Last night, in the not-so-organized stream-of-consciousness way I tend to work, I came across a variation (a stretch if you will (on one of those riffs that, via natural selection, has stuck with me for some time: the relationship between facts, data, and truths. It’s a subtle distinction, but it goes a long way towards distinguishing data from a fact, a problem that has become all too prevalent these days. Plus that, it allows me to jam in my comfort zone while working beyond it:
Facts are basically things we can hardly disagree on. They’re just there. For instance, while I may have written this post at a past point for you, it is still a fact. I mean how could you deny it given that you are reading it right now? And like most facts, if we were standing together and looking at it, we could both agree that it is a fact much as, if we were standing before cat on a mat and one of us said “There is a cat on a mat”, we could both agree that what had been described was a “brute fact” to put it in Searle’s terms.
Where it gets a little more complex is data in that data is a collection of individual facts MEANT (not destine (to give us a general understanding of how individual facts are working together. For instance, when surveys are taken, there are always the individual facts of how individuals answered the surveyors questions. The problem with Data is that it is always as interesting for the facts it leaves out as those it includes. For instance, note the Truman/Dewey election in which surveys showed Dewey winning by a landslide. The problem was the individual facts based on phone interviews which generally consisted of people wealthy enough to own phones and who generally voted Republican. On top of that, we have to look at the distinction between formal data (which I described above (and informal data which consists of the facts of individual experiences –experiences always being facts in themselves. But we only need look to racism to understand the folly that informal data is vulnerable to. This would consist of the argument:
“All black people I have met tend to be pushy. Therefore, all black people are pushy.”
And this offers us a good segue into the relationship between data (formal and informal (and truths. The important thing to understand here is that I am using Rorty’s pragmatic understanding of truth (that which seems sufficiently justified (while departing from his more optimistic understanding of it. My point here is that, like the relationship between data and facts, truths are a cumulative effect of data. And I would hardly have to elaborate on the precarious nature of truth here –that is as I’m describing it.
That done, the stretch I arrived at last night involved a clarification of the difference between facts and data. Facts just are. There is no way of getting around them. They are, as Searle describes them: brute facts. Data, on the other hand, must strictly deal with probability: these many people told us on the phone that they will vote for Dewey, therefore Dewey will LIKELY win. However, there is a kind working data that must lead to a truth that opens my system up to a kind of anomaly: the tautology. Think, for instance, of the argument: all bachelors are single. One can hardly get around it. Still, this doesn’t make data a fact. The risk here is that some, through a kind of intellectual razzle-dazzle, may attempt to make data seem like it is so.
Humble yourself or the world will do it for you -it was either Russell or Whitehead. I can't remember which.
When I was young, I use to think the world was a messed up place so i was pissed off a lot. But now that I'm older, I know it is. So I just don't worry about it. -John Lydon (AKA Johnny Rotten).
Anarchy through Capitalism -on a flyer thrown out during a Kottonmouth Kings concert.
First we read, then we write. -Emerson.
All poets are damned. But they are not blind. They see with the eyes of angels. -William Carlos Williams: in the introduction to Ginsberg's Howl.
You gotta love that moment when the work is done and all that is left to do is drink your beer and sip your jager and enjoy what you've done. It's why I do and love it.
I refuse to be taken seriously.
Once again: take care of your process and others will take care of theirs. No one needs a guru. Just someone to jam with.