Fact vs. Fiction = A False Dichotomy

One of the most widepread sets of containers for media is a distinction between fact (or “non-fiction”) and fiction.

Although it is very widespread and also has a quite long tradition, it is based on a fallacy: The scheme of separating content into these 2 buckets is a false dichotomy.

People who follow my writing may be reminded of this quote by Edward Snowden about “how to make facts” … and how I described the way it is a very unscientific approach.

In science, there is not actually “true” or “false” — but rather: “disproven” and “not (yet) disproven”. Indeed, even this may be too harsh. If we leave tautological statements and similar mathematical proofs aside, the notion of proof — in the sense of 100% certainty — is not a scientific concept. We cannot prove anything with 100% certainty, and neither can we disprove it with 100% certainty.

This is not even a matter of debate exclusively limited to ivory towers. Common sense (and common language, too) have many levels of thinking, believing, guessing, estimating, and so on (and of course there is a lot of academic literature on this sort of “fuzzy logic” — in linguistics, this is primarily considered in discussions related to “modal verbs”; in other fields, the concept of “epistemology” is also widely used).

Perhaps the main point to note here is that even the most fundamental containers that have been used since close to forever are at the very least problematic, if not questionable or even downright faulty. We have here a case of “tried and invalidated”, very far from “tried and true”. The contexts which you have so far considered to be infallible are, in contrast, fallacious, misleading, bunk.

It’s time — it’s even long overdue — to head back to the drawing board.

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