Chapter 6


Now since we tend to think that what we know that is objective about objects is "what the facts are" about them, we now can see that these facts must be relationships. Therefore, let us define the term technically:

A fact is existences as related.

This fact may occur within a single object, if the object is a being which has many existences (acts in many ways) and there is some relationship between the ways in which it acts (as, for example, the fact that its different acts are different). It also happens that the fact is a relationship between this object and other objects, as the fact that all green objects are the same in the existence that affects our eyes (though they may be different in other respects).

That something exists is also a fact, because we can only know of the existence of something when it is directly or indirectly causing some perception, in which case our asserting existence of it is based on this relation, which of course is a fact. The existence itself is not a fact (i.e. as it is in itself); it is simply existence; but it can only be known through the fact of its exerting causality on some mind (and of course it can only be known by me by exerting causality on my mind).

I know my consciousness when I am conscious; but I know the fact that I am conscious when I distinguish my consciousness from my unconscious states; I am immediately aware of the form of my consciousness, but I know the fact that my consciousness has this form when I relate it to other forms of my consciousness.

Hence, we can say the following:

Conclusion 4: What we know objectively is not the object, but facts about the object.

We react to objects, but this reaction is subjective; when we grasp how the object is related to some other object or object-class, or how it is related to our knowing it, or how its acts are related internally, we are understanding facts about it, and these facts are known to be "out there," and objective.

Another couple of definitions:

Understanding is the act of consciousness by which we know the relationships among our perceptions or images and, if they are perceptions, therefore among the objects that caused them.

The concept is the relation as understood.

We can understand relationships among or within imaginary images, but these relationships can't be said to be facts. For instance, it is not a fact that unicorns have curly manes, or that unicorns are like centaurs except for their heads and hooves; it is not a fact that Hamlet was neurotic or that Iago was thoroughly evil. We can have concepts about the curliness of the mane or the evil of Iago, but we don't understand these concepts as facts, but simply concepts.

There is, of course, a certain "pseudo-factuality" about these particular examples, based on their "collective subjectivity," meaning that pictures of unicorns have been drawn (and the pictures are objects, of course), and Hamlet and Othello are plays with characters in them that speak definite lines (and the text of the play and its performances are objects). But in that sense, the fact is that "the unicorn as drawn" has a curly mane; and "Hamlet as the text describes him" is neurotic--if in fact the text describes him that way. But the Hamlet that Shakespeare describes is really nothing at all, and so there can't be facts about him.

Whether understanding is an act of the mind which is distinct from perceiving or imagining, or what, is something that we will leave until much later; what we are interested in here is solely the relation between our consciousness and its objective knowledge (i.e. the fact that this or that aspect of it is "objective knowledge"); and it is our knowledge of relationships that is objective.

But since, as I just said, understanding can be totally internal, dealing with imagining and not perceiving, we perhaps had better be more precise and use another term for our factual understanding:

The judgment is the act of understanding as understanding a fact.

That is, understanding that the dog you are imagining has black fur is not a judgment, because this isn't a fact; it could just as easily have white fur if you wanted it to. Hence, understanding must recognize (a) that the basis of your understanding is a perception, and so "points to" some object, and (b) that the relationship between the perception and whatever else it is connected to is also a fact about the object.

In other words, the concept becomes a judgment when it is recognized as (at the moment) both "in here" and "out there." Thus, there are no judgments about the dog you are imagining, but you can form concepts about it; but you recognize that the concept of the dog's fur can't be a fact, because it is not externally caused.

And this is the fallacy we saw in the "ontological argument" of St. Anselm a while back, dealing with God's existence. You can't establish the factuality of God's existence by constructing a concept of God from the basis of imagining; and when you do this, you know that the concept cannot be a judgment, and remains just a concept. A concept can only turn into a judgment by having a perceptual base (i.e. by having its internal data be a direct or indirect effect of existence). This is where the fallacy of "passing from the logical to the ontological order" lies.

Hence, when you understand that my dog has tan fur, the basis of your judgment is either that you have seen her yourself, or that you are perceiving what I write as the expression of my judgment about her, which you take as (a) based on my perception, and (b) not mistaken or deliberately misleading (i.e. that I know what I am talking about and am not lying). Hence, you know that it is a fact that my dog has tan fur, even in the second case, because you have evidence (testimony) that it is a fact.

We now come to something quite mysterious. There is no act connecting grass, emeralds, trees, etc.; it is just that each of them happens to be green. When the leaves turn red in autumn, this makes absolutely no difference to emeralds at all, or to the relationship of sameness among all green objects; it is just that the leaves on the trees no longer belong to the class, because they aren't doing what they used to be doing.

And this allows us to say the following:

Conclusion 5: Facts do not exist as such.

Now there are, in fact, real connections among objects, such as the gravitational attraction the sun exerts on the planets, keeping them in orbit; and when you express this real connection as a fact, of course you have an instance of a fact which is also an existence. Any case of being-affected would be an existence which is also a fact (though the corresponding causality, as we saw, is a fact but not an existence because the cause is not different because it is exerting causality).

The point is that even with being-affected the reality of the relation is incidental and irrelevant to its factuality; and all relations except being-affected are facts but not existences.

But what can this mean? Basically it means that, because of the partial subjectivity of our perceptions, we cannot "intuit" existence, as they say; we can't know it as it is in itself, and so we have to perform that device of comparing effects to find out how the causes are related.

Hence, what we know, in the sense of the object of our knowledge, is being; but what we know in the sense of the contents of our objective knowledge doesn't exist as such, but is simply facts about the being, which "in itself" remains outside our knowledge and unknown as it is in itself.

Heidegger would make (and did make, in his own way) much of this. Being forever hides itself from us; we can never know it as it is in itself (except for the being of our own conscious act--and is not this, in the last analysis, the dasein of Heidegger's dasein?). But in hiding itself from us, it discloses itself--unconceals itself--to us through what is not itself (the fact) but which points to itself and is true about itself.

Truth, to be a bit proleptic, is not being, but it is about being. The "truth" about something is the facts about it. In one sense, those facts are "there," because grass does do the same sort of act as emeralds, whether I know this or not; but in another sense, the facts aren't "out there" at all; because there's no act which is the "sameness" between grass and emeralds. So it is true that grass is the same as emeralds, in the sense that it is a fact that grass is the same as emeralds. But the truth itself is not a reality, it is just a fact.