Friday, April 22, 2016



Herbert C. Youtie (1904-1980), "The Papyrologist: Artificer of Fact," Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 4 (1963) 19-32 (at 31-32):
When we hear a man say, as we often do, "This argument of yours doesn't jibe with the facts," or "Let's look at the facts," or "These are the facts," we can be sure that for him the facts are like nothing that man has ever known—eternal, unchanging, unchangeable. His approach to mental entities so complex as facts is oversimplified and unsophisticated. By endowing them with a solidity and permanence foreign to their history and nature as constructions made by minds so fallible as our own, he prolongs their life for countless years after they have lost the truth that was once in them. He thus faces a world in constant process of reformation with logical instruments long since abandoned by those who work with facts rather than worship them.

The scholar does not recognize solidity and permanence as characteristic of the facts with which he earns his daily bread. These are of a different order. He has seen them made and remade. He has himself made them and remade them. He has seen worn-out and dilapidated facts discarded and replaced by new, freshly turned facts. He has seen them changing their shapes, their sizes, their complexions as scholars grow in knowledge, skill, and subtlety. He knows them, to be sure, as the pivotal points round which sweeps the whole intellectual life of man, but nevertheless shifting position and changing contour under its impact.

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