Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Facts, What's Real, And What's True

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

November 19, 2022

This essay, Facts, What's Real, And What's True, is the sequel to Not Your Own Facts.

It was written at the same time as You Don't Get What You Deserve.

Consider these three terms: facts, what's real, and what's true. They're all different. Each implies something quite specific, something unique. Yet we interchange them erroneously with a certain wooliness, albeit unknowingly.

Only when it occurred to me as I intently followed an ongoing exchange in a training Werner was leading, that I had been deploying them inaccurately for years (for my entire life more likely) without showing any mastery over what the differences between them are (ie that I really had no idea  how to deploy them correctly ie that I'd been faking that I knew) did I become interested in learning how to differentiate between them accurately, both in my day to day speaking and listening, as well as in writing these Conversations For Transformation.

Anyone who's ever deployed them loosely the way I'd been doing, will attest (if they're telling the truth about it) that we interchange "facts" with what's "real". But are they really equivalent? For that matter, we also interchange what's "real" with what's "true". Yet as I discovered (and as I'm about to demonstrate), what's true may not necessarily be real.

So what are the differences between facts, what's real, and what's true?

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


noun, plural
from the noun (singular) fact

something that is known to have happened or to exist, especially something for which proof exists, or about which there is information

It's a "fact" that you and I were born. It's a fact that planet Earth has a gravity field which prevents us from flying off into space while we're out in the neighborhood walking the dog. It's a fact that without SCUBA  (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) gear, we human beings aren't very good at breathing underwater. It's a fact that you and I need a license to drive legally. It's a fact that The Beatles have sold the more records than anyone else.

Facts are things that are known to have happened. Facts are things that are known to exist. Additionally there may be proof that facts happened (it's a fact that you were born - additionally, you may also have a birth certificate to prove it). Additionally there may be proof that facts exist (ask Sir Isaac Newton about gravity and that apple). Additionally information may exist about facts (read Billboard  or Rolling Stone  for information about The Beatles catalog).

Also from the Cambridge International Dictionary:


existing in fact and not imaginary

If something is "real", it's a fact (as distinguished above) that it exists. That much is obvious. But to really nail this distinction, for something to be real it must also not be imaginary. If something is real, there's physical evidence / proof it exists. If there's physical evidence of it, it can be measured. If it can be measured, it has a beginning  and a middle  and an end. You may imagine  you're being chased by a tiger. But that tiger by definition isn't real.


It only exists in a technical subset of a certain body of knowledge, yet it's worth noting that information's available about the square root of minus one  ie √-1 ... so it's a fact, but it's not real: it's imaginary.


The bottom line of what's real, is this: if something is real, it exists as a fact ... and  ... it's not merely imagined / imaginary. Zebras are real not imaginary. That there are zebras, is a fact. Information's available about zebras. There's proof zebras exist. Information's also available about unicorns. But unicorns are imaginary not real. That there are unicorns, is not a fact. There's no proof unicorns exist.

Also from the Cambridge International Dictionary:


(especially of facts or statements) right and not wrong; correct

If something is "true", it's a fact (as distinguished above) which is right, not wrong, and correct. Specifically, if what you say  is true, then it's right, not wrong, and correct - in other words if what you say is true, then what you say is congruent with and consistent with the facts.
Werner is interacting with a participant in the training. I'll call him Fred. Fred is inquiring into what's true and what's not true. He tells Werner that if he imagines he's being chased by a tiger then it's true that he's being chased by a tiger. Werner tells him "No, that doesn't make it true" to which Fred responds "But it's true for me"  to which Werner replies "A-Ha!  but it's not real.".

Fred opens his mouth to say something ... then closes it instead and smiles warmly at / with Werner. He gets it. So does everyone else in the room.

That's a great place to let this rest.

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