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I have been starting back in school after a long hiatus. In one of my classes, a discussion of Truth began. The problem I have had is that no one seems to have a solid definition between the two. My earlier training and schooling left me with this definition, and I would like some feedback.

Fact - A point of data that can be directly qualified/quantified through confirmed, standardized measurement.

Truth - A point of data not directly qualified/quantified through confirmed, standardized measurement.

So fact would be that ice cream is cold, as we can place a measurement of the temperature. Ice cream being tasty would be truth, as it is impossible to accurately measure "tasty".

Please let me know your thoughts.

marked as duplicate by Joseph Weissman Jan 4 '16 at 20:16

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    You can see Facts : "facts are part of the "furniture of the world" [...]. propositions are a popular candidate for the role of what is true or false". Thus, a "popular" point of view is that a true statement is a statement that "correspond to" a fact. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jul 2 '15 at 15:44
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    "A point of data not directly qualified/quantified through confirmed, standardized measurement" is an odd definition of truth, since it can just as well describe a falsehood. – Conifold Jul 3 '15 at 1:47
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    Data is a bad reference point for defining 'truth'. Just look at the etymology. Data are 'given' by the world (in observation). Facts are 'made' of data. (So not even every fact is a point of data). Truth need not be given, nor need it even be derived from the data. It can be guessed at and verified independently, or it can remain unverified, but simply be true. I think you need to back off from 'data' to statements or ideas. – jobermark Jul 3 '15 at 12:58
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The world is made of facts. Facts can only be defined ostensively, i.e. by pointing at this and that and say "this is a fact." E.g., "there is a millipede in my living room" is a fact. Facts do not depend on the mind. There are unknown facts.

Truth is a property of belief. Belief is a state of organism, including mental state. If there is no organism, there is no belief. If there is no belief, there is no truth. Whether a belief is true or not depends on if there are facts corresponding to this belief. E.g, I'm in a state of mind that can be expressed as "there are at least ten millipedes in my living room." This belief is capable of being true or false; all I need is to check if there is such a fact.

The following are quotes from Bertrand Russell's Human Knowledge: its scope and limits:

"Fact," as I intend the term, can only be defined ostensively. Everything that there is in the world I call a "fact." The sun is a fact; Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon was a fact; if I have a toothache, my toothache is a fact. *

Belief-To avoid verbiage, I shall call it a state of an organism, and ignore the distinction of bodily and mental factors.

Truth is a property of beliefs, and derivatively, of sentences which express beliefs. Truth consists in a certain relation between a belief and one or more facts other than the belief. When this relation is absent, the belief is false. A sentence maybe called "true" or "false" even if no one believes it, provided that if it were believed, the belief would be true or false as the case may be.

Russell, Bertrand. Human Knowledge: its scope and limits. Part II, Chapter XI Fact, Belief, Truth and Knowledge. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1948

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    This doesn't seem to match most people's definition of truth. If you're referencing a specific philosophy, please add a citation. – Chris Sunami Jul 2 '15 at 19:37
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    @ChrisSunami - I added a citation. Original text defines belief as a state of organism. – George Chen Jul 2 '15 at 20:38
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Your gloss on the difference between truth and facts seems (to me) to match a fairly standard definition in the case of "fact" but to miss some of the historical richness of the concept of "truth". Truth is a controversial topic that has been defined many different ways at different times, particularly in the world of philosophy. It is generally taken to mean correspondence with reality, but for a Platonist, that might not be what we ordinarily experience as reality, but some deeper and more hidden reality. Truth is is typically considered to have a positive moral value, and is sometimes conceptualized as a virtue, or even in quasi-mystical terms.

Facts are a more modern, prosaic picture of correspondence with reality. A fact is generally taken as a discrete bite-sized truthful statement about the state of affairs in the world, where no deeper layer of reality is assumed or referred to. Typically a fact is empirically verifiable, and in some contexts must actually be verified to be considered factual.

Typically "truth" is taken as more primary, with facts being defined in relationship to truth, but some thinkers have proposed an inverse relationship where facts are defined by verified correspondence with reality, and truth is then defined in relationship to what is factual, rather than the other way around. It's also worth noting that several thinkers, most notably Tarski, have done work of practical and philosophical significance in establishing exact definitions of truth for formal languages.

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Both truth and fact are terms which have to be defined. A definition cannot be read off from anything other nor can it be derived by logical conclusion. A definition is like "baptizing somebody to the name of xxx", i.e. it has a high degree of arbitrariness.

Having said this a common definition of truth (due to Tarski) reads: "Truth is the property of a proposition. A proposition is true if it claims a fact."

Example: The proposition "Today there is rain in Manhattan" is true if and only if it actually rains in Manhattan.

More difficult is to give a definition of fact. Possibly: "A fact is a real situation." But what means "real"?

Truth refers to propositions, which in general are stated by a person. On the other hand, facts often refer to things independent from a certain person, solely dependent on our environment.

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My reputation isn't high enough to up vote nor leave a comment apparently, but I support @Chris Sunami's answer to this question.

I would also add some fuel to your fire by adding to your question the terms "right" and "correct". How do we determine the difference between truth, factual, right and correct? They all overlap one another with their meaning and if we tried to define them separately we would most likely end up using shared terms to do so.

Essentially, when confronted with a definition question such as this, my personal best practice is to remember that no term can be defined concretely (although we may and ought to try to get as close as possible) thus leaving a fair amount of "give and take" in any definition we decide to use. After all, using words to define words will always put us in a tail-chasing conundrum after enough discussion.

So the solution, as I see it, is to be as clear as possible within whatever context we're using our terms, but to simultaneously keep in mind that when another person uses those same terms, their definitions may vary. Notice the quote from Bertrand Russell that @George Chan placed in his response. Russell defines these terms for his audience in order to alleviate confusion and place everyone on the same page, as it were.

To answer your question directly, I suggest defining the difference between truth and fact by stating that qualitative measurements of reality lead to truths while quantitative measurements lead to facts.

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If we look at this question formally, as suggested by @jowehler using Tarski's definition, then we must conclude that there are strictly more facts than truths.

This is because, formally, there are facts we cannot prove as propositions. We cannot assign a truth value to the proposition because it is formally undecidable.

  • How does the number of facts relate to the number of truths? Employing 2-valued logic each proposition has a unique truth value, even when we do not know which one. Every truth, i.e. every true proposition, refers to a fact. If we do not distinguish between propositions which are semantically equivalent, then the number of facts cannot be less than the number of truths. Actually the number of facts is strictly bigger, because there are many facts we do not know. They are not referred to by true propositions. I end with the same conclusion like you, but using a totally different argument. – Jo Wehler Jul 10 '15 at 15:16
  • @jowehler This may be my naivety. I was thinking that because we can construct facts of arbitrary complexity, there must be facts we cannot (even in principle) express as a proposition. Their statement may require countably infinitely many expressions. ???? – Nick R Jul 10 '15 at 17:14
  • @jowehler Re-reading my previous comment, obviously I should not have said construct, rather there exist. Even so, I'm not sure it is logically sound. – Nick R Jul 10 '15 at 17:51
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The fact is, truth is an ideal. Facts refer to the verifiable and reproducible, e.g., the brick falls to the ground when dropped. Truth equates with true, which is a boolean, not existing in the natural world.

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