Dissertation, University of Iowa (2018)

Landon D. C. Elkind
University of Alberta
I here defend logical atomism. This defense rests on reinterpreting logical atomism as a search for logical forms. This reinterpretation has two parts comprising six chapters. In the first part, I do some historically-driven recovery. In the introduction, I review the literature on Russell's logical atomism. In Chapter 1, I argue that the dominant interpretation of logical atomism is wrong on historical grounds: it accounts for neither the history of logical atomism nor for crucial elements of the logical atomist texts. In Chapter 2, I then use Russell's writings to recover what I argue is the core of logical atomism. I explicate the critical notions and essential ingredients of logical atomism using "Principia Mathematica" as the archetype of logical atomism. I argue that logical atomsts are term busters. The essential ingredient of a logical atomist's term busting practice is a higher-order logic with the power of impredicative comprehension. In Chapter 3, I discuss the widespread view that Wittgenstein held a version of logical atomism. Focusing on his pre-"Tractatus" writings and changes in his earlier views, I argue that Wittgenstein embraced a philosophy of logic incompatible with emulating impredicative comprehension in April 1914. As such, Wittgenstein was a logical atomist, if ever, in October 1913, possibly through April 1914. In the second part, having clarified what logical atomism is, I present a modern logical atomism. In Chapter 4, I develop a philosophy of logic for logical atomism based on the notion of a pure logic. I critically discuss normativity in logic, the epistemology of pure logic, and logical pluralism. In Chapter 5, I propose a formal logic for logical atomism. I argue for the logic of logical atomism being an infinitely-descending and infinitely-ascending simple type theory with impredicative comprehension compatible with a domain empty of particulars. In Chapter 6, I critically discuss what the ontology of logical atomism should be, that is, what the ontology of the logical atomist's logic must be. This includes an ontology of logical concepts and of logical forms as completely-general, necessarily-existing logical facts with no constituents. I conclude by indicating avenues for new work on logical atomism.
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