Mereological nihilism is the philosophical position that there are no items that have parts. If there are no items with parts then the only items that exist are partless fundamental particles, such as the true atoms (also called philosophical atoms) theorized to exist by some ancient philosophers, some contemporary physicists, and some contemporary philosophers. With several novel arguments I show that mereological nihilism is the correct theory of reality. I will also discuss strong similarities that mereological nihilism has with empirical (...) results in quantum physics. And I will discuss how mereological nihilism vindicates a few other theories, such as a very specific theory of philosophical atomism, which I will call quantum abstract atomism. I will show that mereological nihilism also is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that avoids the problems of other interpretations, such as the widely known, metaphysically generated, quantum paradoxes of quantum physics, which ironically are typically accepted as facts about reality. I will also show why it is very surprising that mereological nihilism is not a widely held theory, and not the premier theory in philosophy. (shrink)
According to Jerry Fodor’s atomistic theory of content, subjects’ dispositions to token mentalese terms in counterfactual circumstances fix the contents of those terms. I argue that the pattern of counterfactual tokenings alone does not satisfactorily fix content; if Fodor’s appeal to patterns of counterfactual tokenings has any chance of assigning correct extensions, Fodor must take into account the contents of subjects’ various mental states at the times of those tokenings. However, to do so, Fodor must abandon his semantic atomism. (...) And while Fodor has recently qualified his atomism, the cognitively holistic nature of dispositions continues to undermine his view. (shrink)
THE PHILOSOPHY which I advocate is generally regarded as a species of realism, and accused of inconsistency because of the elements in it which seem contrary to that doctrine. For my part, I do not regard the issue between realists and their opponents as a funda- mental one; I could alter my view on this issue without changing my mind as to any of the doctrines upon which I wish to lay stress. I hold that logic is what is fundamental (...) in philosophy, and that schools should be characterized rather by their logic than by their metaphysic. My own logic is atomic, and it is this aspect upon which I should wish to lay stress. Therefore I prefer to describe my philosophy as "logical atomism," rather than as "realism," whether with or without some prefixed adjective. (shrink)
Biological atomism postulates that all life is composed of elementary and indivisible vital units. The activity of a living organism is thus conceived as the result of the activities and interactions of its elementary constituents, each of which individually already exhibits all the attributes proper to life. This paper surveys some of the key episodes in the history of biological atomism, and situates cell theory within this tradition. The atomistic foundations of cell theory are subsequently dissected and discussed, (...) together with the theory’s conceptual development and eventual consolidation. This paper then examines the major criticisms that have been waged against cell theory, and argues that these too can be interpreted through the prism of biological atomism as attempts to relocate the true biological atom away from the cell to a level of organization above or below it. Overall, biological atomism provides a useful perspective through which to examine the history and philosophy of cell theory, and it also opens up a new way of thinking about the epistemic decomposition of living organisms that significantly departs from the physicochemical reductionism of mechanistic biology. (shrink)
Contemporary metaphysicians have been drawn to a certain attractive picture of the structure of the world. This picture consists in classical mereology, the priority of parts over wholes, and the well-foundedness of metaphysical priority. In this short note, I show that this combination of theses entails superatomism, which is a significant strengthening of mereological atomism. This commitment has been missed in the literature due to certain sorts of models of mereology being overlooked. But the entailment is an important one: (...) we must either accept superatomism or reject one (or other) of the most widespread theses of contemporary metaphysics. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) described his philosophy as a kind of “logical atomism”, by which he meant to endorse both a metaphysical view and a certain methodology for doing philosophy. The metaphysical view amounts to the claim that the world consists of a plurality of independently existing things exhibiting qualities and standing in relations. According to logical atomism, all truths are ultimately dependent upon a layer of atomic facts, which consist either of a simple particular exhibiting a quality, or (...) mutliple simple particulars standing in a relation. The methodological view recommends a process of analysis, whereby one attempts to define or reconstruct more complex notions or vocabularies in terms of simpler ones. According to Russell, at least early on during his logical atomist phase, such an analysis could eventually result in a language containing only words representing simple particulars, the simple properties and relations thereof, and logical constants, which, despite this limited vocabulary, could adequately capture all truths. (shrink)
According to anti-atomism, we represent color properties (e.g., red) in virtue of representing color relations (e.g., redder than). I motivate anti-atomism with a puzzle involving a series of pairwise indistinguishable chips. I then develop two versions of anti-atomism.
Reminiscing about his early views on the continuum problem in a dialogue penned in 1689,2 Leibniz recalled the period in his youth when he had enthusiastically subscribed to the "New Philosophy", embracing the composition of the continuum out of points and the doctrine that “a slower motion is one interrupted by small intervals of rest.”3 Speaking of himself through the character Lubinianus, he continues: And I indulged other dogmas of this kind, to which people are prone when they are willing (...) to entertain every imagination, and do not notice the infinity lurking everywhere in things. But although when I became a geometer I relinquished these opinions, atoms and the vacuum held out for a long time, like certain relics in my mind rebelling against the idea of infinity; for even though I conceded that every continuum could be divided to infinity in thought, I still did not grasp that in reality there were parts in things exceeding every number, as a consequence of motion in a plenum. That “atoms and the vacuum held out for a long time” among Leibniz’s cherished views is readily confirmed by an examination of his manuscripts. One may find papers containing some measure of commitment to atomism intermittently throughout the period from 1666 to 1676; moreover, if his later memory is to be trusted, he first “gave himself over to” atomism as early as 1661.4 As for his reasons for rejecting atoms, Leibniz’s mature.. (shrink)
Conceptual atomists argue that most of our concepts are primitive. I take up three arguments that have been thought to support atomism and show that they are inconclusive. The evidence that allegedly backs atomism is equally compatible with a localist position on which concepts are structured representations with complex semantic content. I lay out such a localist position and argue that the appropriate position for a non-atomist to adopt is a pluralist view of conceptual structure. I show several (...) ways in which conceptual pluralism provides an advantage in satisfying the empirical and philosophical demands on a theory of conceptual structure and content. (shrink)
Three kinds of "atoms" figure in russell's logical atomism, Though he seems to see no differences between them: logical atoms (the referents of logically proper names); epistemological atoms (things known directly or by acquaintance); and ontological atoms (basic constituents of the universe). This paper speculates on why russell believed that all three of these notions coincide, Thereby bringing out some of his unacknowledged background assumptions.
In many toxic-tort cases - notably in Oxendine v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc, and in Joiner v. G.E., - plaintiffs argue that the expert testimony they wish to present, though no part of it is sufficient by itself to establish causation "by a preponderance of the evidence," is jointly sufficient to meet this standard of proof; and defendants sometimes argue in response that it is a mistake to imagine that a collection of pieces of weak evidence can be any stronger (...) than its individual components. This article draws on the epistemological theory I first presented in 1993 in Evidence and Inquiry, and then amplified and refined in 2003 in Defending Science - Within Reason. This theory of evidence shows that, under certain conditions, a combination of pieces of evidence none of which is sufficient by itself really can warrant a casual conclusion to a higher degree than any of its components alone. When my account is applied to the very complex congeries of evidence typically proffered to prove general causation in these toxic-tort cases, it improves on the influential "Bradford Hill criteria" for assessing causation; and it suggests answers to questions frequently raised in such cases: e.g., whether epidemiological evidence is essential for proof of causation, and whether such evidence should be excluded if it is not statistically significant. Moreover, the argument of this paper reveals that by obliging courts to screen each item of expert testimony individually for reliability, the atomism implicit in Daubert will sometimes stand in the way of an accurate assessment of the worth of complex causation evidence. (shrink)
This paper responds to a recent claim by Shrader-Frechette that current particle physics, with its essentially atomist paradigm, is in a state of Kuhnian crisis. We respond to Shrader-Frechette's claim in two ways: first, we argue directly against much of the evidence used by Shrader-Frechette as indicators of Kuhnian crisis; second, we question Shrader-Frechette's application of Kuhnian categories to current research in general, pointing out the dangers inherent in such an analysis.
atomism involves point-sized philosophical atoms that are indistinguishable from one another, and that are nonphysical bits of energy that flash in and out of existence. In other words, they are nonphysical particles (hence the word "abstract"): they are not nonphysical in the way that some philosophers might believe a mind or number to be alleged to be nonphysical, but rather they are nonphysical merely because, I argue in an article, that they are ultimate building blocks that in no way (...) can be considered physical items. If that is the case, it indicates that reality is not physical (if, that is. (shrink)
Late nineteenth‐century opponents of atomism questioned whether the evidence required any notion of an atom. In this spirit, Duhem developed an account of the import of chemical formulas that is clearly neutral on the atomic question rather than antiatomistic. The argument is supplemented with specific inadequacies of atomic theories of chemical combination and considerably strengthened by the theory of chemical combination provided by thermodynamics. Despite possible counterevidence available at the time, which should have tempered some of Duhem's concluding remarks, (...) there was no atomic theory of chemical combination, which is wholly a product of the twentieth century. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Stockholm, SE‐106 91 Stockholm, Sweden; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
While operators for logical necessity and possibility represent "internal" conditions of propositions (or of their corresponding states of affairs), These conditions will be "formal", As is required by logical atomism, And not "material" in content if from the (pseudo) semantical point of view the modal operators range over "all the possible worlds" of a logical space rather than over arbitrary non-Empty sets of worlds (as is usually done in modal logic). Some of the implications of this requirement are noted (...) and though several variants of realist logical atomism are distinguished and discussed, The theory of logical form developed is nominalist. Many of nominalism's difficulties and inadequacies become transparent in the context of logical atomism and are so noted. (shrink)
Conceptual atomism is the view according to which most lexical concepts lack ‘internal’ or constituent structure. To date, it has not received much attention from philosophers and psychologists. A centralreason is that it is thought to be an implausible theory of concepts, resulting in untenable implications. The main objective of this paper is to present conceptual atomism as a viable alternative, with a view toachieving two aims: the first, to characterize and to elucidate conceptual atomism; and the (...) second, to dispel some misconceptions associated with it. My aim is to show that the prospect of conceptualatomism is a promising one. (shrink)
While holism and atomism are often treated as mutually exclusive approaches to semantic theory, the apparent tension between the two usually results from running together distinct levels of semantic explanation. In particular, there is no reason why one can’t combine an atomistic conception of what the semantic values of our words are (one’s “descriptive semantics”), with a holistic explanation of why they have those values (one’s “foundational semantics”). Most objections to holism can be shown to apply only to holistic (...) version of descriptive semantics, and do not tell against any sorts of holistic foundational semantics. As Davidson’s work will be used to illustrate, by clearly distinguishing foundational and descriptive semantics, one can capture the most appealing features of both holism and atomism. (shrink)
The scope of logical atomism Content Type Journal Article Category Essay Review Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9602-9 Authors Graham Stevens, Department of Philosophy, University of Manchester, Arthur Lewis Building, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
When the atomic theory was revived in the seventeenth century, the atomists faced a problem concerning the status of the laws of nature. On the face of it, the postulation of absolutely hard, rigid, and impenetrable atoms seems to entail the existence of natural necessities and impossibilities: Atoms A and B cannot interpenetrate, so atom A must push atom B when they collide. The properties of compound bodies are to be explained in terms of their “textures” (i.e., the arrangements of (...) their constituent atoms) on the famous lock-and-key model. Once again, it looks as if we have a domain of natural necessities depending on the textures of compound bodies. But the atomists seem to think of the laws of nature as radically contingent, not the sorts of things that could in principle be known a priori. This article seeks to address this tension between what the atomists seem committed to by their matter theory (real necessary connections in nature) and what they in fact say (that all the laws are contingent). In my Atomism (1995) I sought to resolve the tension by appealing to a sharp distinction between the atomists’ metaphysics and their epistemology. On this interpretation, they remain committed to natural necessity, but insist that we can never do Natural Philosophy in the “high priori” manner, by discovering real essences and their necessary connections. Our sciences of nature must remain empirical. Since publication of Atomism, however, this possible solution of the problem has come to seem more doubtful. Reflection on the work of my three “dissenting voices” (Margaret Osler, Peter Anstey and Rae Langton) has forced a radical rethink, focussing on the problematic relation between the intrinsic properties of the atoms and their (dynamic) powers. If there is no discoverable intelligible connection between what the atom is in itself (its intrinsic properties) and what it does (its powers), then my earlier solution will turn out to be untenable. (shrink)
A propositional logic with modal operators for logical necessity and possibility is formulated as a formal ontology for logical atomism (with negative facts). It is shown that such modal operators represent purely formal, Internal 'properties' of propositions if and only if the notion of 'all possible worlds' has its standard and not the secondary interpretation which it is usually given (as, E.G., In kripke model-Structures). Allowing arbitrary restrictions on the notion of 'all possible worlds', At least in such a (...) framework as logical atomism, Generates internal 'properties' of propositions with material instead of purely formal content. (shrink)
Because of his 'second causal proof of God', Descartes has traditionally been construed as a temporal atomist - a proponent of the view that time is not infinitely divisible but rather composed of discrete time atoms. The traditional view has been subject to forceful challenges by Richard Arthur, Jonathan Bennett, Jean-Marie Beyssade, Harry Frankfurt, Daniel Garber, Jean Laporte, and Jorge Secada. This paper both responds to these challenges and offers a novel argument in support of the thesis that Descartes subscribes (...) to the most extreme version of temporal atomism strong discontinuity which holds that time is composed of non-adjacent time atoms. (shrink)
The homogeneity of time (i.e. the fact that there are no privileged moments) underlies a fundamental symmetry relating to the energy conservation law. On the other hand the obvious asymmetry between past and future, expressed by the metaphor of the arrow of time or flow of time accounts for the irreversibility of what happens. One takes this for granted but the conceptual tension it creates against the background of time''s presumed homogeneity calls for an explanation of temporal becoming. Here, it (...) is approached with the help of a claim to the effect that the instant (moment) itself has a structure isomorphic to that of time as a whole. Then the asymmetry of past and future in regard to temporal becoming is associated with the internal structure of the very moment, and not with external relations between different moments of time. In this paper ideas of ancient atomism and contemporary dialectics are brought together. It is for the sake of a contrast to what is known as logical atomism that I choose to call this view dialectical atomism. The latter admits dialectical contradictions and, so far as the logical status of contradictions is concerned, bears reference to paraconsistent logics. In the paper there is an outline of a method of converting any consistent axiomatic formal system into a paraconsistent theory. (shrink)
Conceptual atomists argue that most of our concepts are primitive. I take up three arguments that have been thought to support atomism and show that they are inconclusive. The evidence that allegedly backs atomism is equally compatible with a localist position on which concepls are structured representations with complex semantic content. I lay out such a localist position and argue that the appropriate position for a non-atomist to adopt is a pluralist view of conceptual structure. I show several (...) ways in which conceptual pluralism provides an advantage in satisfying the empirical and philosophical demands on a theory of conceptual structure and content. (shrink)
Atomism is defined as the view that the moral value of any object is ultimately determined by simple features whose contribution to the value of an object is always the same, independently of context. A morally fundamental feature, in a given context, is defined as one whose contribution in that context is determined by no other value fact. Three theses are defended, which together entail atomism: (1) All objects have their moral value ultimately in virtue of morally fundamental (...) features; (2) If a feature is morally fundamental, then its contribution is always the same; (3) Morally fundamental features are simple. (shrink)
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus regarded his atomism as a cure for the fear of natural phenomena. An atomistic philosophy, however, can easily lead to determinism and epiphenomenalism, which threaten human happiness even more than the fear of nature. The present paper attempts to reconstruct Epicurus’ strategy for dealing with the unwanted consequences of his atomism. The author argues that Epicurus employed a form of emergentism about properties to show that freedom exists and mental states are not causally (...) inert epiphenomena. (shrink)
El corpuscularismo sirvió a los físicos del XVII para matematizar la naturaleza al considerarla un conjunto de sistemas mecánicos. Pero la discontinuidad del atomismo chocaba con la continuidad de las magnitudes básicas, espacio y el tiempo, y derivadas. En su madurez, Galileo fundió física y matemáticas propo-niendo componer tanto los cuerpos como las magnitudes continuas a base de átomos inextensos (indivisibles). En el proceso inició el análisis de las propiedades de los conjuntos infinitos, pero no logró elaborar un cálculo que (...) le permitiese computar diferentes movimientos acelerados, mientras que en física no resolvió en problema fundamental de la condensación y la rarefacción.Seventeenth century atomism envisioned Nature as a set of mechanical systems to be treated mathematically. But the basic discontinuity of atomic theory of matter appeared inconsistent with the essential continuous character of geometrical magnitudes. In his old age Galileo devised a way to unify mathematics and physics via composing matter and continuous magnitudes out of an infinity of indivisible (atomic) units. Even though he forwarded the analysis of infinite sets, he couldn’t establish a calculus to compute and compare different accelerated motions. In physics he never solved the basic problem of condensation and rarefaction of substances. But the side results were interesting and even fascinating. (shrink)
The most prominent recent model of how concepts can have gradient applicability—that is, apply more fully to some items than to others—is that supplied by the prototype theory. Such a model, however, assumes concepts to be internally individuated and structured, and it might thus be challenged by both concept externalism and conceptual atomism. This paper argues that neither of these challenges presents an obstacle to viewing some concepts as having gradient application, and develops a different model of the conditions (...) for such application. I call the notion of gradient applicability I discuss a feature-based one, and distinguish it from both the prototype theory’s typicality-based notion and a vagueness-based notion. On the model I develop, what determines whether a concept has gradient applicability is just the nature of the property it expresses, not facts about its stereotype. Focusing in particular on Fodor’s Informational Atomism, I argue on this basis that externalism is compatible with gradient applicability for all concepts, and that conceptual atomism is compatible with gradient applicability in the case of natural kind concepts, but not in the case of response-dependent concepts. This does not, however, present an obstacle to viewing some response-dependent concepts as having gradient applicability, for I also argue that in fact atomism cannot be true of response-dependent concepts. (shrink)
In this talk I consider two problems for conceptual atomism. Conceptual atomism can be defended against the criticism that it seems to contend that all concepts are simply innate (even technical concepts to pre-technological humanoids) by specifying the innateness thesis as one of mechanisms of hooking up mental representations (concepts as language of thought types) to properties in the world (§1). This theory faces a problem with non-referring expressions/concepts, it seems. Conceptual atomism can, however, deal with non-referring (...) expressions/concepts (§2). Hooking up concepts with properties raises, further on, broader metaphysical problems of making concepts correspond to (natural) properties. These questions are much harder to answer (§3). (shrink)
Philosophers frequently cite Dalton's chemical atomism, and its nineteenth century developments, as a prime example of inference to the best explanation. This was a controversial issue in its time. But the critics are dismissed as positivist‐inspired antirealists with no interest in explanation. Is this a reasonable assessment?
There is something deeply wrong with the debate on personal identity in contemporary analytical philosophy. This paper offers an overall view in terms of which this debate can be diagnosed and offered a therapy. In the diagnostic sections, the bundle and ego-theory are described as forms of the selfsame philosophical atomism, and the untenability of one strand in this still highly influential habit of thought is demonstrated. In the therapeutic section, the author exposes in what way Peter Strawson's descriptive (...) metaphysics of the person contains the essential preliminaries for an alternative solution. In the concluding section, it is indicated how such a Strawsonian nonatomistic view can be developed further into an Aristotelian-Thomistic validatory metaphysics of personal identity. (shrink)
Scholars in the early seventeenth century who studied ancient Greek scientific theories often drew upon philology and history to reconstruct a more general picture of the Greek past. Gassendi's training as a humanist historiographer enabled him to formulate a conception of the history of philosophy in which the rationality of scientific and philosophical inquiry depended on the historical justifications which he developed for his beliefs. Professor Joy examines this conception and analyzes the nature of Gassendi's historical training, especially its relationship (...) to his career as a physicist and astronomer. She shows how he rehabilitated Epicurean atomism by bringing together the arguments of the Greek atomists and those of his contemporaries. In doing so, he produced an account of the natural world which made it an object of empirical study and mechanical explanation. (shrink)
Far from being an unnecessary appendage to Whitehead’s system, temporal atomism is, in my judgment, the basis for pansubjectivity and other fundamental ideas such as becoming, concrescence, and subjectivity.
What ultimately exists for Locke is the solid. Reading this ontology in light of the atomist tradition elucidates and relates a number of important issues in the Essay: the analysis of space and related concepts, the distinction between simple and complex ideas, the distinction between primary and secondary qualitie the analysis of power and causation.
De modo, quo Leibniz et Aristotelici aporiam generis solvere possunt, doctrina de conceptibus simpliciter simplicibus non respuendaDoctrina de conceptibus simpliciter simplicibus, in quos omnes notiones ultimatim possunt resolvi, (a recentioribus “atomismus conceptualis” vocata) firmiter irradicata est in occidentali philosophica traditione. Originem suam quidem ab Aristotele trahens semper apud peripateticos adfuit, purissime tamen expressa in operibus Leibnitii invenitur. Nihilominus, ab initio haec doctrina etiam difficultate quadam patiebatur, quae “aporia generis” vulgo dicitur. Difficillime est enim explicatu, quomodo simplicitas absoluta conceptuum primitivorum (seu (...) differentiarum ultimarum) stet cum conceptuum transcendentium existentia, qui necessario in unoquoque conceptu comprehenduntur. Tractatione nostra haec difficultas examinatur et solutio praebetur. Fundamentum cuius est: datur duplex continentia unius conceptus in altero, scilicet formalis et virtualis. Conceptus transcendentales a conceptibus primitivis seu simpliciter simplicibus non formaliter, id est ut pars ipsorum definitionis, sed virtualiter tantum continentur – quod nihil aliud dicit quam illos ex his necessario sequi. Notabile est, huiusmodi sulutionis originem apud Aristotelem quoque inveniri posse.Conceptual Atomism, “Aporia Generis” and the Way Out for Leibniz and the AristoteliansConceptual atomism is a doctrine deeply rooted in the tradition of western thought. It originated with Aristotle, was present in the entire Aristotelian tradition and came to its most pure expression in the work of Leibniz. However, ab initio this doctrine suffered from certain difficulty labelled traditionally “aporia generis”, namely the problem of how it is possible to reconcile the absolute simplicity of the primitive concepts (or ultimate differentiae) with the existence of transcendental concepts, that is, concepts necessarily included in every concept. In this paper the entire problem is subject to an analysis and a solution is suggested, based on a distinction between two different kinds of conceptual containment: the primitive concepts do not contain the transcendentals formally, that is, as constituents thatcan be revealed by means of definitional analysis, but they nevertheless do contain them virtually, that is, they strictly imply them. It is noted that the germ of this solution is already present in Aristotle. (shrink)