Facts and Language

  • Jennifer Trusted


‘What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.’2 From our consideration of the dependence of empirical facts on concepts and theories we have come to appreciate that all observation involves inference and that we are not the passive recipients of hard data supplied by the objects and events in the world: we interpret our sensations in terms of observed objects and events because we are the kind of creatures that we are. We speak of facts, and now we are in a position to tackle a very difficult question, namely ‘What are facts?’. The immediate answer suggested by common sense is ‘Facts are the situations we find in the world’. It was expressed by Wittgenstein as: ‘What is the case — a fact — is the existence of states of affairs.’3


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  1. 1.
    L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus, trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuiness (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), 5.62.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    H. Putnam, Meaning and the Moral Sciences (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), p. 99.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    N. R. Hanson, Perception and Discovery (San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper, 1969), p. 185.Google Scholar

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© Jennifer Trusted 1987

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  • Jennifer Trusted

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