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Fact-Inference Confusion

Activity 4

Each member of the group needs to read the following.   Then choose between project#2 or #3 to be completed individually. The Project #1 and examples need to be completed by the whole group.

In some languages, it is necessary to distinguish statements which are based on actual observation from statements based on hear-say.  In English, however, we do not have such requirements and perhaps because of this we often confuse what is factual with what is inferential.

Some of the essential differences between factual and inferential statements are presented below.

                                                                              Factual Statements

Inferential Statements

                                                                                       1.     May be made only after observation                                  1.  May be made at any time
2.  Are limited to what has been observed 2.  Go beyond what has been observed
3.  May be made only by the observer 3.  May be made by anyone
4.  May only be about the past or the present 4.  May be about any time- past, present, or future
5.  Approach certainty 5.  Involve varying degrees of probability

For example, if I look out the window and see water falling from the sky and say "It's raining" I have made a factual statement.  This is a statement made after observation, limited to what has been observed, by the observer, about the present, and approaches certainty (our perceptual devices, our senses, are never perfect).  If, on the other hand, I say "It's raining around the corner" I have made an inferential statement because I have gone beyond what has been observed.   Similarly, if I say "It will be raining five minutes from now" I have again gone beyond what has been observed and therefore made another inferential statement.

Neither type of statement is better than the other.  Both factual and inferential statements are useful and necessary.  Problems arise not from making inferential statements but rather from ACTING AS IF our inferential statements are factual.  When Romeo sees Juliet and infers that she is dead, he has simply made a normal inference based on what he observed. The problem arises when he ACTS AS IF his inference was fact and kills himself in response.