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A handy, simple guide to how the words "fact" and "truth" actually work

Wednesday 6/14/23

We are going to use the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for this exercise.


This is an example of a fact:


The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls went 72-10 during the regular season.


This is another example of a fact:


The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls won the NBA Championship.


This is not an example of a fact:


The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls were the best team in the league that year.


Why is this not a fact?


It presupposes that the team who wins the championship is automatically the best team. Or the team with the best record is automatically the best team. Thus, it's not factual.


What we may have, instead, is a truth. A truth is more than a fact.


This is another example of a fact:


Michael Jordan won the 1995-96 NBA MVP.


But this is not an example of a fact:


Michael Jordan was the best player in the NBA in the 1995-96 season.


It may be a truth, but it's not a fact.


Fact isn't even mostly about "this thing is mostly this thing." It has a historical line component--you can enter that fact like data in a record, on in a table--and often a number.


Think of facts like stackable blocks of history. They can be basic, because they don't tell a story, but you still need to know them. They're foundational. Truth is what tells stories.


"The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776 by the Second Continental Congress meeting at the Pennsylvania State House."


Fact.


"The Declaration of Independence was the most important document of its time in the United States."


Not a fact.


It's not a fact to say that it was the most important document that was signed on that day. In Philadelphia.


So when someone says, "Jokic is the best player in the world. Facts," it's more a case of, no, you ignorant stooge of the quasi-illiterate age, it is not a fact.


But that he won the Finals MVP is a fact.


I'm going to run stairs right now.


There are 294 stairs in the Bunker Hill Monument.


Fact.


Running those stairs is hard.


Not a fact.



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