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ramgarali's picture

    Are quotes necessarily facts? For the most part I think they are. I have seen quotes as truths we can transfer into our writing in order to solidify our arguments (mostly in academic writing). However, this seems tricky because sometimes the context in which we use the quote(s) can alter such truths. Sometimes our statements (in writing) cause the misinterpretation of a quote(s) or of our paper as a whole. It is the writer’s fault the veracity of quotes is altered and therefore questioned.

These thoughts are willing to be challenged and polished in the near future. 


Ayla's picture

Am I being stubborn?

I am beginning to think that maybe I am being stubborn.  I feel as though in class I keep sticking by one way of explaining what is a fact and what is not a fact while my classmates take many different perspectives about this topic, trying to convince (me) that fact is different from what I think.  I also think I am repeatedly appearing rude during our conversations.  I think I am becoming exasperated with the conversation as well as with myself.  As politely as I can say this, I just completely do not understand how someone can make a blank statement saying quotes are facts if two people agree on them.  Anne and I might have a conversation while I take notes, and I might be taking notes and end up quoting her saying, "Joining a cult is an enriching experience."  Anne confirms that she said this and meant it (tying in KT's idea of intent).  However, this quote is NOT a factual statement.  It is Anne's opinion.  The way I understand dglasser's post, she would revise my statement to say "This is not a factual statement within the context of the subject group, the world."  So, if Anne and I are the only people in the conversation, and we agree that joining a cult is enriching, then it is a fact.  Therefore, anything can be a fact as long as some number of people agree on it, or even if one person considers it to be a fact.  


And so my exasperation continues.  Fine, in the context of Anne and myself, it is a fact that joining a cult is enriching. We can take this example further.  Anne and I agree we can fly.  It is a fact that we can fly because we both agree on it and we are the only people in our cult.  It is not a fact in the context of the world because there is evidence that human cannot physically fly.  So Anne and I jump off of a building and try to fly.  We fall.  We survive.  We still agree we can fly.  How do you reconcile this?  When a group takes their 'facts' and applies them to a larger 'subject group' in a different 'subject environment' those 'facts' will not always hold up.  Therefore, facts only really matter in the context of the world.  Everyone can have opinions.  Catholics can consider the Bible as fact.  They can think everything in the Bible is literal truth and they can agree about it among themselves and preach that it is fact.  But in the world, it is just an opinion.

EGrumer's picture


The fun (or, conversely, aggravating) thing about this class is that I do think I know what things like facts are, and then someone in the class challenges that definition. Subsequently, I either I begin to doubt myself, or I know that I am resolute in my beliefs – but I don't know how to articule them in the space of the debate.

Facts are a curious thing to doubt the solidity of. Perhaps factuality is variable, in some contexts? For some people, joining a cult may be an enriching experience, so that would be fact for them. For other people joining a cult would not be enriching. Is the statement "joining a cult is an enriching experience" still a fact if it implies that everyone will experience the same thing, but this experience is only true for some people?

And yet, the flying example is great, because I know that neither you nor Anne can fly. Sure, you both could with an airplane or a hang-glider, but neither of you could jump off a building and fly. That's a fact. If you two tried it, had evidence of failure, and still believed that you could fly... well, I guess that it would be a fact that you believed it. But, I agree, it certainly would not be a fact that you could fly, even if you were sure it was true.

This makes me think of history, and historical beliefs that are now outdated. For example, Europe prior to the discovery of the Americas had no idea that they were there.  If you had asked Europeans then how many continents the world had, they would have given you a factual answer that did not include much of what is now the known world. From a modern standpoint, this continental tally lacking the unknown world is factually wrong. And yet, people with no concept of the Americas could not really be expected to know that they were there. To the best of their knowledge and abilities, North and South American did not exist – no one even hinted that they might. Do we say that people then simply had the facts wrong, or were the facts of their world just different?

If those facts are wrong, what “facts” that we believe in now might be erroneous? Of what grand things could we live in utter ignorance?

froggies315's picture

On Friday, I went to an

On Friday, I went to an awesome talk by Winona LaDuke.  I liked every single word that came out of her mouth.  I was most struck by was a comment she made about compassion.  She said something along the lines of “I don’t feel a lot of compassion for the oil companies, but I’m working on it.”  If LaDuke, who works to protect sacred spaces from big oil and sprawling suburban development, seeks to understand perspectives that are in such conflict with the way she lives her life, then I think that we can put ourselves to the same task when we discuss stories in this class.  People can’t flap their arms and levitate.  But for some, the ability to fly is a fact.  And those people, however wrong we think their facts may be, have voices and stories that matter.  Writing off their facts as fiction is easy.  A harder and more worthwhile task is working to listen for the truth in all stories.  I think we might be surprised by how compatible all these facts and truths really are.   

Ayla's picture


Yum, someone agreed with me - a little.  I have thought about historical facts, as you termed them, or rather any fact we learn in school.  I asked my teacher about this when I was in high school, These aren't actually facts that you are testing me on, right?  Because what if I do not think evolution is true?  Or that an atom is made up of electrons and protons and neutrons?   My teacher explained that his test had a disclaimer:  In the context of this course, to the best of your ability, what has been presented as the latest knowledge?  I always thought this was a good way to reconcile what we consider to be knowledge now and the knowledge we will have in the future.  Knowledge is revisable and it is inevitable to find a definition of fact that includes the word revisable, I think.


What I'm more interested in discussing with you in particular is the idea I brought up in class about whether Skloot's story about why she wrote The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was true.  I thought that the story could have been presented in a better way in order to make it more me at least.  If she had said that she heard about Henrietta when she was 16 in biology, and followed her professor to his office asking him about her, looked her up and couldn't find anything, and then her interest was rekindled later, I would have believed her.  Rather, I found that she drug out the story.  She said that all through college Henrietta's cells kept popping up and she used them in a lab  and no one mentioned her name etc.  and she wondered about the origin of the cells.  Oh and she wondered if the family knew about her cells being used - like she had such insight into how the use of her cells affected her family even though she hadn't even written the story yet.   I guess I just don't 'buy' that she always had this desire to write Henrietta's story like it was a human interest piece, because it isn't really a human interest piece.  Some of it is about science and some of it is about her family but very little is about Henrietta.  I would like to hear how you took in her story and what you thought about it.

KT's picture

Interpreting Quotes

So is a quote a fact? When something is a quote gives you a place to start your interpretation and analysis.  You start with the idea that you have one less layer to remove in your evaluation of the comment since you know that the intent was to faithfully represent words as they came out of someone’s mouth.  But calling it a fact is of limited value because it’s not the whole story.  (ex. If we know that Anne thinks saying, “I appreciate your point of view but I disagree” is patronizing and we hear a quote from Anne with those words, we bring that interpretation of “patronizing comment” to our understanding… versus hearing that quote from someone who doesn’t have that opinion about those words.)  So now we have to consider what we know of the speaker, what the author knows we know about the speaker and consider the intent in providing that quote so we can evaluate what it has to do with the “facts.”  I’ll agree with froggies that it’s a fact that it was said, but there is so much more that we need to know about intent in order to form the bigger picture of understanding (and truth and fact).  To merely know that it was said isn’t enough.

dglasser's picture

When Agreed Upon, Quotes are Facts

I completely agree that to know that something was said is not enough. The question at hand isn’t whether something was said, but was what was said a fact or not. Therefore moving forward, when it comes to quotations, I feel that there are two “subjects”, two people, that need to be consulted in order for a quote to be labeled as a fact; the original speaker and the writer of the quotation. Quotations are a partnership and therefore the relevant subject group in question are those two people. If both people agree that the quotation and context is accurate then the quotation is a fact. This is why reporters have to verify their quotations before printing them; misquoting is unacceptable. So, a quotation is a fact when these two people agree on it regardless of the reader; the reader is not a part of the relevant subject group, this is an issue of accurate writing/recording and an issue of trust within the profession.

This poses an interesting question when you consider authors that are no longer alive. If a writer wants to quote a dead author, that writer obviously can’t go back in time or call upon the dead to ask, “Am I misquoting you?” (unless of course you believe in that kind of spiritual stuff, which I don’t). In this case the writer is quoting a previous work of the dead author, or a past interview etc. Unfortunately the writer therefore has to hope that the original work or interview was done accurately/truthfully. This speaks to a chain of writers i.e. the writer’s profession. A writer who quotes from a past interview hopes that the interviewer verified any used quotations. Although this hope is not very sturdy to work with, hope never really is in my opinion, it is all that there is to work with. You must move on. Therefore, writers, reporters, etc have a mutual trust between them that whatever is written or recorded is done so with as much accuracy as possible. That’s why when a writer is found to plagiarize or falsify a quotation people rightfully become agitated. It is a disregard of this trust.

I think that is why the idea that Skloot purposefully fabricated a story for the sake of drama in a non-fiction account bothered me so much. If she had, my trust in her would be broken and I would feel betrayed and tricked.