Seattle is north of Portland. The previous sentence is not a fact; it re-presents a report of a fact.
If I say, “Seattle is north of Portland,” I say something true. I say something that is true whenever I report a fact.
Suppose I am mis-informed, and I come to believe that Portland is north of Seattle. If I say, “Portland is north of Seattle,” I say something false.
However, if I say, “I believe that Portland is north of Seattle,” I say something true. Indeed, if I believe that Portland is north of Seattle, but say, “I believe that Seattle is north of Portland,” I say something that is false.
If I intentionally say something that I believe to be false, it is often but not always a lie, even if what I say is true. That would be the case if I believe that Portland is north of Seattle, but intentionally say, “Seattle is north of Portland.”
The reason that it is usually a lie to say that “Seattle is north of Portland” while I believe that Portland is north of Seattle, is that usually when I say something that I do not believe to be the case, I do so with an interest in getting others, by means of my communication, to believe something that is false. However, in this case, if I am successful, I manage to get them to believe something that is true.
A fact is whatever is the case. A report of a fact is true. I can speak the truth and be a liar. I can say something that is false and not be a liar; in such cases I am misinformed. Usually.
I might say something that is false, believing it to be true, but say it not because I believe it to be true, but because the language is a code. For example, I might know that Pedro is calmed when he hears somebody say that Seattle is north of Portland. I see that Pedro is experiencing anxiety, so I say that Seattle is north of Portland, and he is calmed.
I might believe falsely that Portland is north of Seattle, know that Pedro is calmed when he hears someone say, “Seattle is north of Portland,” see that Pedro is anxious and care that he be calmed, and therefore say, “Seattle is north of Portland.” In saying what I believe to be false, I am not a liar, because I do not say, “Seattle is north of Portland” because I believe it to be true, but because I want to soothe Pedro.
I might prefer chocolate ice cream to strawberry. If I say, “Chocolate ice-cream is preferable to strawberry ice-cream,” I say something that is ambiguous. I might say that and mean, “I prefer chocolate ice-cream to strawberry ice-cream,” in which case, if it’s a fact that I do prefer chocolate ice-cream to strawberry ice-cream, then what I say is true. It is a fact about me that I prefer chocolate ice-cream to strawberry ice-cream.
I might, however, mean by “Chocolate ice-cream is preferable to strawberry ice-cream,” that any clear-thinking person should lend their assent to the report that chocolate ice-cream is preferable to strawberry ice-cream. In such cases I may be claiming that everyone should have an experience like my experience with respect to chocolate and strawberry ice-cream, respectively, in which case I may be a narcissist.
If I claim that everybody should have experiences like my own, I may be attempting to communicate – albeit unclearly – that I would like everyone to experience what I experience when I taste chocolate as opposed to strawberry ice-cream, because I believe that if they did, their lives would be the richer for it, in which case I would not be a narcissist but might benefit from a course in critical thinking.
It is in many cases important that my reports are true, which is one reason why I often do research before I broadcast my beliefs. It is also important that I believe that the reports of others are true, and that they have done research before broadcasting their beliefs.
It is a fact that social cooperation requires me to assume that others have researched their beliefs before reporting them to be facts. If I am told that the polls open at 8:00 AM on June 5, it is important that the person who tells me this believes it, and that the report is true. Civility requires this. It is also important that typists be conscientious: If the polls open at 7:00 AM on June 5, but the reporter is not conscientious and types that the polls open at 7:00 AM on June 6, social cooperation has been compromised by a lapse in conscientiousness.
If Juanita tweets reports of feelings that she does have, those reports are reports of facts. If she tweets reports of feelings she does not have, whether she does so to make me believe that she has feelings she does not have, or to reduce my anxiety, or for any other reason, her reports are false reports.
Juanita is a liar if she reports that she has feelings that she does not have, to cause me to believe that she does have feelings that she does not have. In such an instance she wants me to believe that something is true about the world that is in fact not true about the world, for Juanita’s actual feelings are part of the world, and she is denying me knowledge of those facts. Moreover, they are facts to which Juanita has privileged access.
And my preference for chocolate ice-cream over strawberry ice-cream is a part of the world.
And Seattle’s being north of Portland is a part of the world.
And tweeting what you believe will serve an end that you have in mind – whatever that end may be – is a part of the world. That is, the event of so tweeting is a part of that which is the case once you tweet what you believe will serve an end that you have in mind. That end may be anything whatsoever, provided only that the tweeter has, as a matter of fact, that end.
Anything that is the case, is a fact: an opinion is a fact; a belief is a fact; a wish is a fact; a desire is a fact; a hope is a fact; a preference is a fact; an intention is a fact. These facts happen to be facts about mental states, but there are other kinds of facts. All facts are facts. Seattle is north of Portland: that, for example, is a fact, but it is not a fact about anybody’s mental state.
A mental state – wherever or whenever a mental state exists – is a fact.
God exists. God does not exist. One of the previous two sentence is a report of a fact. The other sentence is not the report of a fact. Whichever of the two sentences is a report of a fact, is a true report. The other sentence is a false report.
“I believe that God exists” is the report of a fact, if the person who says it believes that God exists. “I believe that God does not exist” is the report of a fact, if the person who says it believes that God does not exist.
If somebody believes that God exists and says they believe this, they speak truth. If somebody believes that God exists but says that they do not believe this, they are a liar, unless they say this not to make a report about the way they believe the world to be, but as part of a code, or to alleviate anxiety, or to create any other kind of harm or healing that they envision coming about because of their false utterance, or for no reason whatsoever; in such cases they may or may not be liars, even though in all such cases they erode the civil use of language. Language may have better and worse uses than reporting or concealing what one believes to be the truth.
However, the civil use of language is to make reports about the facts. Some do not engage in research to determine facts that transcend the facts of their mental states, and some are even incapable or unwilling to report the facts of their own mental states. Some conclude that such research is impossible to conduct, which is the nemesis of what is required to increase human understanding. While no epistemic justification for such pessimism exists, the motivation for such a hubristic pronouncement will vary across persons: for some it is animosity toward the use of their minds; for some, laziness; for others, jealousy. This is not an exhaustive list.
All opinions are facts, but not all facts are opinions. If a person suffering from a hallucination reports, “Spiders are all over this wall,” then if that is his opinion, it is a fact that he has an opinion, and it is also a fact that his opinion is that spiders are all over this wall. However, it may not be a fact that spiders are all over this wall.
Suppose that right now, a million miles above my head, there is a gray piece of matter. “There is a gray piece of matter, right now, a million miles above my head” would, then, be the report of a fact. However, it is not my opinion that there is a gray piece of matter, right now, a million miles above my head. It is also not my opinion that, right now, there is not a gray piece of matter a million miles above my head. I have no opinion on the matter. Despite this, if there is, right now, a gray piece of matter a million miles above my head, then the report that there is such a piece of matter, is a true report. It’s a true report because it is a fact that there is a gray piece of matter, right now, a million miles above my head. My opinion – which, in this case, is no opinion at all – in no way affects the truth or falsity of the report that there is such a piece of matter, because it is not a report about any mental state of mine whatsoever. It is a report of a different kind: It is a report like the report that Seattle is north of Portland, and it is also a report like the report that Portland is north of Seattle.
A myriad number of facts exist of which none of us are ever aware, which is fine. There is a fact about the distance from where you are now, to the nearest point on Mars. There is another fact about the distance between where you are now, and where you were yesterday at precisely 12:00 noon. There are facts about your distance from every other person on Earth, and each time you move, you produce new facts. These facts are all date- and time-stamped, but they are all facts. There is a set of facts about your relation to every other physical entity in the universe, at every moment of your existence. Most of these facts are of absolutely no interest to any of us, but nevertheless, they are facts. We live and die knowing or even wondering about an infinitesimally small subset of the facts, and most of these facts are in principle, at present, out of reach to any of us. Nevertheless, they are facts.
I don’t care about the issue of whether there is a gray piece of matter, right now, a million miles above my head. But I do care about the matter of what mental state, as a matter of fact, accompanies the person tweeting a report about facts other than personal mental states. I cannot know the mental states of other human beings – even if I have high regard for reporters of their own mental states – but I can learn something about other kinds of facts, and when I read reports of some of these other kinds of facts, I do so with a civil spirit. Reading them with a civil spirit requires that I regard the reporter as civil: as having an interesting in reported sufficiently researched facts so that the intention is to get me to believe a report because it is a report about facts; that is, the report is true. Civility requires reciprocity.
The narcissist has been characterized in part as a person who thinks that other people are only extensions of the narcissist. Hence, the narcissist qua narcissist is not capable of civility. The motivational basis of tweets is therefore whatever the narcissist happens to believe will serve the purposes of the narcissist, since the narcissist is locked within the narcissist’s “frame-of-reference,” which is to say, within the narcissist’s own mind. And a feature of such a person’s mind is that other people are principally extensions of that mind. That is commander-in-chief, metaphorically, among the narcissist’s beliefs. We do not, however, have civil access to the mental states of the narcissist.
If a motivation for a kind of tweet serves the narcissist’s commanding belief, and people come to view the narcissist more favorably, the narcissist has succeeded: the narcissist feels better about the only thing known to exist with intrinsic value, and that is the narcissist.
However, those of us who are civil – who are not narcissists – grant that we cannot know the contents of other person’s mental states. Where does that leave us? It leaves us with two of the three vertices of what I shall call, “The Triangle”: Mind-Language-World. The two vertices of the triangle that inform civil society are Language and the World. The World is the home of facts; or, more literally, the World is all that is the case. Of course, we are a part of this World, and so are our mental states. However, it is only by what we have access to, that civil society exists: Language and the World.
The reason the narcissist creates such confusion, is that the narcissist wishes, per impossible, to incorporate all minds into one mind: that is, into the Mind of the narcissist. Hence Language and the World – civility – are discounted, or strategically used, to bring this about.
To the extent that we engage the narcissist’s Mind, we move our attention away from the bases of civilized conduct: Language and World. Research becomes superfluous, for it does not serve the purpose of the narcissist. As we wonder and guffaw and invest emotion in the indecipherable, un-researchable Language of the narcissist, our faces look increasingly foolish, because they are indeed becoming so. Our wonder at the World, at the knowable World, at the World we have for hundreds of years now been successfully investigating and coming to understand, is replaced with the wonder over how such a being could exist and be counted among us.
This wonder is of great encouragement to the narcissist, and so the narcissist continues to do what the narcissist does: whatever appears pragmatically expedient to harvest attention toward the narcissist’s Mind and away from all other facets of the World.
Of course, everything I have written here could be mistaken: every sentence here could be a false report. These are just my opinions, although also, as such, facts: facts of the mental variety. Even if I am wrong, however, in my reports about how I take the World to be, you can research them, insofar as they extend beyond my own mental states. You can interrogate the Language in ways in which you may not – civilly – interrogate my Mind.
I do not believe I know what is in the Mind of the narcissist. In fact, I believe that I do not know what is in the Mind of the narcissist, or even who is and who is not a narcissist. Maybe the narcissist doesn’t either. And I certainly don’t know what’s in the Mind of the reader.
I do believe there are facts beyond myself. I’ve tried to report some of those here. In doing so, I’ve tried to behave in a civil manner by using language to communicate facts about the World, and in particular, some facts about the nature of mental states and some facts about facts.
Seattle is north of Portland. The previous sentence is not a fact; it is a re-presentation of a report of a fact. I believe that this report is true. Whatever I have or had in mind, if you research my report, I think we will have a meeting of the minds, and that we can cooperate about the findings contained within this report, and hence believe them to be true. Of course, I hope that your research confirms my reporting, but I invite you, through language, to disagree with me where you will, and to tell me why you disagree with me. In this way we behave in a cooperative manner and promote civility.