§3. Fact

 

430. All this renders it quite certain that the nature of fact is in some way connected with the number two, and that of law with three or some higher number or numbers, just as we have already seen that quality is described by means of the number one. But although it is hardly more than might be expected to find that a particular category of the constituents of phenomena has a special capacity for relations of a certain form — that some are too complex to suit this matter, while others [are] too simple to call into action its distinctive powers — and that in that way that category comes to have an intimate affinity with a certain formal conception, yet it would certainly be astonishing if it should turn out that material constituents of phenomena were coextensive with formal ideas. We consequently wish to discover just what the connection of the dyad with fact is. We shall do well to postpone the consideration of those facts which seem to involve a triad, such as a process with beginning, middle and end, until we have examined the nature of law. For we naturally suspect, after what has been pointed out above, that where there is a threeness in a fact, there an element of generality may lurk. Putting aside then, for the present, triadic facts, we may add to the properties of fact already noticed such others as may seem worth mention, and may then turn to the consideration of duality, its properties and different formal types, so as to compare these with what is to be remarked in regard to fact.

431. Whenever we come to know a fact, it is by its resisting us. A man may walk down Wall Street debating within himself the existence of an external world; but if in his brown study he jostles up against somebody who angrily draws off and knocks him down, the sceptic is unlikely to carry his scepticism so far as to doubt whether anything beside the ego was concerned in that phenomenon. The resistance shows him that something independent of him is there. When anything strikes upon the senses, the mind's train of thought is always interrupted; for if it were not, nothing would distinguish the new observation from a fancy. Now there is always a resistance to interruption; so that on the whole the difference between the operation of receiving a sensation and that of exerting the will is merely a difference of degree. We may, however, learn of a fact indirectly. Either the fact was experienced directly by some other person whose testimony comes to us, or else we know it by some physical effect of it. Thus we remark that the physical effects of a fact can take the place of experience of the fact by a witness. Hence, when we pass from the consideration of the appearance of a fact in experience to its existence in the world of fact, we pass from regarding the appearance as depending on opposition to our will to regarding the existence as depending on physical effects.

432. There can hardly be a doubt that the existence of a fact does consist in the existence of all its consequences. That is to say, if all the consequences of a supposed fact are real facts, that makes the supposed fact to be a real one. If, for example, something supposed to be a hard body acts in every respect like such a body, that constitutes the reality of that hard body; and if two seeming particles act in every respect as if they were attracting particles, that makes them really so. This may be expressed by saying that the fact fights its way into existence; for it exists by virtue of the oppositions which it involves. It does not exist, like a quality, by anything essential, by anything that a mere definition could express. That does not help its mode of being. It might hinder it; because where there is not a unit there cannot be a pair; and where there is not a quality there cannot be a fact; or where there is not possibility there cannot be actuality. But that which gives actuality is opposition. The fact »takes place.« It has its here and now; and into that place it must crowd its way. For just as we can only know facts by their acting upon us, and resisting our brute will (I say brute will, because after I have determined how and when I will exert my strength, the mere action itself is in itself brute and unreasoning), so we can only conceive a fact as gaining reality by actions against other realities. And further to say that something has a mode of being which lies not in itself but in its being over against a second thing, is to say that that mode of being is the existence which belongs to fact.

 


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