Monthly Archives: April 2020

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

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.
1.12 For the totality of facts determines both what is the case, and also all that is not the case.
1.13 The facts in logical space are the world.
1.2 The world divides into facts.
1.21 Any one can either be the case or not be the case, and everything else remain the same.

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).

(Wittgenstein, 1921)

The are the first nine propositions of Wittgenstein’s monumental work Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The first seven propositions deal with the stance, namely that of idealism. “The world is the totality of facts, not of things,” states Wittgenstein. Following Berkeley things only exist insofar as they are perceived. Minimally, things are secondary to the mind.

Suppose there are two facts about one thing. Then, there must be more facts than things. Suppose now another person held those two facts as well but held a third fact about the thing. Exactly where do the number of facts end?

To me, Wittgenstein got it wrong from the very beginning of his first attempt at the philosophical enterprise. He knew this too and changed tact with his second attempt found in Philosophical Investigations, a work which, in my opinion, was more successful and more correct.

The problem, to me, is with language, or rather with the relationship of language with concepts and things.


Know thy place

What is there to represent (phenomena) without the senses and the sensing of the world (noumena)? A non-sensing being would have nothing to think about (no phenomena) without the objects of the physical world. In other words, thought is always, firstly, about things, real things, and then, and only then, is it about abstract (mental) things. A life born of simply a brain without sensory input but nourished by a circulatory system responds to nothing, has no thoughts. Can it be called “alive” in the conventional sense?

A person fallen into a coma may have thoughts, “mental objects” if you will, and may struggle to return to the world of consciousness and awareness. Such is the will to live. But a sense-less being would not even have the will to return, or awareness that there is a place to return to.

Sleep, time, reality

“Those who step into the same river have different waters flowing ever upon them.” (Heraclitus, in Freeman, 25)

Heraclitus observing the world accepted change as the its fundamental nature. Often Heraclitus is paraphrased as everything is in flux. Time is seemingly a fundamental part of observed material reality. It can be observed to pass at a constant rate. This, of course, is all  but sense observation. But nonetheless, we function on, coordinate, avoid accidents, play games of tennis with our shared understanding of time. And we have no other choice but observe time with the senses.

Think of coma patients. For day, months, perhaps even years they are in a locked-in state of non-awareness of the “outside” sensed world. The shock comes when they come out of their comatose state feeling something only like a single night’s sleep. For them, time had stood still.

Our daily slumber also feels like this. The time between closing your eyes to sleep and waking up is but an instant in your mind.

This, to me, is sufficient evidence of the nature of time and its relationship to reality. Every night is a miniature coma.

The subjective/objective paradox

Consider these four statements:

  1. What is subjective is subjective.
  2. What is objective is objective.
  3. What is objective can be subjective in disguise.
  4. What is subjective can be objective in disguise.

Only the fourth statement is illogical. This necessarily says something of objectivity, namely that it is an illusion.

The question then is, are these objective and/or subjective statements?

Why does the West fear empiricism and Buddhism?

Sensation and perception is a limited view and also the only point of access to reality we have. This said, then, we should think it is important. No sensation and perception necessarily means no understanding of and no interaction with reality.

This is, of course, if there is another reality that is unknown. But why complicate things when one reality is already complicated enough. Reality has no cause for being more complex than need be.

The onus is on others to explain why the metaphysical is needed.

I am happy with a mechanistic explanation of us. That the illusion of a self or rationality should be no less plausible than phenomena or representation. To react against the physical reality is really an unnecessary fear that brings about more grief than relief.

As a Buddhist correct understand brings about relief. The explanation is not that different to a philosophically material monist one. The self is not what it seems. A soul is as plausible as a non-soul. To discount non-self is not scientific, not open-minded. It is foreign. It is The Other.

Nature includes us

There is an excellent account of the word “nature” in Raymond Williams’ book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (page 219). Three definitions of the word were listed.

  1. the essential quality and character of something
  2. the inherent force which directs either the world or human beings or both
  3. the material world itself, taken as including or not including humans beings

Example sentences of these respectively could be, for example:

  1. “The nature of the crime was too gruesome to describe.”
  2. “Nature will dictate our planet’s future.”
  3. “Man and nature have achieved harmony.”

While the oldest usage is that 1 it is used more now as 2 and 3 where differentiation is difficult between the the latter two. What is important is the inclusion and exclusion of human beings. One is to equate nature with God with a capital G (as noted by Williams). Thus 3 is close to the physical reality when man is included, but only the natural world apart from human being and human culture.

Personally, I believe nature includes us (meaning 3). Nature made us to develop ideas which includes ideas about God, nature, and culture. There is a role for the idea of exclusion as well as inclusion. We have the capacity to think and express either. The ground of battle is not in God, nature, or culture but the nature* of language itself.

*First meaning was meant and unavoidable.

Philosophical tennis

It is 2019. Thousands of people are sitting in a tennis arena, watching Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal playing tennis. Neither the existence of Roger, Raphael, the tennis balls, nor the net changes if no one is there to observe it. It does not matter if it is thousands, one or none. Roger, Raphael, and the tennis balls exist. Sensation/perception, or the lack of it, is irrelevant to their existence.

In 2020, it is possible to a no-audience policy because of coronavirus.

The insistence upon the priority and significance of perceiving and being perceived is a distraction to the act of philosophy.

Warning: if you ask me who is doing the act of philosophy then you haven’t been paying attention.


Rather than Plato’s innate ideas I think the concept of categories is a more correct model. We categorise things (physical and concepts) according to perceived like-ness and difference.

As a child I had thought dogs, lions, and tigers were of the same category (fierce and scary animals). So it was a shock when I had learned that lions and tigers are related to cats, and genetically unrelated to dogs, apart from being a mammal, of course. It was a shock to me too that humans are mammals.

There are no natural categories. We make choices from obvious (and sometimes not so obvious) traits, whatever that word means.