Re: Structure of facts and opinions

t (
Sat, 15 Aug 1998 23:48:41 -0700

From: <>
Date: Sat, 15 Aug 1998 23:48:41 -0700
Subject: Re: Structure of facts and opinions


Your recent post fired up a couple of sparks in my espresso tainted,
pizza impregnated meme hole this late Saturday evening.

You write:
>My contention is that opinions and facts have different but relatively >distinct structures, and that the structure of symbolic processes >involved in recieving information in "opinion" form differs from the >structure of those used in recieveing information in fact form.

I reply:
I'm not so sure about the variable structure idea. As far as syntax goes
I don't see how the structure is distinguishable between the two meme
forms. It is not until the meme is instantiated in the mind of the host
that something like structure becomes involved. In the mind of the host
the meme is placed in a psychological context where the fact/opionion
value is assigned. This relates to what you later acknowledge when you

>I understand that there is considerable variation in people's >"epistemological" habits, but it seems exceedingly likely that >publically available patterns (accepted by all who desire to speak to >others smoothly) for opinion transfer and fact transfer are uniform >enough to study.

Here I would have to wish you luck on a quest for uniformity of
fact/opinion value assignment. What you refer to as "people's
epistemological habits" are very powerful and very diverse from one
culture to another. The way it appears to me, "epistemological habits"
are at the very core of most fact/opinion assignment processes.

An idea that occurs to me is that the universality (cross-cultural)
prevalence of "fact" assigment will be most likely for memes most
closely bound to matters of species biogenetic interests. For example,
"We must eat to live." That's a basic fact unlikely to be disputed by
any thoughtful person. There will also be a slew of facts pertaining to
commonly experienced natural phenomena observable using widely available
perceptual hardware (sensory organ systems). An example of a fact of
this category might be, "The rains descend from the heavens." In both of
these cases, the categories themselves may be thought of as
"epistemological habits." That which strikes a deep species desire chord
or crosses obvious perceptual fields is most likely to be rendered into
fact-form rather than opinion-form.

At the opposite extreme will sit those memes and meme types at some
degree of abstraction from either common desire or common perceptual
attention space. Though all might agree that "we must eat to live,"
disagreement and opinion forms would come into play when the topic of
"what must we eat to live?" Here there is only the additional level of
abstraction introduced at the specification of edibles. Pork, grubs,
chiles, and McDonald's hamburgers would provoke the assignment of
opinion status for some folks of various sociocultural persuasions.

Five hundred years ago, here in the North American Southwest, the modern
scientific account for why the "rain descends from the heavens" would
likely have been written off as opinion by a people who were convinced
that it was because the cloud spirits were crying. I have recently held
council with people who are convinced of the "fact" that a particularly
talented and exalted man-being (God) made the earth in just under a
week. For them the idea that life on Earth resulted from evolutionary
processes is opinion.

My point, then, is simply that universality of fact/opinion calculation
is itself a basic operation of epistemological habits derived from
various sources. The observed world nearest to common desire and
perceptual patterns is the most likely to generate commonly assigned
fact status. The world lying beyond these categories quickly becomes a
complex mish-mash of "fact here, opinion there."

Ummm...Yawn! OK, I'm going to bed. Night all.


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