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Atomism, Logical


Herbert Hochberg


Pages 73 - 81



The early years. Logical atomism has been taken to be both a conception of philosophical analysis and a metaphysical account. Both aspects are present in B. Russell’s writings from the early 20th century that can be said to have culminated in the Lectures on Logical Atomism and On Propositions of 1918-19. Russell’s The Principles of Mathematics of 1903 and “On Denoting” of 1905, along with G. Moore’s 1903 paper The Refutation of Idealism, have long been recognised as key works in the early stages of the revival of realism that was a significant aspect of logical atomism. Two of Moore’s earlier papers, “The Nature of Judgment” (1899) and “Identity” (1900), as well as his dissertation works of 1897 and 1898 from which they are derived, have also been seen to be relevant to the emergence of logical atomism in recent years. One core aspect involved is the attempt to specify the ‘logical atoms’ that philosophical or ‘logical’ analysis purportedly uncovers in seeking the ultimate constituents of the world of our experience and in our conscious awareness of such experience. Logical atomists sometimes assumed that, as opposed to metaphysical speculation or hypothetical postulation, they employed ‘logical analysis’ of what is given in experience and thought. The tool of symbolic logic was taken as a key aid in the procedure of analysis. This latter idea led to the claim that a special symbolic framework was required – a linguistic schema along the lines of Russell and Whitehead’s epochal Principia Mathematica – as indispensable to the development of viable philosophical analyses.




1Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin



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