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January 29, 2017


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Patrick S. O'Donnell

Yet, and of course (and perhaps only by way of reminder), even "evidenced-based" disciplines are implicated in myriad kinds of questions and judgments about values, principles, objectivity and truth in the determination and selection of (salient) facts. See, for example, this blog post (which aspires to be no more than a blog post):

And consider the following from sundry philosophers, which provide much (nutritious) food for thought:

“Values enter into the very definition of what a fact is; the realm of facts cannot be defined or specified without utilizing certain values. Values enter into the process of knowing a fact; without utilizing or presupposing certain values, we cannot determine which is the realm of facts, we cannot know the real from the unreal.”—Robert Nozick

Our knowledge of the world presupposes values, indeed, what comes to count as the real world depends upon our values. This is evidenced in the “implicit standards and skills on the basis of which we decide whether someone is able to give a true, adequate, and perspicuous account of even the simplest perceptual facts…”—Hilary Putnam

‘[F]act, (or truth) and rationality are interdependent notions. A fact is something that it is rational to believe, or, more precisely, the notion of a fact (or a true statement) is an idealization of the notion of a statement that it is rational to believe. [….] [B]eing rational involves having criteria of relevance as well as criteria of rational acceptability, and…all of our values are involved in our criteria of relevance. The decision that a picture of the world is true (or true by our present lights, or “as true as anything is”) and answers the relevant questions (as well as we are able to answer them) rests on and reveals our total system of value commitments. A being with no values would have no facts either. The way in which criteria of relevance involves values, at least indirectly, may be seen by examining the simplest statement. Take the sentence “The cat is on the mat.” If someone actually makes this judgment in a particular context, then he employs conceptual resources—the notions “cat,” “on,” and “mat”—which are provided by a particular culture, and whose presence and ubiquity reveal something about the interests and values of that culture, and of almost every culture. We have the category “cat” because we regard the division of the world into animals and non-animals as significant, and we are further interested in what species a given animal belongs to. It is relevant that there is a cat on the mat and not just a thing. We have the category “mat” because we regard the division of inanimate things into artifacts and non-artifacts as significant, and we are further interested in the purpose and nature a particular artifact has. It is relevant that it is a mat that the cat is on and just something. We have the category “on” because we are interested in spatial relations. Notice what we have: we took the most banal statement imaginable, “the cat is on the mat,” and we found that the presuppositions which make this statement a relevant one in certain contexts include the significance of the categories animate/inanimate, purpose, and space. To a mind with no disposition to regard these as relevant categories, “the cat is on the mat” would be as irrational as “the number of hexagonal objects in this room is 76” would be, uttered in the middle of a tête-à-tête between young lovers. Not only do very general facts about our value system show themselves in our categories (artifacts, species name, term for a spatial relation) but, our more specific values (for example, sensitivity and compassion), also show up in the use we make of specific classificatory words (‘considerate,’ ‘selfish’). To repeat, our criteria of relevance rest on and reveal our whole system of values.’—Hilary Putnam

‘The moral point is that “facts” are set up as such by human (that is moral) agents. Much of our life is taken up by truth-seeking, imagining, questioning. We relate to facts through truth and truthfulness, and come to recognise and discover that there are different modes and levels of insight and understanding. In many familiar ways, various values pervade and colour what we take to be the reality of our world; wherein we constantly evaluate our own values and those of others, and judge and determine forms of consciousness and modes of being.’—Iris Murdoch

‘The concept factual judgment or judgment with a truth-value and the concept of ethical judgment will be different concepts—such a distinction is there to be made, just as the concept mouse and the concept mammal are different concepts—but the distinctness does not preclude a judgment’s being both a factual and an ethical judgment. Compare the way in which the distinct concepts mouse and mammal will each collect any particular mouse you please, Timmy Willy or Johnny Town or whichever, within their extensions. Ethical judgments could be a subset of factual judgments even if they were an utterly special and essentially contestable subset. In this way, we can have a clear difference between the ethical-as-such and the factual-as-such without any dichotomy between their property provinces. The hope of making good a claim of this sort is the characteristic hope of ethical objectivism or moral cognitivism.’—David Wiggins

‘The content of an assertion is intrinsically related to a conceptual scheme. [….] In effect, propositions, true or false, are implicitly indexed to some conceptual scheme or schemes. [….] Facts are internal to conceptual schemes, or ways of dividing the world into objects, among which there can be equally acceptable alternatives. [….] [S]uch metaphysical pluralism is consistent with realism about truth.’—Michael P. Lynch

‘[I]n taking concepts to be flexible and fluid like, the pluralist is not saying that we are confused about our concepts. Rather, the point is that concepts are not absolutely determinate or closed; they do not have a fixed use in every possible situation. This does not imply, however, that no concepts have determinate uses in all actual situations. Some concepts may be perfectly determinate in actual situations, but not in all possible situations. [….] For the pluralist, concepts are…flexible; they are subject to possible extension in the fact of unforeseen circumstances. Hence, there can be irresolvable disagreements over how to apply any concept. In a sense, concepts are therefore always possibly vague in a nonpejorative sense; they have what Waismann called “open texture.”’—Michael P. Lynch

‘Minimally speaking, a proposition is true in the realist sense when things are as that proposition says they are. Some aspect of objective reality must simply be a certain way. If it is, then the proposition is true; if not, the proposition is false. The truth of the proposition hinges on the world alone, not on our thought about the world. In short, realism about truth minimally implies two commitments: (a) truth is an authentic property that some propositions have and others lack, and (b) the concept of truth is, in Putnam’s words, “radically non-epistemic;” that is, whether a proposition is true (in most cases) does not depend on what I or anyone else believes or knows. [….] According to correspondence accounts of truth, there are three metaphysical aspects to any true proposition: the proposition itself (the truth bearer), its correspondence (the truth relation), and the reality to which it corresponds (the truth marker). [….] In other words, propositions are true when they correspond to the facts.’—Michael P. Lynch

‘[T]here is no logical incoherence in supposing that facts and propositions are relative to conceptual schemes and that truth is the correspondence of (relative) propositions with (relative) facts.’—Michael P. Lynch

Truth is objective; it is good to believe what is true; truth is a goal worthy of human inquiry; and truth is worth caring about for its own sake.

‘Thinking about why we should care about truth tells us two things about it: first, that truth is, in part, a deeply normative property—it is a value. And second, this is a fact that any adequate theory of truth must account for. In light of this fact, I suggest that truth, like other values, should be understood as depending on, but not reducible to, lower-level properties. Yet which properties truth depends on or supervenes on may change with the type of belief in question. This opens the door to a type of pluralism: truth in ethics may be realized differently than in physics.’—Michael P. Lynch

‘Truth is a property that is good for beliefs to have. Since propositions are the content of beliefs, and it is the content of a belief and not the act of believing that is true, we can also say that truth is the property that makes a proposition good to believe.’—Michael P. Lynch

‘All truths are relative, yes, but our concept of truth needn’t be a relative concept.’—Michael P. Lynch

‘[T]he conditions under which a proposition is true are partly determined by the conceptual scheme in which the proposition is expressed. But what makes a proposition true is not its relation to a scheme but whether or not the conditions in question obtain. For a claim to be true (or false), the conditions must be relative to a scheme. Yet the reason that the claim is true is not because it is relative to a scheme (as the truth relativist must hold); it is true because it is the case. [….] A fact, in the human sense, is simply what is the case.’—Michael P. Lynch

‘We have to come to terms with epistemic realities, which include:
• the diversity in people’s experiences and cognitive situations
• the variation of “available data”
• the underdetermination of facts by data (all too frequently insufficient)
• the variability of people’s cognitive values (evidential security, simplicity, etc.)
• the variation of cognitive methodology and the epistemic “state of the art”
Such factors—and others like them—make for an unavoidable difference in the beliefs, judgments, and evaluations even of otherwise “perfectly rational” people.’—Nicholas Rescher

‘… [The] “scientific” is not coextensive with “rational.” There are many perfectly rational beliefs that cannot be tested ‘scientifically.’ But more than that, … there are whole domains of fact with respect to which present-day science tells us nothing at all, not even that the facts in question exist. These domains are not new or strange. Three of them are (1) the domain of objective values; (2) the domain of freedom; (3) the domain of rationality itself.’—Hilary Putnam

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

I am fully embracing my new role during the Trump era. Wealth accumulation. There is no shame in being green. Mrs. Carsweell will no longer sacrifice for the sake of legal representation and three bill retail thefts. Four bills now going forward. Carswell's FIRST!

terry malloy

Record grain and steel production in the Soviet. . . I mean American heartland again!

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