A Fact-Value Fantasy

by F.

Suppose at any time you could collect all the human “knowledge” and codify it—on a server, in a book, on Post-Its, whatever. Go back to 500 B.C. in your time machine. How much factual knowledge was there, as a percentage of all things human beings claimed to know?

I would speculate that the percentage was smaller than today: Plato and Parmenides and Sophocles knew a few things, but not like we do. For instance, they didn’t know about germs, gravity, and what Saturn actually was (neither a car nor a god, but a lump of matter with a funny ring around it).

Get back in your time machine. Go forward 1500 years to 1000 A.D. What would the split be then, facts versus ideology-superstition-values-bullshit? I would speculate more than in 500 B.C. and yet less than today. And so on, as we move forward in time. This is an Enlightenment fantasy, of course.

I hope—it is a fantasy—that the accretion of factual knowledge outruns ideology and talk of “values.” My fantasy is represented by this graph: