More on true/false facts

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jun 3 02:33:35 UTC 2013

On Jun 2, 2013, at 10:08 PM, Neal Whitman wrote:

> Reading a newspaper story to my son, in which a school district investigating a bullying incident said sometimes not all facts or available, or some facts are contradictory. I interjected that be definition, facts couldn't be contradictory. My son said that according to "all" his teachers who had ever taught fact vs opinion, there could be "false facts."
> Based on my son's further explanation, this seems to be an attempt to finesse the awkward situation for statements such as "2+2=1." In principle, I approve of having a category for students to use here, but "false facts" isn't it, to be prescriptive. Even worse is that they also consider statements like "I think we should have year-round school" to be opinions. I'd say that "we should have year-round school" is an
> opinion, but "I think [whatever]" is a fact (if the speaker really holds this opinion).
> Neal
In semi-defense of yet another set of schoolteachers under fire, while I'm happy to reject false facts, I'm happy to defend the assessment of "I think that S" for any sentence S as "an opinion", perhaps elliptical for a statement of an opinion.  If you say "I think that facts can be false" or "I believe that austerity is the key to recovery" and I respond "Your opinion is wrong" (or "Bullshit"), what I'm saying is wrong (or bullshit) is that facts can be false or austerity a good thing, not that you think so. If you announce "My opinion is that the world will end next December 28" and I say "I disagree with your opinion", I'm saying that the world won't end then, not that you don't hold that opinion.  The "I think" in these cases acts as a kind of parenthetical (Urmson 1952); the real point is in the subordinate clause, and since that clause is presented as an opinion, I have no problem counting these sentences as opinions.


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