Proposition 1.1 of the Tractatus says:

The world is the totality of facts, not of things.

Does this mean that he regards the world being that of propositions whose truth can be determined - that is a fact. Presumably this is his definition of the world. Also, where does this leave the world of things?

2 Answers 2


Remember Kant as the originator of German idealism, saying that the world as we know it is not a collection of things in themselves, but those things as we perceive them? Wittgenstein ran with this and took it probably as far as it could go, saying that the world is composed of propositions that we can say about it, each proposition - and not what we imagine the proposition represents - being a fact. Whereas Kant said that things do exist but are unknowable as they are because they have to be represented to us through our senses then our sense-data interpreted by our intellect (a process he called "apperception"), Wittgenstein abolished Kant's thing-in-itself and said that humans move in a world which is composed entirely of intellectual representations of what may or may not exist outside our intellects. Norbert Wiley wasn't very impressed with this and in his book "The Semiotic Self" referred to it as "upw

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    referred to as "upw?. Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 9:10
  • If things are Wittgensteins practical way of desribing noumena, then I could go along with this. If he means things of the world in the usual sense, then this is Kants phenomenal world which is immediately presented to the intuition then filtered through the intellect to be made whole as things. It seems to me that propositions can be concious, which can't be what Wittgenstein means here, but that they are unconconcious. Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 14:10
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    This seems incomplete. A few supporting sources would be good, this is nothing but your own interpretation for now.
    – iphigenie
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 9:14

Russell, in the introduction to the Tractatus elucidates this. He says:

facts cannot strictly speaking be defined, but we can explain what we mean by saying that facts are what make propositions true, or false.

That is the proposition 'grass is green' is true because of the fact that grass is green.

Wittgenstein is defining the world as all such facts, rather than in conventional language the world of things, like grass itself.

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