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Subject Philosophy

People Wittgenstein, Ludwig

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631185376.1996.x


‘The world is everything that is the case. The world is the totality of facts, not of objects.’ The famous beginning of the Tractatus is the climax of a realist tradition which assigned importance to facts as mind-independent constituents of the world. Frege, Moore, Russell, and Wittgenstein in 1911 combined this motif with a (partly terminological) idiosyncracy: they identified facts with ‘true’ or ‘asserted propositions’. But Russell and Wittgenstein soon came to understand facts as what makes propositions true (if they are true). like Moore, Russell treated a fact as a complex of entities (‘concepts’ or ‘terms’) which subsists timelessly, regardless of whether it is thought by anyone: the fact that Socrates is mortal consists of the philosopher and the property of being mortal. In his atomistic period, he analysed the world into ‘atomic facts’ consisting of simple ‘individuals’, which comprise ‘particulars’, their qualities and relations ( Principles ch. 4; Logic 178–89; Writings ch. 1). At first, Wittgenstein maintained that the meaning of a proposition ‘p’ is the fact that corresponds to it in reality, the fact that p if it is true, the fact that ∼p if it is false. Later, he abandoned this idea. Only names have a meaning, the absolutely simple ‘objects’ they stand for. Propositions do not, since they do not stand for anything, but describe; and what a proposition describes, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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