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Logical atomism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N030-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

The name ‘logical atomism’ refers to a network of theses about the parts and structure of the world and the means by which language represents the world. Wittgenstein, in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, expounds a version of logical atomism developed by him around the time of the First World War, as does Russell in works published contemporaneously. It is no accident that their work on logical atomism shares a common surface description since it resulted from their mutual influence at Cambridge. The common theme is that the meaning of our sentences is rooted in a primitive relation between simple expressions and their simple worldly bearers, the logical atoms. In a logically perfect language, atomic sentences describe configurations of these atoms, and complex sentences are combinations of the atomic sentences. But sentences of ordinary language may have a misleading surface form which is revealed as such by analysis. The common theme masks considerable differences of doctrine. In particular, there are differences in the nature of logical atoms and in the arguments for the existence of these atoms.

Citing this article:
Oliver, Alex. Logical atomism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N030-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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