Review of Metaphysics 72 (2) (2018)

Owen Goldin
Marquette University
What is it for a philosophical account to be atomist? What is the attraction of an atomistic metaphysics? These questions are best approached by considering representative varieties of atomism. The present paper offers a preliminary account of atomism in general and then, in order to shed light on atomism in general and its appeal, considers two very different varieties of atomism: that of Democritus and that of Fredkin’s “digital ontology.” Atomistic accounts are philosophically attractive for two related reasons. First, on an atomistic account, the units of explanation are determinate, and for that reason are in principle ultimately intelligible, as are the complexes derived from them. Both examples of atomism that the author takes as examples display these features. Second, atomism is reductionistic. Ancient atomism has this feature, but it is not an inevitable result of an atomistic strategy. It is absent from Fredkin’s digital ontology.
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