From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A fact (derived from the Latin factum) is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability, that is whether it can be shown to correspond to experience via proof . Standard reference works are often used to check facts. Scientific facts are verified by repeatable experiments, mathematical facts by logical proofs.
Fact in history
A common rhetorical cliché states, "History is written by the winners". This phrase suggests but does not examine the use of facts in the writing of history.
E. H. Carr in his 1961 volume, What is History?, argues that the inherent biases from the gathering of facts makes the objective truth of any historical perspective idealistic and impossible. Facts are, "like fish in the Ocean," of which we may only happen to catch a few, only an indication of what is below the surface. Even a dragnet cannot tell us for certain what it would be like to live below the Ocean's surface. Even if we do not discard any facts (or fish) presented, we will always miss the majority; the site of our fishing, the methods undertaken, the weather and even luck play a vital role in what we will catch. Additionally, the composition of history is inevitably made up by the compilation of many different bias of fact finding - all compounded over time. He concludes that for a historian to attempt a more objective method, one must accept that history can only aspire to a conversation of the present with the past - and that one's methods of fact gathering should be openly examined. As with science, historical truth and facts will therefore change over time and reflect only the present consensus (if that).
- Brute fact
- Consensus reality
- Counterfactual history
- De facto
- Fact and fiction
- State of affairs