Tuesday, October 31, 2006

1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by these being all the facts.

Russell on facts (from Logical Atomism): He proposes to begin with truisms that are beyond doubt and need no justification, “truisms … so obvious that it is almost laughable to mention them.”[1] The first of these is “that the world contains facts, which are what they are whatever we may choose to think about them, and that there are also beliefs, which have reference to facts, and by reference to facts are either true or false.”[2] Facts are what make propositions true or false. They are objective but not particular (in the way that a particular person is particular, say). Since they cannot be false, it would be a mistake to say that they are all true.

Black (p. 36) says that ‘determined’ (bestimmt) here does not mean ‘stipulated’, as it does in some places, but something more like ‘necessitated.’

My original reaction: A problem here. Isn't it a fact that these are all the facts? So wouldn't it be enough to say "determined by the facts"? And is it a fact that these are all the facts? And is that a fact? Perhaps there is no problem. My (entirely fictional) running might make me fit, without the fact that I run making me fit. At least someone with a metaphysics of facts might want to deny causal powers to them. Maybe this is what Wittgenstein has in mind. Or maybe the metaphysical doctrine he is putting forward is (intentionally or not) incoherent almost from the very start. Or maybe all we have been given so far is definitions, or even pseudo-definitions (like: I will use 'fraggle' and 'spling' to mean the same thing. This is a kind of definition, but it might turn out that I don't use these words to mean anything really). Perhaps Wittgenstein is saying: when I say "the world" I will mean the same as when I say "the totality of facts." It could turn out to be the same nothing in each case.

[1] Ibid., p. 163.

[2] Ibid.


Anonymous said...

perhaps there should be some hint about the revelation which comes at 5.621:the world and life are one. here it would look more like a definition but indeed a great deal of the book's impact is staked in it.

DR said...

Good point. Thanks for providing the hint.