The Shape of Believing

Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 24)

An impressive body of literature exists among the ethnographies of cultures in the world on the many ways man has devised to determine the nature of “the real” and “the true”. If we accept Ludwig Fleck’s definition of a “fact” as a stylized signal of resistance in thinking (1) then we must accept that a “fact” is conditioned in time and in space (or place) and that it is to some extent observer-dependent. By this we mean that context determines a fact, and that observer insight plays a role as well. When contexts change, our definition of a fact may need to be revised, or, its factual status might even become more securely grounded.

What concerns us here, however, is not a comparative study of various schools of thought about the nature of the factual. Rather, our concern is with the definition and role of a fact in science (especially biomedical science) and in the law. In particular, we note and analyze the matching and mismatching of logics of two worlds of discourse in an arena (the court) when adversarial positions are in play.

Much of the discourse in this arena begins with causality, and concerns arguments in the simplest of cases on the nature of the event, the nature of its cause, and the nature of the circumstances. The advocate with an ideological agenda will choose the “cause” to fit the desired outcome, for, as indicated elsewhere, belief in causality is conditioned by the ideologue’s program for “social action”.


Scientific Fact Creative Imagination Objective Understanding Laboratory Life Impressive Body 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V 2007

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