- The way we commonly speak of "facts" is calculated to convey a false impression
- The world is not a collection of individual facts existing side by side and capable of being known separately
- A fact is nothing except in its relations to other facts
- Moreover, every statement of fact involves certain general notions and theories
- It is the office of philosophy, or theory of knowledge, to submit such conceptions to a critical analysis, with a view to discover how far they can be thought out, or how far, when this is done, they refute themselves, and call for a different form of statement, if they are to be taken as a statement of the ultimate nature of the real
When I first read Tractatus, or TLP as the 'professional' philosophers call it, it didn't make a lot of sense. I don't think I was alone**. Here is the opening section:
1 The world is all that is the case.
1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by their being all the facts.
1.12 For the totality of facts determines what is the case, and also whatever is not the case.
1.13 The facts in logical space are the world.
I think Wittgenstein is saying something similar to Andrew Seth, but much more obtusely, as is his style. Where Wittgenstein ends up in the final section of TLP is that certain things cannot be said meaningfully:
7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
No doubt we will return to this later but in the meantime I will continue with Britannica:
- The nature of any fact is not fully known unless we know it in all its relations to the system of the universe, or in Spinoza's phrase "sub specie æternitatis"***
- The sciences, one and all, deal with a world of objects, but the ultimate fact as we know it is the existence of an object for a subject
- Subject-object knowledge, or more widely, self-consciousness with its implicates - this unity in duality is the ultimate aspect which reality presents
- It has generally been considered, therefore, as constituting in a special sense the problem of philosophy
*Older editions of Britannica contain proper long articles, probably because they were written before the widespread intellectual dumbing down of Western society which has been noticeable since the Second World War.
** At the urging of Ramsey and others, Wittgenstein returned to
*** Wittgenstein deliberately borrowed the expression "sub specie aeternitatis" from Spinoza (Notebooks, 1914-16, p. 83) (from Wikipedia). This is interesting, could it be the case that Wittgenstein read the Ninth Edition Britannica article before he started on TLP or was he just well versed in Spinoza (1632-1677)?