logical atomism

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The philosophy of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) of Wittgenstein, and the paper ‘The Philosophy of Logical Atomism’ by Russell (1918). Both share the belief that there is a process of logical and philosophical analysis of language which ultimately terminates in ‘atoms’ of meaning. To such atoms correspond elements in states of affairs or facts, so the process reveals the basic metaphysics implied by our language, or, in the case of Wittgenstein, by all possible languages (since the process of analysis reveals what must be the case for picturing, or meaning, to be possible). In Russell the doctrine had a generally empiricist character, since he conceived of the process as terminating in elements with which we have direct acquaintance. Optimism about the possibility of revealing hidden and basic logical structure was passed on to logical positivism, but both Russell and Wittgenstein eventually turned away from the enterprise.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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