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Wittgenstein writes in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (p.25 in this version):

1. The world is everything 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 these being all the facts.

Is the author just being overly explicit in this last sentence, or should we from this conclude that "the facts being all the facts" is not a fact, and is not part of the world?

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  • It seems somewhat oblique, but is it "the case" that all the facts are all the facts?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Apr 12 '15 at 13:19
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    It's not an answer to your question, but when you talk about a "fact" about "all the facts," you often run afowl of set theory, which means many proofs get dicey. You find many logical arguments which require defenses outside of the mathematical definition of logic.
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 13 '15 at 5:04
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This is one case where the language might help. In the original German1, he writes:

 1      Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.
 1.1    Die Welt ist die Gesamtheit der Tatsachen, nicht der Dinge.
 1.11   Die Welt ist durch die Tatsachen bestimmt und dadurch, daß *alle* Tatsachen sind.

The key word in 1.11 is bestimmt (determined, selected, decided, or caused). This is not to be read as a Tatsache (fact) itself, because by using the word bestimmt he indicates a distinction between what a fact is, and what the case (der Fall) is. To say something is determined is like to say (in the language) that something has been caused to be so. To be determined is not itself an abstract fact (Tatsache), but an immanent constituent of the way things are.

In essence Wittgenstein's opening boils down to the incontrovertible statement that the way things are, are the way they are, because of the facts that make them so. This principle cannot be unpacked as a fact itself, or it would be a fact determining a fact. That it was determined by a fact makes it a case of how things are, not a fact itself.

All of this is borne out by the rest of the section, which reads

1.12    Denn, die Gesamtheit der Tatsachen bestimmt, was der Fall ist und auch, was alles nicht der Fall ist.
1.13    Die Tatsachen im logischen Raum sind die Welt.

1.12. "Then, the totality of all facts determines what the case is and also, what isn't the case." 1.13. "The facts in scope of logic are the world."


1 Kenny, A., Wittgenstein, L., 1995. Ein Reader. Reclam, Philipp, jun. GmbH, Verlag, Stuttgart. p. 9.

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Wittgenstein himself didn't consider the propositions of the Tractatus or those of philosophy in general to be facts. "the facts being all the facts" would fall under this category, so is not itself a fact.

"6.54 My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them - as steps - to climb up beyond them. (He must so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright."

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One needs to take into account that the Tractatus is, for the most part, a theory of propositions.

The World is everything that is the case

Is a statement about the intelligibility of the World; only the empirical World is under investigation: it is the case that a stone is but a stone; and it is the case that when one lets it go, it falls; though towards the end of the Tractatus he indicates that there is more: the empirical world is the first rung of the ladder; being the element all agree on.

The World is the totality of facts not things

This refers to the correspondence theory of Truth; Wittgenstein is only interested in the propositions - the facts; and not what they refer to - the things; he is a logician, and in Kantian terms interested only in the form of things.

The World is determined by the facts; and these being all the facts.

The World of Propositions are not some of the facts, nor none of the facts, but all of the facts.

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First, we have to distinguish between two languages. There is the language that the Tractatus talks about - a logically perfect language, the target language. And there is the language that the Tractatus itself in written in, the metalanguage.

A sentence in the target language represents a state of affairs. If the sentence is true, the corresponding state of affairs is a fact. On the other hand, the predicate word 'fact' is not part of the target language, but of the metalanguage. One cannot quantify over facts in the target language.

Therefore, the statement "these are all the facts" belongs to the metalanguage. It cannot be made in the target language. Therefore, this sentence does not represent a fact. Or, one could put it like that: it represents a meta-fact.

The metalanguage statement:

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

refers to the state of the world. The term 'world' belong to the metalanguage. One cannot talk "about the world" in the target language. So suppose that there are e.g. only three facts: p1, p2, p3. Then, (p1 and p2 and p3) is the state of world. But you cannot express this meta-fact about the world in the target language, only in the metalanguage.

Target language: p1 and p2 and p3

Metalanguage: (p1 and p2 and p3) and these are all the facts <-> (p1 and p2 and p3) is the state of the world

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