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Gre Issue 87 : Any Piece Of Information Referred To As A Fact Should Be Mistrusted - With A Free Essay Review

"Claim: Any piece of information referred to as a fact should be mistrusted, since it may well be proven false in the future. Reason: Much of the information that people assume is factual actually turns out to be inaccurate."

There are indeed some pieces of information that turned out to be false a while after considered right and accepted by people earlier. This happens in almost every field, sciences, politics, and arts. However, as far as I'm concerned, it is too absolute to say that any of that information cannot be trusted.

One of the most important reasons why some information turned out to be false later is that, as time goes by, people always have better ways to analyze a problem, as well as more time to see if a so-called fact is valid; thus they may have a deeper and more precise understanding of it. For example, a result from a biology experiment may seem to be factual enough on the first look, because the germs the experiment is concerned about behave in the same way in a short period of time. However, their behavior might as well have some changes as time lapses, so the "fact" drawn from the earlier period of the experiment proves false; or researchers just developed a new way of analyzing the germs' behaviors and found out that their former means are inaccurate. Such things often happen in the field of science, but it does not happen in every research, and some results of research that are claimed to be facts are right. And there is no good for us in questioning every one of them, since if we question the foundation each time we want to investigate a phenomenon, science cannot develop then. Given facts are the experience of our ancestors, and we must trust something instead of questioning everything, like the axioms in mathematics, for only with that prerequisite can we do some further work in the fields.

Besides, there is only one way for people to test an assumed fact, and that is practicing. In case that we cannot decide whether an assumed fact is right or wrong, I think we can just accept it and see if it always remains right in our practicing of it, but not simply mistrust it. By saying this I mean that even if the "fact" does turn out to be inaccurate in the future, it is not the reason that we should mistrust it right now. And we might even use the assumed facts to help us, regardless of its accuracy. For instance, when people were first developing the atom bomb, they took advantages of some physical "facts" that people thought were right at that time which actually turned out to be inaccurate today. And we did succeed with the help of the inaccurate assumed facts at that time, but imagine, if people just mistrust them because of their possible inaccuracy, we may not have our atom bombs today. So, the given reason is not enough to dissuade people from trusting any piece of information.

Always having an inquiring heart is one thing, yet questioning any information is another; the former can prevent us from taking everything for granted, but the latter is to let us mistrust everything unconditionally and this certainly goes to an extreme. So, in my perspective, there is no need and no good for us to mistrust any piece of information referred to as a fact.


Essay Review

I think your basic argument here is reasonable, but it is not articulated with sufficient clarity. Your explanation of why alleged facts can be proved false (we develop "better ways to analyze a problem" over time) is clear enough (and a good point). The example that illustrates it is not really clear enough, in part because you don't identify a specific factual claim that might be proved false in the course of developing that example. A short, simple example would be more effective (example: It was once assumed that the speed of light was relative to the speed of the observer; with new experiments, this alleged fact proved false.) and more efficient (since you are trying to demonstrate your analytic ability, you should probably devote more time to analysis than to illustration).

Your second paragraph as a whole could be improved by dividing its distinct topics into separate paragraphs. The meat of your argument here begins with the penultimate sentence ("And there is no good reason etc."). That sentence should begin a new paragraph.

Once you do that, you will realise that the new paragraph is rather short. There is nothing wrong with a short paragraph as such, but it is a problem if the brevity is occasioned by a failure to develop the argument, since the latter failure is almost always a weakness. Such is more or less the the case here, but it is not a big problem, especially since you return to a closely related topic in the next paragraph. From an organizational point of view, however, things are a bit confusing.

The basic argument is actually quite good: questioning everything is paralysing. I think the example again is a relatively poor one (axioms are distinct from factual claims), although perhaps you mean it as an analogy (we must trust facts just as we must assume the truth of axioms), in which case, with clarification of that point, it would be fine.

The second half of the next paragraph (from "By saying this I mean etc." on) makes the related argument that not questioning everything can have positive outcomes, even in the case where the factual claims we accept are not strictly true. I think it would be clearer to have these two arguments together, and that your argument should unfold something like this:

1. We should not mistrust everything because that is paralysing, whereas trusting factual claims can have positive outcomes.

2. We should not mistrust everything because we can only learn whether some factual claims are true by acting as though they are true.

One of the things that is missing from the argument for me is any consideration of what type of factual claims should be trusted and what mistrusted. Despite what I say above about examples, there are obviously many different circumstances in which mistrusting might be advisable or inadvisable. (Consider the difference, for instance, between factual claims made, let’s say in good faith, by a priest, a doctor, a teacher, a parent, or a witness at a trial.) Further discussion of the nature of such circumstances and the consequences of mistrusting factual claims in specified circumstances would be one way to develop the argument of the essay further.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: Juliana

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