Then, as though by extrasensory perception, I started hearing sentences she hadn’t actually said. I felt a small thrill of fear. I knew for a pluperfect fact she was going to drop a bomb. – Sue Grafton (T Is for Trespass)
I knew the term pluperfect from taking Latin in high school, but Random House says there is a second definition – “more than perfect”. Is there a word or phrase that means “even more perfect than pluperfect”? How truthy is a mere fact, not a perfect fact nor a pluperfect fact, but an ordinary run-of-the-mill factual fact? And where do true facts, actual facts and scientific facts fit on the truthiness index?
Some facts are not true facts.
Obviously. It’s a shame that our language lacks a word that means facts that actually are facts, and for perfection that us truly perfect. (BTW, I think Rupert Murdoch has trademarked that phrase.)
I think you’re taking Sue Grafton a bit too seriously. She’s doing entertainment, not epistemology.
She’s no Rex Stout, but just as Wolfe has Fritz preparing odd dishes, Kinsey has Rosie doing the same, although in T is fir Trouble, Rosie makes quail in tomatillo-chile sauce, a Mexican dish that seems odd coming from a Hungarian cook. and Kinsey shops for a rutabaga requested by her the Mexican identity thief neighbor. (Made me hungry for neeps and tatties, which I haven’t had since the 1970s.)
Grafton seems to be quite literate, but in order to maintain a suspension of disbelief, Kinsey Milhone, who narrates the stories has to sound like someone who became a cop because she couldn’t hack college and then became a private eye because she couldn’t hack the police bureaucracy for long, finally going out on her own because she was so independent, and not even able to maintain a relationship with the insurance company that housed her office. What I was throwing a conniption fit about was Random House’s definition of pluperfect, although I strongly suspect the lexicographers and editors involved are as incensed as I am at the concept of a perfecter perfect. What can they do? They don’t invent the language any more than weathermen invent tornadoes.
Bill’s saying of Monica,that he did not have sex with that woman, was a fact, but it wasn’t true. The truth was that they engaged in erotic play without coitus, as defined by Merriam-Webster (physical union of male and female genitalia accompanied by rhythmic movements)
Bob Heinlein wrote that there are three kinds of lies.
The first kind is a simple untruth. When someone precedes a statement with “to tell you the truth,” it’s a fair bet that a simple untruth is coming down the pike.
The second kind of lie is the half-truth. As the woman said to the parrot, it depends on who you’re talking to. – Archie Goodwin in Rex Stout The Father Hunt
The most effective lie, according to Heinlein, is to tell the truth in an unconvincing manner. If I tell you that some of Joe’s best friends are niggers, you’re going to believe that he (and I) are racists.
As a newspaper owner, my goal was to report the truth, not to report facts. If I wrote that angry parents confronted the school board, I didn’t interview every one, and frankly (another word that often precedes a simple lie) there were a range of emotions ranging from curious concern to highly incensed.
It’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around it, mainly because most people don’t use it that way. If they say, “It is a fact,” they mean, “It is the truth.” But, nevertheless, I am convinced a fact doesn’t have to be true. It was discussions on this forum that taught me the truth (fact)
Here is a link to one. It shouldn’t be hard to find more.
As I understand the discussion, a “fact” is an objective assertion, something that can at least in theory be either proven or disproven without any room for dispute. “This shoe is brown” is a fact because everyone who looks at it will come to the same yes-or-no conclusion. “The moon is made of cheese” is a fact, though false, because we’ve been there and confirmed that it’s made of other things. “Salieri had Mozart killed” is a fact because it undeniably either did or didn’t happen, even if there’s no evidence left today that can establish conclusively whether it’s true or false.
The opposite of a “fact” is an opinion. “Poverty causes crime” isn’t a fact because (1) crime can also be linked to other causes, and (2) poverty doesn’t necessarily always lead to crime.
The reported discussion of a listener’s daughter reading the breakfast cereal box and pointing out the “facts” printed there was correct by this definition: “a great way to start the day” can’t be confirmed other than statistically, but “one bowl contains twice the recommended daily allowance for riboflavin” can be settled by a simple chemical analysis.
I suspect this discussion would be a lot different if everyone here had read Count Alfred Korzybski’s Science and Sanity. It’s an incredibly long book. and I found it difficult reading, because he challenged my core beliefs about the nature of reality and to a large degree, succeeded.
We may readily agree that a given piece of furniture is a chair, but if we say “buy me a chair” we may well be disappointed. If you had in mind a La-Z-Boy recliner/rocker, and you ended up with a ladder-back kitchen chair, you may not enjoy watching TV at the end of a tiring workday. Similarly, my concept of what is and what isn’t opinion doesn’t agree with Ron’s.
The question as to Mozart’s death is. to me, an opinion. Any observation of reality is an opinion – including cogito ergo sum.
What is not an opinion is assertions about imaginary things. We can say that the interior angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees, because triangles don’t exist except in a mathematical world we have invented. Change the definitions – for example, switch from plane geometry to spherical geometry – and the interior angles of a three-sided shape are not going to sum to 180 degrees.
And it’s not opinion that Kinsey Millhone’s father was a postal worker, because that’s how Sue Grafton invented her. None of us in reality knows who his father is for sure. Even DNA tests leave open the possibility that sear old Dad secretly had an identical twin who impregnated Mom.
There have been no scientific laws proposed in over a century, and all the older ones are known to be false. Instead, scientists propose theories, and fully expect that sooner or later,someone will come up with a theory that better approximates reality.
I prefer to agree with the common dictionary entry and require that a fact must closely approximate reality; lies and errors are not facts. Arbitrarily devising new definitions for words that conflict with existing definitions is vandalism.
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