What is a fact, exactly? A table, for instance, is an object located within a particular region of space. But what about facts? Are they one kind of object, and if so, what kind of objects are they?

  • 1
    Does this answer your question? What are facts as considered independently of any thinking being?
    – Conifold
    May 17 '20 at 21:55
  • This is a much involved question. What is the context of your questioning? Do you have any hypotheisis or reflection to present? What is at stake for you here, and why does it look necessary to answer this question?
    – user39744
    May 17 '20 at 21:55
  • I’m voting to close this question because can be answered by dictionary. May 18 '20 at 6:26
  • If a table is an object, the statement asserting that the table has four legs corresponds to a fact "involving" the table. May 18 '20 at 13:10
  • Depends on your definition of 'object', which is a very ontological question. Read SEP's article on what 'object' means before making up your mind. Your question goes to the nature of the classic issues of naive realism and Cartesian duality. You're getting into questions of ontology and metaontology and men such as Carnap, Quine, and Meinong.
    – J D
    May 18 '20 at 21:19

(1) History tells facts, novels do not.

Here, fact means true event.

(2) Scientific facts differ from historical facts.

The fact that water freezes at 0° C is a fact but not an event; it is, at best, an event type of which each freezing of water at 0° C is a token. Sometimes scientific facts are called "phenomenon".

(3) Science does not study facts but consequences; only history (natural or civil) studies facts (Hobbes, Leviathan).

A fact corresponds to a categorical sentence ("The Earth rotates about its N - S axis"); a consequence corresponds to a conditional statement ("if no net force acts on a movng body, then this body will continue its movement in a straight line at a constant speed").

(4) A fact is whatever denotes a true proposition. Truth is adequation of a sentence to a fact.

But in that case, a false sentence denotes nothing; in such a way that there is no meaningful false sentence? (Russell's critique in Problems of Philosophy).

(5) A fact is nothing else than a true proposition, the fregean "sense" (of a true sentence).

(6) A fact is an obtaining state of affairs, a fact is "what is the case".

A state of affairs is a complex entity involving a particular and a universal (property or relation) . Some states of affairs do not obtain; only those which obtain are facts.

A fact is not an event: that the Earth is (roughly) round is a fact, but it is not something that "happens" in whatever way. That mother Theresa never married is a fact; again, no assiciated event.

"The world is the totality of facts, not of things". (Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 1.1)

(7) A fact is a contingent obtaining state of affairs. (Hume)

That 2+2 = 4 is not a fact, but a "relation of ideas".

  • Your entries 1,4,5, & 6 express the same idea or concept. This is the basis of what propositions are. How the sentence is worded is irrelevant. How the concept or idea is literally expressed is irrelevant. Furthermore none of the entries Express that FACTS never expire & can never be false which are essential. If a fact can be falsified the term fact is meaningless. How is one supposed to know if the fact is true or false in that scenario? By definition a fact must be true & forever be true. The state of affairs would not change. Changing a quantifier to SOME takes away importance of a fact.
    – Logikal
    May 18 '20 at 11:57
  • Historical novels contain many facts. Any many factual accounts are assuredly fiction.
    – J D
    May 18 '20 at 21:23

The philosophical notion of facts is "sentence-like slices of reality" (Quine). Basically, when we look at things, like a red sky, do we only directly think "a red sky" or do we think, "The sky here is red right now"? If we think the latter, do we think it into the sky, or from it?

This is sort of obscure but it underwrites the classical notion of substance. An object was said to be a substance if it was a sort of "subject that can't be a predicate" objectively. Of course we could invert the orders of words so that any subject becomes a predicate, so here, substances are things themselves conforming to the notion of facts.

This is what Wittgenstein is claiming about the world itself, then: that if the world is like a book, the book isn't a list of noun phrases but of full sentences.


Karl Popper holds that facts are the hypotheses that we have sufficient confidence in to build other hypotheses upon. IE -- the things we know about the world are all inferences, and none are certain or objective. "Facts" are just the most reliable of those inferences.

As hypotheses are abstract objects, inhabiting world 3, so are all facts. They are abstract objects.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.