In light of the history of philosophy's recognition that the scientific method appeared to be becoming a type of role model for the other 'natural' sciences and thus that obtaining to objective proof for any given hypothesis is a requirement to substantiate any claim, what basis in the history of philosophy did R and W refer to in their claim that 'kernels' of language contained some sort of agency (atomism) when it is somewhat obvious that language can never rise above the level of semiotics? e.g. As a book sits on a shelf it conveys no meaning, even if it is picked up and the pages are flipped through. Only a human mind can bring its information alive, and therefore meaning only occurs within the confines of the individual mind.

Everything is up to interpretation; data, measurements, and qualia . Which makes Wittgenstein's assertion, 'the world is made of facts', an absurd proposition.

Be sure to support your opinion with reference to what was the source, historically, of their claim to 'atomism'.

  • The “model” was the recently discovered predicate locic language, were “basic” sentences have the form “name-predicate” or “name-relation-name”. Sep 5 '20 at 14:48
  • See SEP’s entry on Analysis for discussion about Frege’s and Moore’s and Russell’s views and contributions to “logical analysis” Sep 5 '20 at 17:01
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    Wow, this question — if a question is what it really is — has so much topspin it's making me a bit dizzy. When I try to factor out all of the things claimed as true, false, absurd, obvious, or etc, I'm not at all certain what's left. Could you maybe edit things so that we can see the question without the interference of all that editorializing? Sep 5 '20 at 18:08
  • The thrust of the question seems a bit like asking for the justification of Rutherford for providing such an obviously false theory of atoms. Philosophy of language made the turn you take as the starting point only after and because of late Wittgenstein, ie. about 35-40 years later on. Pierce's work did not get much attention until the 1960s.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Sep 5 '20 at 20:34
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    The point of "the world is the totality of facts, not of things" is exactly that facts are over and above things, the result of human mind interacting with things, logical atoms being the smallest units of such interaction. In other words, he is making the same point as you do, see Wittgenstein on facts and objects. Logical atomism oversimplified the relation between facts and things, but it never made absurd propositions you ascribe to it, it was about the world as known to us.
    – Conifold
    Sep 6 '20 at 20:54

The point of "the world is the totality of facts, not of things" is exactly that facts are over and above things, the result of human mind interacting with things, logical atoms being the smallest units of such interaction. In other words, he is making the same point as the OP, see Wittgenstein on facts and objects: the metaphysics oftheTractatus by Speaks. Logical atomism oversimplified the relation between facts and things, but it never made absurd propositions about projecting facts into objects, it was about the world as known to us:"The facts in logical space are the world" T, 1.13:

"When Wittgenstein says "1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things." he is not denying that there are things, in addition to facts. Rather, he’s saying that the totality of facts is something over and above the collection of things; even if we are given the totality of things, this does not yet determine the totality of facts."

Russell wrote something similar in Logical Atomism (1924), although, unlike Wittgenstein, he included properties and relations in addition to objects as things that "we express" by facts:

"I want you to realize that when I speak of a fact I do not mean a particular existing thing, such as Socrates or the rain or the sun. Socrates himself does not render any statement true or false. What I call a fact is the sort of thing that is expressed by a whole sentence, not by a single name like ‘Socrates’. We express a fact, for example, when we say that a certain thing has a certain property, or that it has a certain relation to another thing; but the thing which has the property or the relation is not what I call a ‘fact’."

  • 'Rendering something true or false', assumes that the law of the excluded middle is an axiomatic universal truth, when all it is is a synthetic/ artificial construct meant to act as a tool for making sweeping value judgements.
    – user37981
    Sep 7 '20 at 16:45
  • @CharlesMSaunders Why LEM? He does not say there that it must be "rendered" one way or the other, only that it does not get "rendered" without our involvement.
    – Conifold
    Sep 7 '20 at 20:31
  • 'Facts' are represented by words which are formed in the 'imagination'. This means that any given proposition will always be a subjective construction which will have nearly infinite numbers of interpretations. When Wittgenstein abandoned the Tractatus it marked the admission of the failure of the analytic method. Why else would there be so many lists and isms which continue to proliferate as each 'new' offshoot falls short and requires another 'new' iteration? It marks an endless regression which never gains any traction. Sorry to be so blunt.
    – user37981
    Sep 7 '20 at 23:07
  • @CharlesMSaunders We do communicate, and "there is a way of grasping a rule which is not an interpretation", so regress terminates. PI still follows a version of "analytic method", presumably, so it was not wedded to logical atomism. But how is this related to the original question or LEM? And why even bother with logical atomism that both Russell and Wittgenstein abandoned?
    – Conifold
    Sep 7 '20 at 23:17
  • Not sure about your quotes but, 'grasping a rule', sounds like one of those Kantian, 'well class we need a rule here so let me invent one' devices. Atomism and LEM , with its desire to satisfy someone's need for a simple world of, it's either black or white, or, true or false, or, right or wrong, both are part and parcel of those simplistic theories which attempt to remove the nuance, complexity and vitality from philosophy and make it into type of puzzle for the not yet mature intellect to play with.
    – user37981
    Sep 9 '20 at 21:38

Imagine two books, one which is a list of noun phrases, the other a list of sentences using those nouns. E.g.,

Horse, moon, jumping, avocados, the prime number the horse thought of, the prime number that comes after the other...

The horse is jumping over the moon, counting the number of avocados it sees, which is the prime number before 23.

As per Quine, if a fact is a "sentence-like slice of reality," then the world is more like the second book. As per Kant, because the mind imposes logical forms, then in forming the image of a world-book, the mind represents the world with logical (transyntactic) structure, i.e. according to the model of the book of sentences.

  • If you think about it carefully, assuming that a human mind shapes reality is the ultimate hubristic arrogance.
    – user37981
    Sep 7 '20 at 16:32
  • The word "reality" is shaped by the human mind. At any rate, one doesn't have to invoke only human minds but minds in general. A presumption that the mind ought to be like an eye, a passive observer, not only is unrealistic about how eyes work, after all, but about how minds work, too. Sep 8 '20 at 2:41
  • I am not referring to a word but rather to the scope of human experience. My point is that examining 'words' is an empty exercise. Words, sentences, facts, data, they are all abstractions which Spinoza termed 'aids to the imagination'. They are pointers or signs, not explicaters in themselves.
    – user37981
    Sep 8 '20 at 4:07
  • Facts and data are no such thing. Positing a structure in objects, corresponding to the form of sentences, is not an explanation, but a precursor to explanation (which will assume a sentential character). Pseudopsychological diagnosis of "ultimate hubris" for such a reason is itself false modesty Sep 8 '20 at 5:53
  • Could not agree more. But there is a stark difference from positing that the mind is an 'agent' and active participant in actuality and the claim that the mind somehow 'shapes' reality. Reality or ontology is prior to human body and mind.
    – user37981
    Sep 8 '20 at 12:51

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