Agnotology, Agnoiology and Cognitronics

As Farhad Manjoo notes in True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, if we argue about what a fact means, we’re having a debate. If we argue about what the facts are, it’s agnotological Armageddon, where reality dies screaming.

New words! Always nice to have some new words at hand.

I disagree with the Manjoo quote above. It is not always obvious what the facts are, and reasonable people can and do disagree about the fact-ness of a large number of claims about Objective Reality. So “if we argue about what the facts are,” it doesn’t seem to me to be all that horrible. For example, is it a fact that an increase in the cosmic ray flux results in an increase in cloud formation? If having a discussion about such a claim means “we argue about what the facts are,” well, bring on the agnotological Armageddon. All facts do not identify themselves by walking up and biting one’s rear. A large part of Everyday Science is a debate about “what the facts are.”

Once both sides agree that a claim is a fact, well, then “arguing about what the facts are” is silly. But getting to the point that we can have a debate about the meaning of facts? That’s nontrivial.

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