Wittgenstein & Russell abandoned logical atomism

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Wittgenstein & Russell abandoned logical atomism

Postby Avant Garde Jazz » Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:52 pm

I'm a bit uncertain as to how and why these two both left behind logical atomism. As I understand it, logical atomism is intended to break down language into its simplest parts before drawing conclusions about the whole. However, in refuting atomism, it seems that this was later found to be unsatisfactory as it leaves too many assumptions about language which are too broad to be properly examined and defined due to the inherent limits of language. Did logical atomism not factor in the limits of language? Were these limits something Wittgenstein and Russell were unaware of, or instead something they thought (at the time) could circumvent using logical atomism?
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Re: Wittgenstein & Russell abandoned logical atomism

Postby Fixed Cross » Sat Feb 24, 2018 6:35 pm

Avant Garde Jazz wrote:I'm a bit uncertain as to how and why these two both left behind logical atomism. As I understand it, logical atomism is intended to break down language into its simplest parts before drawing conclusions about the whole. However, in refuting atomism, it seems that this was later found to be unsatisfactory as it leaves too many assumptions about language which are too broad to be properly examined and defined due to the inherent limits of language. Did logical atomism not factor in the limits of language? Were these limits something Wittgenstein and Russell were unaware of, or instead something they thought (at the time) could circumvent using logical atomism?

Yes. Wittgenstein later realized that the logical object is not in words but in grammatical constructs. Heidegger takes it from there.
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Re: Wittgenstein & Russell abandoned logical atomism

Postby Only_Humean » Sun Feb 25, 2018 9:26 pm

Avant Garde Jazz wrote:I'm a bit uncertain as to how and why these two both left behind logical atomism. As I understand it, logical atomism is intended to break down language into its simplest parts before drawing conclusions about the whole. However, in refuting atomism, it seems that this was later found to be unsatisfactory as it leaves too many assumptions about language which are too broad to be properly examined and defined due to the inherent limits of language. Did logical atomism not factor in the limits of language? Were these limits something Wittgenstein and Russell were unaware of, or instead something they thought (at the time) could circumvent using logical atomism?


Logical atomism didn't forget the limits of language, it was blind to the reality of them. Language is hugely varied and complex, and logical atomism concerns itself with a particular strain of mathematically precise language that's then used to pull in concepts from other areas of language in which words are not used in this way. Certainly when concerned with meaningfulness (as the atomists were), aspects such as context, convention, culture were disregarded. As Wittgenstein said later, "if a lion could speak, we would not understand him."

So the idea of distilling a word down to a pure meaning, or of capturing the entirety of human meaning in words that could fit interchangeably into formulas, soon ran up against problems. Even Tractatus-era Wittgenstein recognised that the most important things lay outside the scope of atomic language's literalist photo-real paintings. "Whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent" is not dismissive of "illogical" language, but of philosophy's ability to deal with deeper, non-linguistic problems - philosophy is the ladder he uses to get the vantage point before kicking it away. This was what he accused Russell and Carnap of misunderstanding - they thought he was on their side, while if anything he was already sabotaging their project.
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Re: Wittgenstein & Russell abandoned logical atomism

Postby Zero_Sum » Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:26 pm

Only_Humean is still around? Whoa man....
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