Moving Factward

by Tyrrell_McAllister1 min read29th Nov 201811 comments

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In the legendarium of J.R.R. Tolkien, the land of the gods is known as "The Uttermost West." For the world was originally created flat, and the gods took the westernmost region of this flat world for their dwelling place.

On our globe, of course, there is no westernmost point. And yet it is still the case that, at each position on the equator, some direction is objectively "westward". The objectivity of "westward" doesn't assume that there is some ultimate West by which the west-ness of all other positions is measured.

Analogously, there is no such thing as a "bare uninterpreted fact". "Just the facts" is not a realizable ideal.

And yet we can still recognize when one account of a situation is more "factish" than another. We can see that the second account is more of an interpretation compared to the relatively factish features given in the first account. The more-factish account is never the ultimate and unvarnished truth. Likely no coherent sense could be made of that ideal. Nonetheless, from wherever we stand, we can always "move factward".[1]


Footnote

[1] ETA: Said Achmiz points out that many features of "westward" don't apply to "factward". Analogies typically assert a similarity between only some, not all, aspects of the two analogous situations. But maybe the other aspects of "westward" are so salient that they interfere with the analogy.

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I think the analogy to the round earth is unhelpful, for essentially the reasons Said Achmiz's comment alludes to. More relevant would be an infinite plane (where you can always move west and there is a consistent global notion of west-ness).

It seems plausible that it's correct to treat a piece of information as approaching very close the fact-ness. If I say that a cup contains an kilogram of water, there's some sense in which this is not a pure fact, but it seems very close to a pure fact, and although pure-factness about water in this cup may be unattainable, it is not infinitely far away.

You must have larger cups than me.

😛 Dangit, my American intuition wasn't good enough. I was kinda close, only a factor of 2 maybe.

There are various different culinary measures called a cup, but if filled with water they all give you between 1/5 and 1/4 of a kilogram. Actual cups-for-drinking-from can give wildly different amounts but a kilogram would correspond to a litre of water, and vessels that large usually have names other than "cup".

By this analogy, these things are true:

  • If we keep moving factward, we will eventually return to where we started.
  • There exists some point which is both maximally more factish, and also, simultaneously, maximally less factish, than our current position.
  • Any point which is factward of us, is also, at the same time, antifactward of us. Any two positions are either equally factish (i.e., they are the same position), or they are both factward of each other.

Intended? Or not?

I am not asserting that those aspects of "westward" apply to "factward".

Analogies typically assert a similarity between only some, not all, aspects of the two analogous situations. But maybe those aspects of "westward" are so salient that they interfere with the analogy.

And moving factforward long enough we will go back to fact that earth is flat and then analogy does not work any more :/

Likely no coherent sense could be made of that ideal.

Indeed, this is exactly the problem of the criterion.