 * ^ Bishin, William R. (1972). _Law Language and Ethics: An Introduction to Law and Legal Method_. Foundation Press. Original from the University of Michigan Digitized March 24, 2006. p. 277 * ^ _The Yale Law Journal: Volume 7_. Yale Law Journal Co. 1898. * ^ _Per_ Lord Shaw of Dunfermline, _Clarke v. Edinburgh and District Tramways Co_., 1919 S.C.(H.L.) 35, at p 36. * ^ Merrill, John Houston (1895). _The American and English Encyclopedia of Law_. E. Thompson. Original from Harvard University Digitized April 26, 2007. * ^ Bennett, Wayne W. (2003). _Criminal Investigation_. Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 0-534-61524-4 . * ^ Roy W. McDonald, _Alternative Pleading
in the United States: I_ Columbia Law Review, Vol. 52, No. 4 (Apr., 1952), pp. 443-478 * ^ (McDonald 1952) * ^ Justice Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia
(June 9, 2011). "Justice Scalia, dissenting: _On writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit_, No. 09-11311" (PDF). p. 5. * ^ Examples are cited by Allison Orr Larsen, posted by Alan Meese (July 30, 2014). "Allison Orr Larsen on _Intensely Empirical Amicus Briefs and Amicus Opportunism at the Supreme Court_". _Bishop Madison: Occasional commentary on political economy and a free society_. * ^ Kannon K. Shanmugam as quoted by Adam Liptak (September 1, 2014). "The dubious sources of some supreme court \'facts\'". _New York Times_. New York Times.

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