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Re: [ontolog-forum] Estimating number of all known facts

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Chris Menzel <chris.menzel@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 26 May 2012 12:01:05 +0200
Message-id: <CAO_JD6Mf_+1-tbQECsD2eZCYEzdig+S5Q79hjmz_X9-vp1odxw@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On Fri, May 25, 2012 at 9:24 PM, Marcelino Sente <zaratruta@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
The proposition "I have five fingers in each hand" and the proposition "I don't have six fingers in each hand" are both about the same (and unique) fact? This is a correct interpretation? Or would be the case that each distinct thought (a mental state) resultant of the experience of the world, is a distinct fact? In this sense, seems that we have two facts in this situation.

The two sentences clearly differ in meaning, as only the latter would still be true if, heaven forfend, you'd lost a finger in an accident. (I assume it is uncontroversial that two sentences differ in meaning if it is possible for one to be true and the other false.) A lot of philosophers and linguists would say that the two sentences above are both made true by a single contingent fact, viz., the fact that you have five fingers on each hand. But there are no doubt theories that would say there are at least two distinct facts.
Or would be the case that a fact is a linguistic construction?

There are nominalistic theories that try to unpack such notions as facts, propositions, etc in purely linguistic terms. Such projects are usually, as some people like to put it, "heroic", i.e., they involve a lot of work and yield limited results.

Here, seems also that we have two facts in this situation.

Again, there are probably theories on which that is so (e.g., theories that identify facts with true propositions and which slice up their propositions delicately). I think your observations nicely illustrate a larger point I've tried to make, viz., that all such questions can only be answered in a reasonably satisfying way in the context of a much larger and more elaborate project. The literature on these topics is vast and little headway is going to be made on a mailing list, where we will mostly just see battles between conflicting and often confused intuitions. That can be fun, of course, but it serves a useful function only to the extent that it leads people to do some actual research.

Chris Menzel

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