Russell: Logical Atomism

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Bertrand Russell was one of the founders of contemporary analytic philosophy. These questions are about his early "Logical Atomism" approach to metaphysics.

These summaries and problems deal with the last lecture ("VIII. Excursus into Metaphysics: What There Is") of Bertrand Russell's "The Philosophy of Logical Atomism" (1918), printed in his book, Logic and Knowledge (Macmillan, New York: 1956). These exercise materials are copyrighted (c) 1998 by Harry J. Gensler but may be distributed freely.

Russell's Metaphysics

Russell's metaphysics seeks to describe the most general and ultimate features of the world. Its method is to ask: "What conceptual apparatus would we need to describe reality completely?" So metaphysics is about language and reality both.

Russell asks: "What kinds of entity ultimately exist?" To describe the world, for example, do we need to talk about material objects as independently existing objects? Or can we describe the world completely by just talking about our sensations? In the latter case, we could view material objects as "logical fictions" -- mere ways of speaking -- and needn't assume that they exist independently of our sensations.

Russell looks for the ultimately simple constituents of the world. He tries to substitute logical fictions for inferred (and doubtful) entities like material objects, numbers, or the self.

Web Resources -- click below for

A general description of Russell's philosophy: A discussion of logical fictions: Further links on Russell:

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This set has 15 problems.