Moving Factward

In the leg­en­dar­ium of J.R.R. Tolk­ien, the land of the gods is known as “The Ut­ter­most West.” For the world was origi­nally cre­ated flat, and the gods took the west­ern­most re­gion of this flat world for their dwelling place.

On our globe, of course, there is no west­ern­most point. And yet it is still the case that, at each po­si­tion on the equa­tor, some di­rec­tion is ob­jec­tively “west­ward”. The ob­jec­tivity of “west­ward” doesn’t as­sume that there is some ul­ti­mate West by which the west-ness of all other po­si­tions is mea­sured.

Analo­gously, there is no such thing as a “bare un­in­ter­preted fact”. “Just the facts” is not a re­al­iz­able ideal.

And yet we can still rec­og­nize when one ac­count of a situ­a­tion is more “fac­tish” than an­other. We can see that the sec­ond ac­count is more of an in­ter­pre­ta­tion com­pared to the rel­a­tively fac­tish fea­tures given in the first ac­count. The more-fac­tish ac­count is never the ul­ti­mate and un­var­nished truth. Likely no co­her­ent sense could be made of that ideal. Nonethe­less, from wher­ever we stand, we can always “move fact­ward”.[1]


[1] ETA: Said Ach­miz points out that many fea­tures of “west­ward” don’t ap­ply to “fact­ward”. Analo­gies typ­i­cally as­sert a similar­ity be­tween only some, not all, as­pects of the two analo­gous situ­a­tions. But maybe the other as­pects of “west­ward” are so salient that they in­terfere with the anal­ogy.