I characterize and argue against the standard interpretation of logical atomism. The argument against this reading is historical: the standard interpretation of logical atomism (1) fails to explain how the view is inspired by nineteenth-century developments in mathematics, (2) fails to explain how logic is central to logical atomism, and (3) fails to explain how logical atomism is a revolutionary and new "scientific philosophy." In short, the standard interpretation is a bad history of logical atomism. (...) A novel interpretation of the view that repairs these difficulties is sketched in the concluding section. (shrink)
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)
There are at least three vaguely atomistic principles that have come up in the literature, two explicitly and one implicitly. First, standard atomism is the claim that everything is composed of atoms, and is very often how atomism is characterized in the literature. Second, superatomism is the claim that parthood is well-founded, which implies that every proper parthood chain terminates, and has been discussed as a stronger alternative to standard atomism. Third, there is a principle that lies (...) between these two theses in terms of its relative strength: strong atomism, the claim that every maximal proper parthood chain terminates. Although strong atomism is equivalent to superatomism in classical extensional mereology, it is strictly weaker than it in strictly weaker systems in which parthood is a partial order. And it is strictly stronger than standard atomism in classical extensional mereology and, given the axiom of choice, in such strictly weaker systems as well. Though strong atomism has not, to my knowledge, been explicitly identified, Shiver appears to have it in mind, though it is unclear whether he recognizes that it is not equivalent to standard atomism in each of the mereologies he considers. I prove these logical relationships which hold amongst these three atomistic principles, and argue that, whether one adopts classical extensional mereology or a system strictly weaker than it in which parthood is a partial order, standard atomism is a more defensible addition to one's mereology than either of the other two principles, and it should be regarded as the best formulation of the atomistic thesis. (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)
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)
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)
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)
: Fodor was passionately unwilling to compromise. Of his several commitments, I focus here on informational atomism. Fodor staunchly rejected semantic holism for two conspiring reasons. He took it to threaten his commitment to the nomic character of psychological explanation. He also took it to pave the way towards relativism, which he found deeply offensive. In this paper, I reconstruct the strands of Fodor’s commitment to the computational version of the representational theory of mind that led him to informational (...)atomism. I take issue with three features of informational atomism. First, I argue that it deprives content from its expected causal role in psychological explanation. Secondly, I take issue with Fodor’s claim that only informational atomism can meet the requirements of the principle of compositionality. Finally, I argue that informational atomism yields a bloated or unwieldy category of nomic properties. Keywords: Informational Atomism; Representational Theory of Mind; Psychological Explanation; Principle of Compositionality; Jerry A. Fodor Fare i conti con l’atomismo informazionale: uno dei lasciti di Jerry Fodor Riassunto : Fodor è stato fortemente maldisposto al compromesso. Tra le molte cose di cui si è occupato, intendo qui concentrarmi sull’atomismo informazionale. Fodor ha coerentemente rifiutato l’olismo semantico per due ragioni convergenti. Lo vedeva come minaccia per il suo impegno verso il carattere nomico della spiegazione psicologica e come porta aperta verso il relativismo, cosa che considerava profondamente minacciosa. In questo lavoro, intendo riprendere le fila dell’impegno di Fodor verso la versione computazionale della teoria rappresentazionale della mente che lo ha portato all’atomismo informazionale, chiarendo tuttavia che non sono d’accordo con tre aspetti dell’atomismo informazionale. In primo luogo, mostrerò come questo sottragga al contenuto il suo ruolo causale nella spiegazione psicologica. In secondo luogo, non sono d’accordo con l’affermazione di Fodor per cui solo l’atomismo informazionale possa soddisfare i requisiti del principio di composizionalità. Illustrerò infine come l’atomismo informazionale ceda il passo a un insieme di proprietà nomiche ampio o difficile da gestire. Parole chiave: Atomismo informazionale; Teoria rappresentazionale della mente; Spiegazione psicologica; Principio di composizionalità; Jerry A. Fodor. (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, the traditional view has been challenged by the new claim that Duhem’s opposition to atomism was due to the precarious state of atomic theories at 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 Duhem's 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)
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)
The heated debates and severe conflicts between the atomists and the anti-atomists of the latter half of the nineteenth century are well known to the historian of science. The position of Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev towards these nineteenth century debates on atomism will be studied in this paper. A first attempt will thus be offered to reconcile Mendeleev’s seemingly contradictory comments and ambiguous standpoints into one coherent view.
This book offers a comprehensive critical survey of issues of historical interpretation and evaluation in Bertrand Russell's 1918 logical atomism lectures and logical atomism itself. These lectures record the culmination of Russell's thought in response to discussions with Wittgenstein on the nature of judgement and philosophy of logic and with Moore and other philosophical realists about epistemology and ontological atomism, and to Whitehead and Russell’s novel extension of revolutionary nineteenth-century work in mathematics and logic. Russell's logical (...) class='Hi'>atomism lectures have had a lasting impact on analytic philosophy and on Russell's contemporaries including Carnap, Ramsey, Stebbing, and Wittgenstein. Comprised of 14 original essays, this book will demonstrate how the direct and indirect influence of these lectures thus runs deep and wide. (shrink)
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 ...
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)
В книге выявлены аргументы, противоречия и границы философии логического атомизма. Выделены отдельные варианты логического атомизма Рассела и дана характеристика каждого из них. Философские идеи Витгенштейна классифицированы и квалифицированы на основе детального анализа и сопоставления афоризмов "Дневников 1914-1916" и "Трактата", его многочисленных писем, а также воспоминаний о нем. Делается попытка проанализировать по-новому его логические и философские понятия на основе его "теории символов" и "теории выражения". Результаты анализа, который сделан в работе, могут служить основой дальнейшего исследования логического атомизма, логического позитивизма, а также (...) оксфордской философии обыденного языка. Книга предназначена для студентов, аспирантов и университетских преподавателей не только логики и философии, но также теории языка и теории наук. (shrink)
The paper focusses on two claims about metaphysical structure: Atomism and Fundamentalism. The first of these claims says that there are mereological atoms, i.e. minimal elements in the mereological structure of reality. The second says that there are fundamental truths, i.e. minimal elements in the grounding structure of reality. A philosopher who defended both of these claims was Bernard Bolzano; the present paper is an exploration of his views on the matter.
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)
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 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)
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.
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: email@example.com. (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)
One difference between Russell’s logical atomism in The Philosophy of Logical Atomism and Wittgenstein’s in the Tractatus is that Russell’s doctrine is explicitly epistemological, whereas Wittgenstein’s is not; another difference is that Wittgenstein gives an a priori argument for the doctrine of logical atomism whereas Russell gives no such argument. I argue that these two differences are instructively connected: Russell’s focus on epistemology prevents him from being able to give a motivated argument for the truth of logical (...)atomism. Furthermore, I argue that this is not just a contingent failure of Russell’s system: no primarily epistemological atomism can avail itself of Wittgenstein’s style of a priori argument for the truth of atomism. An important suggestion of the argument, illuminating with respect to the subsequent history of analytic philosophy, is that Russell’s logical atomism already contains the seeds of verificationism in a nascent form, whereas Wittgenstein’s atomism has no tendency toward verification. (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?
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)
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” 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 and what they in fact say. In my Atomism 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” has forced a radical rethink, focussing on the problematic relation between the intrinsic properties of the atoms and their powers. If there is no discoverable intelligible connection between what the atom is in itself and what it does, then my earlier solution will turn out to be untenable. (shrink)
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)
Kalāmatomism stood in opposition to the Aristotelian natural philosophy of thefalāsifa. In thePhysicsof theShifā', Ibn Sīnā undertook a detailed refutation ofkalāmatomism through several arguments. These arguments elicited a muted response from al-Ghazālī, whose commitment tokalāmwas minimal at best. A more forceful response seems to have been offered by al-Shahrastānī but its details remain sketchy due to the lack of surviving sources. Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, whose intellectual development went through a phase of commitment to Avicennism and thereby a vigorous endorsement of (...) Ibn Sīnā's anti-atomist arguments followed by a phase of a critical engagement with Avicennism, provides a detailed rebuttal to Ibn Sīnā's arguments in addition to constructing novel arguments in defense ofkalāmatomism.RésuméL'atomisme dukalāms'est constitué en opposition à la philosophie naturelle aristotélicienne desfalāsifa. Dans laPhysiqueduShifā', Avicenne s'en est livré à une réfutation détaillée et fondée sur de nombreux arguments. Ces derniers ont donné lieu à une réponse fort discrète chez al-Ghazālī, dont l'obédience aukalāmétait au mieux évanescente. Une réponse plus développée semble avoir été le fait d'al-Shahrastānī, encore qu'on n'en puisse retracer que les grandes lignes en raison du manque de sources transmises. Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, qui est passé dans son développement intellectuel par une phase avicennienne, donc par une adoption vigoureuse des arguments anti-atomistes d'Avicenne, suivie d'une phrase critique à l'égard de la philosophie du maître, ne se borne pas à fournir une réponse détaillée aux arguments d'Ibn Sīnā, mais construit de nouveaux arguments en faveur de l'atomisme dukalām. (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)
The testimonia concerning weight in early Greek atomism appear to contradict one another. Some reports assert that the atoms do have weight, while others outright deny weight as a property of the atoms. A common solution to this apparent contradiction divides the testimonia into two groups. The first group describes the atoms within a κόσμος, where they have weight; the second group describes the atoms outside of a κόσμος, where they are weightless. A key testimonium for proponents of this (...) solution is Aëtius 1.3.18. It apparently denies weight as a property of the atoms, and supposedly describes the atoms when they are outside of a κόσμος. I argue against this interpretive solution by demonstrating, first, that Aëtius 1.3.18 does not deny that weight is a property of the atoms. Second, I argue that the report does not describe the atoms when they are outside of a κόσμος. Although these are largely negative conclusions, I contend that we are not left without a solution to the present interpretive difficulty. Once our testimonia concerning weight in early Greek atomism are examined thoroughly, it is clear that there is no conflict among them. (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)
Functional decomposition is an important goal in the life sciences, and is central to mechanistic explanation and explanatory reduction. A growing literature in philosophy of science, however, has challenged decomposition-based notions of explanation. ‘Holists’ posit that complex systems exhibit context-sensitivity, dynamic interaction, and network dependence, and that these properties undermine decomposition. They then infer from the failure of decomposition to the failure of mechanistic explanation and reduction. I argue that complexity, so construed, is only incompatible with one notion of decomposition, (...) which I call ‘atomism’, and not with decomposition writ large. Atomism posits that function ascriptions must be made to parts with minimal reference to the surrounding system. Complexity does indeed falsify atomism, but I contend that there is a weaker, ‘contextualist’ notion of decomposition that is fully compatible with the properties that holists cite. Contextualism suggests that the function of parts can shift with external context, and that interactions with other parts might help determine their context-appropriate functions. This still admits of functional decomposition within a given context. I will give examples based on the notion of oscillatory multiplexing in systems neuroscience. If contextualism is feasible, then holist inferences are faulty—one cannot infer from the presence of complexity to the failure of decomposition, mechanism, and reductionism. 1Introduction2Atomism3Holist Inferences in Detail4Contextualism as an Alternative5Multiplexing and Contextualist Decomposition 5.1Internal dynamics5.2Dynamic interaction5.3Network dependence6Philosophical Upshot 6.1The scope and limits of mechanistic explanation6.2The context objection to reduction7Conclusion. (shrink)
The strong opposition of nineteenth-century French chemists to atomism is usually described as a national attitude due to the overarching influence of positivism in France. The explanation sounds plausible, at first glance. However, the idea that a philosophy of science acted as an obstacle to the advancement of science needs further investigation. What is meant exactly by a philosophical influence on a scientific community? In analysing the alleged influence of positivism on the chemists' community it is argued that the (...) common connection established between philosophical views and scientific attitudes leads to a misunderstanding of both philosophy and scientific activity. This paper first stresses the misreading of Auguste Comte's works; then the misunderstanding of scientific debates about atomism in chemistry. Finally it suggests an alternative view: that the atomic debates generated a variety of positivisms. (shrink)