More on true/false facts

David A. Daniel dad at POKERWIZ.COM
Mon Jun 3 12:31:08 UTC 2013

Yes but there is a legal distinction. If you say "John is a thief" you have
no defense against defamation if John sues you and it turns out he's not a
thief. If you say "I think John is a thief" you have a defense that you were
stating the fact of what you think and the rest is just opinion. Whether or
not the defense works depends on the judge, the circumstances, etc. and
sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but at least the difference is
sufficiently recognized to add an element of doubt.

 Subject: Re: More on true/false facts

:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Subject:      Re: More on true/false facts

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.


The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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