Do we have any finding that supports Wittgenstein's claim that there are no properties, but only objects and their interactions? Wittgenstein said that there are only simple atoms and their interactions give rise to properties. Is there any finding that support this claim?

  • Wittgenstein made no such claim. Relevant passages in the Tractatus are cryptic, and the status of properties and relations there is controversial. In any case, this is a representational choice, not a claim, so there is no point to supporting it by "findings". The real question is whether it is more convenient to describe the world using properties as stand alone items, or to dissolve them into sets of objects satisfying them, for example, as Quine preferred.
    – Conifold
    May 23, 2021 at 0:07
  • Common words such as property can be literally interpreted differently in different contexts. We can easily treat interactions between Democritus' atoms as extrinsic/external properties of atoms, not to treat them as standalone predicates within a subject. In a word interactions can be conceived as external structural properties sets of objects which is similar to modern structuralism within philosophy of math... May 23, 2021 at 1:07
  • You have to understand it in the background of Frege's analysis with object-function. Basically, W's Tractatus rejects Frege's idea of "unsaturated" elements (functions, i.e. predicates, relations) and states that facts are made of objects. Accordingly, an atomic proposition is not analyzed into object-with-property but in terms of "a concatenation of names (4-22)". May 24, 2021 at 7:44

1 Answer 1


I am not aware of any such demonstration. However the negation of the claim (whether Wittgenstein really made it or not) has some support.

One of the most powerful computer programming paradigms of the late twentieth century was known as object-oriented programming. In this approach, everything is an object. Objects have two kinds of characteristic; properties and methods. For example an unripe apple is an object. It has the property of being green. One of its methods is to interact with the sun, ripen and turn red. Object-oriented programming took off in a big way and its fallout still influences modern coding languages and things like AI databases.

Turning to quantum physics, the Standard Model has been said to be the most complex and successful intellectual achievement of mankind. Objects are things called fundamental particles. They have properties, such as mass, charge, spin, etc. by which they may be distinguished. They interact through the four fundamental forces of nature - the massless particles are the force carriers. So again we have objects, properties and interactions.

If one wishes to argue that the acid test of practicality masks a deep ontological flaw, one will have one's work cut out.

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