Between 1653 and 1655 Margaret Cavendish makes a radical transition in her theory of matter, rejecting her earlier atomism in favour of an infinitely-extended and infinitely-divisible material plenum, with matter being ubiquitously self-moving, sensing, and rational. It is unclear, however, if Cavendish can actually dispense of atomism. One of her arguments against atomism, for example, depends upon the created world being harmonious and orderly, a premise Cavendish herself repeatedly undermines by noting nature’s many disorders. I argue that (...) her supposed difficulties with atomism expose a deeper tension in her work between two fundamental metaphysical commitments each of which has substantial philosophical support: her monist theory of the material world (which maintains that there exists just one natural substance which is the single principal cause) and her occasional theory of causation (which requires multiple finite principal causes in nature -- causes that might be considered individual substances). Her monism undermines atomism while her theory of occasional cause seems to rest on a conception of nature that would be especially friendly to atomism. I argue further that we can solve this tension within a Cavendishian framework in such a way as to preserve her theory of causation and her monism, but that this solution depends upon our taking her monism in a particular (and weak) form. I finally note that we can best make sense of her unique and interesting form of monism by acknowledging her social-political motivations in addition to her motivations in natural philosophy. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
This paper argues that tthe detailed critique of a variety of atomistic doctrines found in the Galenic corpus, especially On the Elements according to Hippocrates, was a major source for the atomism of the early kalam.
Pierre Duhem’s (1861-1916) lifelong opposition to 19th century atomic theories of matter traditionally has been attributed to his conventionalist and/or positivist philosophy of science. Relatively recently, this traditional view has been challenged by the claim that Duhem’s opposition to atomism was due to the precarious state of atomic theories during the beginning of the 20th century. In this paper I present some of the difﬁculties with both the traditional and the new interpretation of Duhem’s opposition to atomism and (...) provide a new framework in which to understand his rejection of atomic hypotheses. I argue that although not positivist, instrumentalist, or conventionalist, Duhem’s philosophy of physics was not compatible with belief in unobservable atoms and molecules. The key for understanding Duhem’s resistance to atomism during the ﬁnal phase of his career is the historicist arguments he presented in support of his ideal of physics. (shrink)
This paper aims to present concisely the Islamic kalām atomism as an alternative philosophy to Hellenizing falsafa. Kalām is a theological-philosophical discourse which, first ventured to rival the falsafa represented early by al-Kindī , then by al-Fārābī and Avicenna in the fourth/tenth and fifth/eleventh centuries, and which eventually appeared to be inclined to propose a mingling of the kalām discourse with falsafa in a series of varied "syntheses".—Focusing on the simple ontology of the basic kalām atomism, and noting (...) the hybrid character of kalām, the aim of this paper is to help to clarify the inevitable problematic consequences of those late ventures of Islamic intellectualism. (shrink)
In this ambitious, far-reaching book, Robert Roecklein argues that the philosophical notion of "atomism" has had, and continues to have, a rather crippling effect on philosophy and politics. In particular, Roecklein claims, "atomism" is a metaphysical theory, that, generally speaking, maintains that the ultimate, smallest bits of the universe are not perceivable. Moreover, these bits constitute "indestructible and eternal 'being.'" (xiii) As a result, according to the atomist, "ordinary" experience, particularly, "ordinary" perception -- where we appear to apprehend (...) objects, e.g. tables and chairs -- does not, in fact, access "being." Concomitantly, the "ordinary" person is effectively disenfranchised from most political discussions because, Roecklein claims, political philosophers must have access to being: "Atomism is metaphysics. It leads us back into the domain of 'being.' The domain of 'being' of course is the domain of what exists. Political philosophers above all need to begin with what exists, because political philosophy in truth must begin as opinion" (33). (shrink)
In the late 1970s and the 1980s, a number of radical left political theorists focused their philosophical attention on the relevance of ancient atomism, revitalizing a tradition that went back to Karl Marx's work on his dissertation. This essay looks at the uses of atomism by two thinkers in particular, Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou, in order to see how their discussions of and references to ancient materialism help to shed light on their fundamental disagreements about the nature (...) of community and equality. First, this paper argues that what Badiou and Rancière most obviously share in their assessments of atomism is a negative judgment regarding the post-swerve constitution of the world, while what most obviously distinguishes their positions is their differing judgments regarding the preswerve rain of the atoms in the void. Becoming clear both about how Badiou and Rancière respond to what comes before and after the atomistic swerve helps to clarify an implicit response on Rancière’s part to what has become Badiou’s chief objection to Rancière’s political theory. Second, this paper argues that the fact that Badiou assesses both what comes before and what comes after the swerve as negative, while Rancière assesses only what comes after the swerve as negative, makes clear that their most essential point of difference concerns the status of the swerve that mediates between before and after. Working through the complexities of Badiou’s analysis of the swerve and uncovering Rancière’s extremely subtle analysis of the swerve helps to clarify a major aspect of what has become Rancière’s chief criticism of Badiou’s conception of philosophy. (shrink)
Logical Atomism is a philosophy that sought to account for the world in all its various aspects by relating it to the structure of the language in which we articulate information. In _The Philosophy of Logical Atomism,_ Bertrand Russell, with input from his young student Ludwig Wittgenstein, developed the concept and argues for a reformed language based on pure logic. Despite Russell’s own future doubts surrounding the concept, this founding and definitive work in analytical philosophy by one of (...) the world’s most significant philosophers is a remarkable attempt to establish a novel way of thinking. (shrink)
Quine, taking the molecular constitution of matter as a paradigmatic example, offers an account of the relation between theory confirmation and ontology. Elsewhere, he deploys a similar ontological methodology to argue for the existence of mathematical objects. Penelope Maddy considers the atomic/molecular theory in more historical detail. She argues that the actual ontological practices of science display a positivistic demand for “direct observation,” and that fulfillment of this demand allows us to distinguish molecules and other physical objects from mathematical abstracta. (...) However, the confirmation of the atomic/molecular theory and the development of scientists’ ontological attitudes towards atoms was more complicated and subtle than even Maddy supposes. The present paper argues that the history of the theory in fact supports neither Quine’s and Maddy’s accounts of scientific ontology. There was no general demand from scientists to “see” atoms before they were reckoned to be real; but neither did the indispensable appearance of atoms in the best theory of chemical combination suffice to convince scientists of their reality. (shrink)
I argue that Descartes' Second Causal Proof of God in the Third Meditation evidences, and commits him to, the belief that time is "strongly discontinuous" -- that is, that there is actually a gap between each consecutive moment of time. Much of my article attempts to reconcile this interpretation, the "received view," with Descartes' statements about time, space, and matter in his other writings, including his correspondence with various philosophers.
The Analysis of Perception i Moore's most systematic attempt to handle the problems of in- tentionality occurs in connection with his analysis of perception in Some Main Problems of Philosophy . He begins the book with the following ...
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)
In recent years, the philosophy of Ludwig Boltzmann has become a point of interest within the field of history of philosophy of science. Attention has centred around Boltzmann’s philosophical considerations connected to his defense of atomism in physics. In analysing these considerations, several scholars have attributed a pragmatist stance to Boltzmann. In this paper, I want to argue that, whatever pragmatist traits may be found in Boltzmann’s diverse writings, his defense of atomism in physics can not be analysed (...) this way. In other words, I wish to show that he did not defend atomism as “preferable for its practical virtues”, as has been alleged.1 On the contrary, Boltzmann considered the atomist picture to be indispensable — more precisely, an indispensable prerequisite for making the application of continuous differential equations an understandable enterprise. (shrink)
Atomism is the thesis that every object is composed of atoms. This principle is generally regimented by means of an atomicity axiom according to which every object has atomic parts. But there appears to be a sense that something is amiss with atomistic mereology. We look at three concerns, which, while importantly different, involve infinite descending chains of proper parts and have led some to question standard formalizations of atomism and composition in mereology.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
Value is either additive or else it is subject to organic unity. In general we have organic unity where a complex whole is not simply the sum of its parts. Value exhibits organic unity if the value of a complex, whether a complex state or complex quality, is greater or less than the sum of the values of its components or parts. Whether or not value is additive might be thought to be of purely metaphysical interest, but it is also (...) connected with important aspects of evaluative reasoning. Additivity is closely connected with principles of bare difference and separability which are often tacitly assumed in value theory. The author spells out these principles and trace their connections with additivity and organic unity. The author then develops an unpleasant paradox of additivity. Additivity apparently entails nihilism: that nothing is more valuable than anything else. Additivity involves a kind of axiological atomism -- that complexes decompose into components or factors; that these factors possess value independently of their role in valuable complexes; and that the factors do not interact in their production of overall value. In order to avoid the paradox it seems as though the factors have to be akin to the metaphysically privileged states of logical atomism -- a doctrine that does not enjoy widespread support. The paradox poses a problem not only for the notions of organic unity and additivity, but also for the closely related bare-difference principles which lie at the heart of value theory and of its application. The author proposes a way of eliminating the paradox, and thereby saving additivity and separability, without presupposing an unpalatable variant of logical atomism. The author closes with the proposal to treat principles of additivity as regulative ideals in our search for intrinsic values. (shrink)
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)
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?
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)
We set out a fundamental ontology of atomism in terms of matter points. While being most parsimonious, this ontology is able to match both classical and quantum mechanics, and it remains a viable option for any future theory of cosmology that goes beyond current quantum physics. The matter points are structurally individuated: all there is to them are the spatial relations in which they stand; neither a commitment to intrinsic properties nor to an absolute space is required. The spatial (...) relations change. All that is needed to capture change is a dynamical structure, namely dynamical relations as expressed in terms of the dynamical parameters of a physical theory. (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)
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)
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)
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.
Is there a fundamental layer of objects in nature? And if so what sorts of things populate it? Among those who answer ‘yes’ to the first question, a common answer to the second is ‘atoms,’ where an atom is understood in the original sense of an object that is spatially unextended, indivisible, and wholly lacking in proper parts. Here I explore some of the ontological consequences of atomism. First, if atoms are real, then whatever motion they appear to undergo (...) must be discrete. The link between atomism and discrete motion goes back at least to Aristotle and is admitted by some atomists, but the full significance of that admission has been neglected. I argue that a commitment to discrete motion in turn entails significant and sometimes counter-intuitive results. I also examine the implications of these results for the philosophy of mind and for discussions of metaphysical naturalism. (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 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)
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.
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)