I keep running into this term "obtain" being used in what I suspect is specialized way, but I can't seem to find a definition for it. Here are two examples:

From the fact that the first state of affairs obtains, we can infer nothing about the location of y. Both states of affairs obtain contingently.


Whereas states of affairs (situations) either obtain or fail-to-obtain, propositions are either true or false.

  • 2
    I would suggest to put your comment into an answer.
    – Lukas
    Sep 10, 2013 at 6:08

1 Answer 1


'Obtains' is used instead of 'is true' because states of affairs are not linguistic or abstract entities like sentences and propositions. The sentence "the cat is on the mat" can be true. The proposition expressed by "the cat is on the mat" can be true. But the cat's being on the mat is not the sort of thing that can be true. Instead, it can 'obtain', exist, be happening, be realized, and so on. Of course, if neither of those alternative notions is clearer to you than 'obtains', this won't answer your question.

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