[Marxism] Question for Carrol

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Fri May 14 04:21:18 MDT 2004

I've often thought about the best way to define a "fact", and I have a hunch
it's best defined as "a verifiable or validated sensory observation" or
"verifiable or validated item of experiential evidence", with the suggestion
that it is objectively verifiable or valid, in the sense that the
observation, if made under the same conditions, is the same for all
observers. That is the basis for accepting it as a fact.

If we ask the question, "have you ever seen a fact flying around the room ?"
then this points up that the relation of observer and observed is
necessarily mediated by an interpretative framework by human knowers, and
consequently that experiential evidence includes that interpretive framework
at least at some minimal level, which provides the "fact" with its meaning
and significance.

When Lenin for example refers to "the stubborn facts of experience" he has
in mind experiential evidence that nobody is able to deny, regardless of
what specific interpretative framework they might have. This does not mean
the fact exists as a fact without any interpretative framework, it is just
that all observers must acknowledge it, because all human knowers share the
same interpretative framework at some minimal level, creating the same
relation between observed and observer under the same conditions.

However, some "facts" might exist only intersubjectively and not be
objective, i.e. they cannot be observed outside of an inter-subjective
relation between people. Within that relation, they are accepted as fact,
but they are not objectively verifiable outside it, because they are
constituted as fact only between specific human knowers, and do not exist
without them. (For example, I could say "It is a fact that I was a little
uncouth yesterday in my relations with some people" but this may not be
accepted as an objective fact).

In this sense, "facts" communicated through the media may create the
illusion of a knowledge of facts, which seems to be objective, but which
constitutes only an objective interpretation of intersubjective relations
deemed authoritative, which may miss part of the real experience or real
significance of intersubjective experience. That is, we may know something
as a fact intersubjectively, without this being objectively verifiable even
in principle.

Reference: John Irvine, Ian Miles & Jeff Evans (eds), Demystifying Social
Statistics, Pluto, London, 1979


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