From Logical Atoms to Language Networks: An Examination of Part of Russell's Philosophy of Logical Atomism

Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1981)

Abstract
In this dissertation I present a critical interpretation of part of Bertrand Russell's 1918 philosophy of logical atomism, and a critical assessment of his contentions that language mirrors the world and that some English sentences share some of the logical properties of sentences of Principia Mathematica. ;I construe the philosophy of logical atomism as a philosophy about the relations between language and the world, and argue that Russell uses 'proposition' to mean 'declarative sentence'. I also argue that Russell counted some negative sentences among the atomic sentences, and explain what he means when he insists there are negative facts. ;Further, I explain why saying Russell's atomic sentences are supposed to be, but fail to be, logically independent of one another evidences an incorrect and misguided understanding of Russell's atomism. Russell's atomic sentences are not logically independent of one another, for he counts some negative sentences as atomic and allows sentences expressing symmetrical relations and ones expressing asymmetrical relations among the atomic sentences. ;Having explained that lack of logical independence among atomic sentences is a general and unavoidable result, hence one Russell could not have failed to notice, I then explain how, if we construe Russell's atomism as a first-acquaintance view, the atomic sentences are logically independent of one another. I also explain how this view is connected with his claim that one particular, such as a red patch, might constitute an entire universe. ;No matter how we construe the atomic sentences, however, Russell presents us with a fundamentally flawed picture, for no English sentence is like the 'P' or 'Fa' of Principia. We cannot isolate one English sentence from all others, because we learn and use English predicates in groups, and our English sentences have interconnections among each other that arise from the networks of connections among our English work acquisitions and uses. 'This is red' simply is not and cannot be like the 'Fa' of Principia
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A Checklist of Theses and Dissertations on Bertrand Russell.Carl Spadoni - 1984 - Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies 4 (2):289.

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