Distinguishing Facts and Opinions

Written by L. Michael Hall, Ph.D Posted in L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. on Thursday, 06 January 2022.

From: L. Michael Hall
2021 Neurons #80
December 13, 2021
Facts #8


There are many different kinds of statements.  Some statements are factual, some are not. Given the nature of language, most of the statements that you make and that you hear are not factual.  Amazing, isn’t it?  So what are they?  Most of the statements that we exchange among ourselves as we communicate are opinions, evaluations, judgments, beliefs, decisions, identifications, and on and on.  Further, when it comes to facts as I have noted, there are real facts and there are pseudo-facts.

What then?  How should we operate in a world where facts are actually pretty scarce and where there are many kinds of statements that are derivative (or supposedly) from facts?  The most obvious answer is to aim to make statements that are true-to-the-facts.  That is a phrase from Alfred Korzybski in Science and Sanity.  By way of contrast, he spoke about false-to-fact statements and how they fail to align with reality and therefore represent false mapping.  Such statements do not accord to the facts that we can determine or detect in reality.  And doesn’t all of that make sense?  So here is what we have.

  • Factual statements. These are statements that we can substantiate as true, valid, or confirmed.
  • Value statements and belief statements. These are different kinds of statements. Values are what you consider important. A statement about value tends to be an ought—something that we ought to do, namely, to live the value (i.e., honest, truthful, kind, loving, etc.). Beliefs are what you have concluded is real and have confirmed. A belief statement may not be true, but for the person who believes it, it is true or valid for him or her.
  • Opinion statements. These are statements that reflect your thinking and evaluating, your biases and distortions and are not supported directly by factual evidence.
  • Predictions and guesses. These are statements about the future and these cannot be considered factual. Why not? Because by definition, because the statement is about something that is not yet existing. That’s why it cannot be based on a fact (a currently non-existent fact). At best, it is a guess or a speculation about something that is yet to be. Statements about the future anticipate what could happen and even if the probability of it happening is very high, it is still not about a fact and should never be treated as such. All predictions about the economy, the weather, possibility of war, etc. are not factual statements.

David Gilbert argues that facts are conjectures that have met a certain standard of proof (Stumbling on Happiness, 2005, p. 184).  His test for a true fact is interesting.  He says if you can express it with a universal quantifier (i.e., always, never, all, none, etc.).  “This information is absolutely true, no question, no explanation, no variation.”  Otherwise, it is an evaluation and an opinion.

Remind me why facts are so important.  They are important because we humans gather facts and sets of facts so that our information is grounded in reality.  Then, from them, we can draw valid conclusions.  Next, these conclusions, when tested and replicated by others, can then become the next-level up fact in a given domain, a conceptual fact that we can concern a legitimate or valid principle.  That’s how science works.  To learn and understand a given domain, you first need to know the facts and what is considered factual information in that field.  Often what was considered a fact in a field is discovered to be an opinion, a partial fact, a false conclusion, etc.

When validated facts can give birth to concepts.  As we use the data at our disposal to conceive of a structure or process that unifies the data, we come up with and conceive an idea or an understanding.  When certain facts cannot be explained in a field, that’s when we have difficulty inventing concepts that provide a logical explanation for the field.  At that point, that field is being readied for a new paradigm—a new explanatory concept.

This gives us a brief understanding of a concept.  Because concepts are based on facts, they are not directly available to us empirically.  To reach them, we have to reason from facts and construct them.  What that means is that you have to use your reasoning powers to infer what is implied (or what you think is implied).  You have to order your thoughts in the search for truth. You can order them inductively or deductively.

Now you know why critical thinking and reason is so important if we are to construct mental maps from facts that will be true-to-fact and enable us to navigate the  territory that we want to explore and experience.  And while we all reason from facts, we do not all reason the same or with the same quality.  To the extent that you have not outgrown the inherent cognitive distortions of childhood, your reasoning skills are not only low, but highly distorted.  And unless that changes, you will bring upon your lots of misery.

This is where Neuro-Linguistics and Neuro-Semantics comes to the rescue.  If you want a tool for precision in thinking and communicating, you can do no better than the NLP Meta-Model of Language.  It’s a great tool for clear and creative thinking, for logical reasoning, and for distinguishing fact from opinion.  Want more?  Check out The Structure of Magic (1975), Communication Magic (2001), and Executive Thinking (2018).


About the Author

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D

As an author, Dr. Hall is known as a prolific writer with 30 some books to his name, more than 100 published articles and is recognized as a leading NLP Trainer and developer of many models, most notably the revolutionary Meta-States model and more recently the Matrix model. In 1996, Michael co-founded with Dr. Bob Bodenhamer Neuro-Semantics® as a field of study and as an International Society.

Why METAMIND?  read