Tractatus 2, 2.01, and 2.011

2 What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts
2.01 An atomic fact is a combination of objects (entities, things)
2.011 It is essential to a thing that it can be a constituent part of an atomic fact

So many ways to misread Wittgenstein. So many ways to misjudge these remarks.

Wittgenstein is not doing metaphysics. What else could this be but metaphysics? The metaphysical form of the remarks is saying something about language. What that is is unclear until the end, when the final remarks have been said. For now, we can ask questions about the text. what is the “is” doing in 2? It seems to be an is of identity. What is the case, the fact, and the existence of atomic facts are one thing. What does it mean for a fact to exist? Let alone an atomic fact? I’m led at times to believe that this is the right question to ask in these remarks. Wittgenstein is trying to show how weird this looks, given it seems wrong to claim he is mistaken. What is existence doing here? That too is unclear. Do atomic facts exist? Though it’s weird to make a claim like this, it again seems right. Existence is not being used the way we usually use it. What does philosophy do on a regular basis?

The next two remarks fall in together. An atomic fact is a combination of objects, in order to be an object, it must have a place in an atomic fact. Again, it looks like we are doing metaphysics. One way of taking this is to collect some objects together, point to it and say “there’s a fact!”. This seems weird at best. That must not be what Wittgenstein is up to. I can’t point to facts, facts just are. There is an intermingling between things and words, richer than we usually think of. It has to be right that objects are a part of atomic facts, but those objects can’t be the fact. What does that tell us?

~ by Barky on February 23, 2012.

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