a recent discussion as well as some coincidental readings (some of which come from Barry Taylor's Entertainment Theology) have caused me to think about the nature and relationship of "truth" and "fact." many would argue that these and synonyms meaning the same thing. i don't think they are.
in his work Social and Cultural Dynamics, Pitirim A. Sorokin (founder of Dept. of Sociology at Harvard) developed a complex theory of cultural change that have important implications for this discussion. Sorokin is Russian and his life was largely marked by upheaval brought about by the communist revolution. the traditional "folk" truth was uprooted by the "objective, cold-reasoning of the state."
He states that there is a marked difference between how truth is dealt with between west and east. Russia has both verisons in conflict. there is the cultural conflict of the Sensate and the Ideational.
The Sensate mode is one in which material values dominate. Its focus is on mattters of efficiency and bureacracy. The Ideational is the opposite. Rather than being predominantly sensorially focused, it is more artistically inclined, understanding reality as super sensory. The Greek civilization, for instance, would fall into the ideational mode, given its focus on beauty, transcendent truth, and philosophy. the Roman Empire would by contrast be squarely Sensate, given it's commitment to dominance and its gift of organization and construction.
so in Roman language, descriptions would be based in the "hard facts" because engineers need exact figures to build aqueducts and forts and such. Greek language, there is more metaphor, allegory, and a tendency to exagreate to drive points home.
take a Western, Sensate mode of describe'n a BBQ: "i had a big party, 15 people showed up, there were 5 cars in my 3 car-capacity driveway, we cooked 3 full chickens and emptied 4 quarts of mashed potatoes, and it took 45 minutes to do the dishes which normally takes 15.” this is a western “Just the Facts Please” way of telling the story.
now consider an Eastern, Ideational way of conveying the same event: “i had HUGE party.. there had to have been 100 people there, cars were lined up and down the block, we ate a whole flock of chickens and ate enough mash potatoes that Idaho is now having to replant, and i used every dish in the house which took like 3 days to clean!” this way is loose with the “facts” but i’d argue you’d remember this story longer.
so we have the western "factual" model which would best be summed up by Thomas Aquinas' quote "Veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectus ("Truth is the equation [or adequation] of thing and intellect").
then we have the eastern "metaphoric" model, best articulated by Michael Lynch in a series of articles and in his 2009 book Truth as One and Many argues that we should see truth as a functional property capable of being multiply manifested in distinct properties like correspondence or coherence. truth then is culturally understood to convey "another meaning than the facts or story presented."
another way to put it is through my advertising background. as a marketer, i studied demographics and found that it's a fact that the American Family is white, has 3.6 members, 2.4 pets, lives in the suburbs, has 2.4 vehicles, and has an median income of 50 to $75,000." (information from Hey Whipple Squeeze This) these are the facts but it doesn't hold the truth of the American family and one wouldn't be able to find this factual family no matter how long you searched for it.
so what i'm saying is that the modernist notions of reality are coming to an end. the east is meeting west and "Poetry will reach a superior dignity, it will become in the end what it was in the beginning-- the teacher of humanity." -Friedrich Schelling, Philosophy of Mythology.