The Sad Little Fact | Reflections

Posted on December 25, 2019

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Jonah Winter. The Sad Little Fact. Schwartz& Wade Books, 2019.

“Some people chose to ignore the facts,
turning their backs and walking away in a huff.

But for those with minds to think
and a nee to know the truth,
the facts could not be denied.”


REFLECTIONS


There are these moments in life when the intersection of three beloved virtues and values make for ecstatic delight. This book (one), The Sad Little Fact, is one of those moments, the perfect blend of children’s literature (two) and epistemology (three). Here are the many ways this delights me so.

That a book like this is needed is a commentary on our times, both of the epistemic crisis we are facing, and the deeply held belief in children as hope. I think there’s a lesson for us all in this book’s mere existence.

That the fact is “sad,” is a perfect commentary on how truth presents itself temperamentally. I would not have been as elated with a book about an “angry” little fact, for that is not how facts present themselves. Opinions are often angry and stubborn, as are the “authorities” in the book (which was another “BRILLIANT!” Winter correctly identifies the “appeal to authority” as one of the primary epistemological fallacies. Such glee!) Facts are objectively cool, and unassuming. “Sad” is an excellent illustration of what happens when they are dismissed. Even more so, it is this range of emotions that encapsulates so much of our contemporary challenge. As people become angrier (and fearful) they become less lamenting and empathetic, which means less attuned to the “facts.”

That the fact is “little” is also brilliant. Any statement of truth requires a specified limit. Facts, by their very nature, must be bounded quite narrowly. The larger the explanatory scope, the greater the nuance, increasing the potential margin of explanatory inadequacy. While scientific theories are large (wide), the facts that make up those theories are little (narrow).

With deep thanks and affection to my wife who got this for me as a gift, who has to live with her husband’s “sad little epistemological revolution”…in his head.