Biological atomism postulates that all life is composed of elementary and indivisible vital units. The activity of a living organism is thus conceived as the result of the activities and interactions of its elementary constituents, each of which individually already exhibits all the attributes proper to life. This paper surveys some of the key episodes in the history of biological atomism, and situates cell theory within this tradition. The atomistic foundations of cell theory are subsequently dissected and discussed, (...) together with the theory’s conceptual development and eventual consolidation. This paper then examines the major criticisms that have been waged against cell theory, and argues that these too can be interpreted through the prism of biological atomism as attempts to relocate the true biological atom away from the cell to a level of organization above or below it. Overall, biological atomism provides a useful perspective through which to examine the history and philosophy of cell theory, and it also opens up a new way of thinking about the epistemic decomposition of living organisms that significantly departs from the physicochemical reductionism of mechanistic biology. (shrink)
Logical Atomism is a philosophy that sought to account for the world in all its various aspects by relating it to the structure of the language in which we articulate information. In _The Philosophy of Logical Atomism,_ Bertrand Russell, with input from his young student Ludwig Wittgenstein, developed the concept and argues for a reformed language based on pure logic. Despite Russell’s own future doubts surrounding the concept, this founding and definitive work in analytical philosophy by one of (...) the world’s most significant philosophers is a remarkable attempt to establish a novel way of thinking. (shrink)
Contemporary metaphysicians have been drawn to a certain attractive picture of the structure of the world. This picture consists in classical mereology, the priority of parts over wholes, and the well-foundedness of metaphysical priority. In this short note, I show that this combination of theses entails superatomism, which is a significant strengthening of mereological atomism. This commitment has been missed in the literature due to certain sorts of models of mereology being overlooked. But the entailment is an important one: (...) we must either accept superatomism or reject one (or other) of the most widespread theses of contemporary metaphysics. (shrink)
Many philosophers reject the view that well-being over a lifetime is simply an aggregation of well-being at every moment of one's life, and thus they reject theories of well-being like hedonism and concurrentist desire satisfactionism. They raise concerns that such a view misses the importance of the relationships between moments in a person's life or the role narratives play in a person's well-being. In this article, we develop an atomist meta-theory of well-being, according to which the prudential value of a (...) life depends solely on the prudential value of each moment of that life. This is a general account of momentary well-being that can capture different features of well-being that standard atomistic accounts fail to capture, thus allowing for the possibility of an atomism that is compatible with a variety of well-being theories. Contrary to many criticisms leveled against momentary well-being, this well-being atomism captures all of the important features of well-being. (shrink)
THE PHILOSOPHY which I advocate is generally regarded as a species of realism, and accused of inconsistency because of the elements in it which seem contrary to that doctrine. For my part, I do not regard the issue between realists and their opponents as a funda- mental one; I could alter my view on this issue without changing my mind as to any of the doctrines upon which I wish to lay stress. I hold that logic is what is fundamental (...) in philosophy, and that schools should be characterized rather by their logic than by their metaphysic. My own logic is atomic, and it is this aspect upon which I should wish to lay stress. Therefore I prefer to describe my philosophy as "logical atomism," rather than as "realism," whether with or without some prefixed adjective. (shrink)
Between 1653 and 1655 Margaret Cavendish makes a radical transition in her theory of matter, rejecting her earlier atomism in favour of an infinitely-extended and infinitely-divisible material plenum, with matter being ubiquitously self-moving, sensing, and rational. It is unclear, however, if Cavendish can actually dispense of atomism. One of her arguments against atomism, for example, depends upon the created world being harmonious and orderly, a premise Cavendish herself repeatedly undermines by noting nature’s many disorders. I argue that (...) her supposed difficulties with atomism expose a deeper tension in her work between two fundamental metaphysical commitments each of which has substantial philosophical support: her monist theory of the material world (which maintains that there exists just one natural substance which is the single principal cause) and her occasional theory of causation (which requires multiple finite principal causes in nature -- causes that might be considered individual substances). Her monism undermines atomism while her theory of occasional cause seems to rest on a conception of nature that would be especially friendly to atomism. I argue further that we can solve this tension within a Cavendishian framework in such a way as to preserve her theory of causation and her monism, but that this solution depends upon our taking her monism in a particular (and weak) form. I finally note that we can best make sense of her unique and interesting form of monism by acknowledging her social-political motivations in addition to her motivations in natural philosophy. (shrink)
Conceptual atomists argue that most of our concepts are primitive. I take up three arguments that have been thought to support atomism and show that they are inconclusive. The evidence that allegedly backs atomism is equally compatible with a localist position on which concepts are structured representations with complex semantic content. I lay out such a localist position and argue that the appropriate position for a non-atomist to adopt is a pluralist view of conceptual structure. I show several (...) ways in which conceptual pluralism provides an advantage in satisfying the empirical and philosophical demands on a theory of conceptual structure and content. (shrink)
According to anti-atomism, we represent color properties (e.g., red) in virtue of representing color relations (e.g., redder than). I motivate anti-atomism with a puzzle involving a series of pairwise indistinguishable chips. I then develop two versions of anti-atomism.
Atomism is the thesis that every object is composed of atoms. This principle is generally regimented by means of an atomicity axiom according to which every object has atomic parts. But there appears to be a sense that something is amiss with atomistic mereology. We look at three concerns, which, while importantly different, involve infinite descending chains of proper parts and have led some to question standard formalizations of atomism and composition in mereology.
A substantial and in-depth study of the history of the atomic theory of matter between the time of Democritus and that of Newton. It is the first to emphasize the continuity of the atomic debate and the debt owed by the seventeenth-century "moderns" to the medieval critique of Aristotle.
Value is either additive or else it is subject to organic unity. In general we have organic unity where a complex whole is not simply the sum of its parts. Value exhibits organic unity if the value of a complex, whether a complex state or complex quality, is greater or less than the sum of the values of its components or parts. Whether or not value is additive might be thought to be of purely metaphysical interest, but it is also (...) connected with important aspects of evaluative reasoning. Additivity is closely connected with principles of bare difference and separability which are often tacitly assumed in value theory. The author spells out these principles and trace their connections with additivity and organic unity. The author then develops an unpleasant paradox of additivity. Additivity apparently entails nihilism: that nothing is more valuable than anything else. Additivity involves a kind of axiological atomism -- that complexes decompose into components or factors; that these factors possess value independently of their role in valuable complexes; and that the factors do not interact in their production of overall value. In order to avoid the paradox it seems as though the factors have to be akin to the metaphysically privileged states of logical atomism -- a doctrine that does not enjoy widespread support. The paradox poses a problem not only for the notions of organic unity and additivity, but also for the closely related bare-difference principles which lie at the heart of value theory and of its application. The author proposes a way of eliminating the paradox, and thereby saving additivity and separability, without presupposing an unpalatable variant of logical atomism. The author closes with the proposal to treat principles of additivity as regulative ideals in our search for intrinsic values. (shrink)
While operators for logical necessity and possibility represent "internal" conditions of propositions (or of their corresponding states of affairs), These conditions will be "formal", As is required by logical atomism, And not "material" in content if from the (pseudo) semantical point of view the modal operators range over "all the possible worlds" of a logical space rather than over arbitrary non-Empty sets of worlds (as is usually done in modal logic). Some of the implications of this requirement are noted (...) and though several variants of realist logical atomism are distinguished and discussed, The theory of logical form developed is nominalist. Many of nominalism's difficulties and inadequacies become transparent in the context of logical atomism and are so noted. (shrink)
Presocratic atomism was one of the most influential of the early theories: both Plato and Aristotle thought of it as a major competing theory, and it was an important source for post-Aristotelian Hellenistic theories. It has been commonplace that the atomism developed first by Leucippus of Abdera and then by Democritus of Abdera was a reaction to the Eleatic arguments of Zeno and Melissus, but the details of that influence have sometimes seemed rather hazy. This article brings them (...) into sharper focus. This article considers the Eleatic foundations of atomism, especially the question of the importance of Zeno and Melissus for Democritus. By concentrating on some of the less-studied aspects of atomism and especially of the development of the concept of the unlimited into the notion of the infinite, it furthers the understanding of not only the development of early atomism but also the Eleatics Zeno and Melissus. (shrink)
Jerrold J. Katz often explained his semantic theory by way of an analogy with physical atomism and an attendant analogy with chemistry. In this chapter, I track the origin and uses of these analogies by Katz, both in explaining and defending his decompositional semantic theory, through the various phases of his work throughout his career.
The paper focusses on two claims about metaphysical structure: Atomism and Fundamentalism. The first of these claims says that there are mereological atoms, i.e. minimal elements in the mereological structure of reality. The second says that there are fundamental truths, i.e. minimal elements in the grounding structure of reality. A philosopher who defended both of these claims was Bernard Bolzano; the present paper is an exploration of his views on the matter.
Atomism is defined as the view that the moral value of any object is ultimately determined by simple features whose contribution to the value of an object is always the same, independently of context. A morally fundamental feature, in a given context, is defined as one whose contribution in that context is determined by no other value fact. Three theses are defended, which together entail atomism: (1) All objects have their moral value ultimately in virtue of morally fundamental (...) features; (2) If a feature is morally fundamental, then its contribution is always the same; (3) Morally fundamental features are simple. (shrink)
Since the appearance of T. S. Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, scholars from various fields have sought to evaluate their disciplines in the light of Kuhnian criteria for scientific change. In this paper I argue that a new paradigm seems needed in high energy physics, and that there is no more reason to say that matter is made of elementary particles, than to say that it is not. My argument, that high energy physics is approaching a state of crisis, (...) and that a new paradigm is needed, is based on an examination of two events which, according to Kuhn, presage a conceptual revolution: (1) the "old" paradigm of normal science becomes unclear; and (2) this paradigm fails to support normal problem solving research, and scientists begin to use it as if it were merely definitional. After examining the elementary particles paradigm in the light of these two criteria, I conclude that high energy physics is moving from "normal science" to "extraordinary science." I argue neither that a new paradigm has been found, nor that a return to normal science is imminent; instead I attempt to briefly outline some of the conceptual problems in high energy physics to which Heisenberg, Feynman, and others have alluded, but which so far have not been spelled out in any great philosophical detail. No attempt is made to argue about what the specific consequences of these difficulties might be, but merely to begin to clarify the problems facing scientists dealing with elementary particles. (shrink)
In the late 1970s and the 1980s, a number of radical left political theorists focused their philosophical attention on the relevance of ancient atomism, revitalizing a tradition that went back to Karl Marx's work on his dissertation. This essay looks at the uses of atomism by two thinkers in particular, Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou, in order to see how their discussions of and references to ancient materialism help to shed light on their fundamental disagreements about the nature (...) of community and equality. First, this paper argues that what Badiou and Rancière most obviously share in their assessments of atomism is a negative judgment regarding the post-swerve constitution of the world, while what most obviously distinguishes their positions is their differing judgments regarding the preswerve rain of the atoms in the void. Becoming clear both about how Badiou and Rancière respond to what comes before and after the atomistic swerve helps to clarify an implicit response on Rancière’s part to what has become Badiou’s chief objection to Rancière’s political theory. Second, this paper argues that the fact that Badiou assesses both what comes before and what comes after the swerve as negative, while Rancière assesses only what comes after the swerve as negative, makes clear that their most essential point of difference concerns the status of the swerve that mediates between before and after. Working through the complexities of Badiou’s analysis of the swerve and uncovering Rancière’s extremely subtle analysis of the swerve helps to clarify a major aspect of what has become Rancière’s chief criticism of Badiou’s conception of philosophy. (shrink)
In our recent book (Abraham and Roy 2010) we have repurposed a mathematical model for the quantum vacuum as a model of consciousness. In this model, discrete space and time are derived from a discrete cellular dynamical network. As our model is essentially atomistic, we included in our book a short support chapter on atomism. In this aticle we expand on the few pages of that chapter devoted to the history of atomism, to place the current revival of (...)atomism in a larger context. (shrink)
A study of the history of the atomic theory of matter between the time of Democritus and that of Newton. The classical atomic theory, we are told, consisted of four central doctrines: a firm commitment to indivisible units of matter; a belief in the reality of the vacuum; a reductionist conception of forms and qualities and a mechanistic account of natural agency. The work provides a critical account of the arguments used for and against these four theses during three time-periods: (...) Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the 17th century. Atomism was a minority position in Antiquity, rejected by most natural philosophers on the strength of Aristotelian objections. But Aristotle's own disciples gradually took his system apart in the Middle Ages, thus developing - albeit in a piecemeal manner - positions strikingly akin in some respects to classical atomism. So when Gassendi and others sought to revive atomism in the 17th century, the way was already prepared for them. This study is the first to emphasise the continuity of this process and the debt owed by the 17th-century moderns to the medieval critique of Aristotle. (shrink)
This paper argues that tthe detailed critique of a variety of atomistic doctrines found in the Galenic corpus, especially On the Elements according to Hippocrates, was a major source for the atomism of the early kalam.
In this paper, I will try to look at Leibniz from the topos of Indian philosophy. François Jullien called such a strategy “dépayser la pensée” – to withdraw an idea from its familiar environment and to see it through the lens of a different culture. “Read Confucius to better understand Plato.” I am referring to Indian philosophy, especially to some Buddhist systems, in order to highlight certain aspects of Leibniz’s mode of thinking, that I define as “atomistic approach”.
There are at least three vaguely atomistic principles that have come up in the literature, two explicitly and one implicitly. First, standard atomism is the claim that everything is composed of atoms, and is very often how atomism is characterized in the literature. Second, superatomism is the claim that parthood is well-founded, which implies that every proper parthood chain terminates, and has been discussed as a stronger alternative to standard atomism. Third, there is a principle that lies (...) between these two theses in terms of its relative strength: strong atomism, the claim that every maximal proper parthood chain terminates. Although strong atomism is equivalent to superatomism in classical extensional mereology, it is strictly weaker than it in strictly weaker systems in which parthood is a partial order. And it is strictly stronger than standard atomism in classical extensional mereology and, given the axiom of choice, in such strictly weaker systems as well. Though strong atomism has not, to my knowledge, been explicitly identified, Shiver appears to have it in mind, though it is unclear whether he recognizes that it is not equivalent to standard atomism in each of the mereologies he considers. I prove these logical relationships which hold amongst these three atomistic principles, and argue that, whether one adopts classical extensional mereology or a system strictly weaker than it in which parthood is a partial order, standard atomism is a more defensible addition to one’s mereology than either of the other two principles, and it should be regarded as the best formulation of the atomistic thesis. (shrink)
Functional decomposition is an important goal in the life sciences, and is central to mechanistic explanation and explanatory reduction. A growing literature in philosophy of science, however, has challenged decomposition-based notions of explanation. ‘Holists’ posit that complex systems exhibit context-sensitivity, dynamic interaction, and network dependence, and that these properties undermine decomposition. They then infer from the failure of decomposition to the failure of mechanistic explanation and reduction. I argue that complexity, so construed, is only incompatible with one notion of decomposition, (...) which I call ‘atomism’, and not with decomposition writ large. Atomism posits that function ascriptions must be made to parts with minimal reference to the surrounding system. Complexity does indeed falsify atomism, but I contend that there is a weaker, ‘contextualist’ notion of decomposition that is fully compatible with the properties that holists cite. Contextualism suggests that the function of parts can shift with external context, and that interactions with other parts might help determine their context-appropriate functions. This still admits of functional decomposition within a given context. I will give examples based on the notion of oscillatory multiplexing in systems neuroscience. If contextualism is feasible, then holist inferences are faulty—one cannot infer from the presence of complexity to the failure of decomposition, mechanism, and reductionism. (shrink)
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) described his philosophy as a kind of “logical atomism”, by which he meant to endorse both a metaphysical view and a certain methodology for doing philosophy. The metaphysical view amounts to the claim that the world consists of a plurality of independently existing things exhibiting qualities and standing in relations. According to logical atomism, all truths are ultimately dependent upon a layer of atomic facts, which consist either of a simple particular exhibiting a quality, or (...) mutliple simple particulars standing in a relation. The methodological view recommends a process of analysis, whereby one attempts to define or reconstruct more complex notions or vocabularies in terms of simpler ones. According to Russell, at least early on during his logical atomist phase, such an analysis could eventually result in a language containing only words representing simple particulars, the simple properties and relations thereof, and logical constants, which, despite this limited vocabulary, could adequately capture all truths. (shrink)
The strong opposition of nineteenth-century French chemists to atomism is usually described as a national attitude due to the overarching influence of positivism in France. The explanation sounds plausible, at first glance. However, the idea that a philosophy of science acted as an obstacle to the advancement of science needs further investigation. What is meant exactly by a philosophical influence on a scientific community? In analysing the alleged influence of positivism on the chemists' community it is argued that the (...) common connection established between philosophical views and scientific attitudes leads to a misunderstanding of both philosophy and scientific activity. This paper first stresses the misreading of Auguste Comte's works; then the misunderstanding of scientific debates about atomism in chemistry. Finally it suggests an alternative view: that the atomic debates generated a variety of positivisms. (shrink)
A propositional logic with modal operators for logical necessity and possibility is formulated as a formal ontology for logical atomism (with negative facts). It is shown that such modal operators represent purely formal, Internal 'properties' of propositions if and only if the notion of 'all possible worlds' has its standard and not the secondary interpretation which it is usually given (as, E.G., In kripke model-Structures). Allowing arbitrary restrictions on the notion of 'all possible worlds', At least in such a (...) framework as logical atomism, Generates internal 'properties' of propositions with material instead of purely formal content. (shrink)
Diachronic perceptual atomism is the view that the contents of experience do not involve temporal relations between non-simultaneous events, such as motion, succession, or duration, but only 'snapshots' of the world. Traditionally, atomism has not been a very popular view. Indeed, many philosophers think that it is obviously false and that the main debate about time consciousness takes place between models which reject atomistic commitments. This antiatomistic sentiment can be traced back to William James's slogan that 'a succession (...) of feelings, in and of itself, is not a feeling of succession'. In this paper I argue, first, that the arguments typically launched against atomism in the spirit of James's slogan fail; and second, that the viability of atomism depends on what the conditions for a mental event's being an experience are. In particular, I argue that if a mental event is an experience only if it fulfils certain downstream conditions, which concern the role of the event in the subject's cognitive life, then atomism fails. Otherwise, it is in fact a viable and in many ways attractive view. It follows from my discussion that, contrary to popular belief, atomism is by no means obviously false. Rather, its viability depends on one's further views about the relationship between experience and cognition. (shrink)
The original conception of atomism suggests “atoms”, which cannot be divided more into composing parts. However, the name “atom” in physics is reserved for entities, which can be divided into electrons, protons, neutrons and other “elementary particles”, some of which are in turn compounded by other, “more elementary” ones. Instead of this, quantum mechanics is grounded on the actually indivisible quanta of action limited by the fundamental Planck constant. It resolves the problem of how both discrete and continuous (even (...) smooth) to be described uniformly and invariantly in thus. Quantum mechanics can be interpreted in terms of quantum information. Qubit is the indivisible unit (“atom”) of quantum information. The imagery of atomism in modern physics moves from atoms of matter (or energy) via “atoms” (quanta) of action to “atoms” (qubits) of quantum information. This is a conceptual shift in the cognition of reality to terms of information, choice, and time. (shrink)
Ksenija Atanasijevic was not only the first female lecturer at the University of Belgrade but also the first expert in the Ancient Greek Philosophy. In this paper, I will not engage with all of her writings about Ancient Greek thought. Instead, I will place the emphasis on her interpretation of Epicurus, because her best and most profound works are dedicated to his philosophy, including her book on the Epicurus’s atomism written in French under the title L’atomisme d’Épicure. I will (...) critically discuss the consistency, plausibility, and relevance both of her interpretations of Epicurus, and his ethics and doctrine of minima. (shrink)
Francis Bacon’s theory of matter is a controversial topic among historians. I agree with the viewpoint, which suggests that although Bacon changed his views on atomism repeatedly, he never rejected it completely (Partington, Urbach, Gemelli). I will substantiate this interpretation by paying more attention to the usually neglected allegorical works and by investigating why Bacon changed his mind on atomism in his Novum organum. I shall reconstruct Bacon’s various opinions in chronological order to establish his final evaluation of (...)atomism and his reasons for it. Given that Bacon never embraced a matter theory identical with Greek atomism, I shall here define atomism in the broadest sense, as a corpuscular matter theory that posits final and indivisible particles. Following this semantic delimitation, two successive Baconian opinions will be distinguished: the first took the atom to constitute an ontological and causative-operational principle; the second deprived the atom of this causative-operational ability, but did not touch its ontological priority. At the same time, I will investigate the question concerning the coexistence of atomism and pneumatism in Bacon’s theory, a point that has been discussed in the influential interpretations by Kargon and Rees. I shall argue that Bacon did not regard these two doctrines as incompatible. (shrink)
Charles Taylor criticizes many liberal theories based on a kind of atomism that assumes the individual self-sufficiency outside the polity. This not only causes soft-relativism and political fragmentation but also undermines the solidarity of the community, that is, the very condition of the formation of autonomous citizens. Taylor thus argues for communitarian politics which protects certain cultural common goods for sustaining the solidarity of the community. However, Brenda Lyshaug criticizes Taylor’s communitarianism as suppressing plurality and enhancing hostility among cultural (...) groups. In the face of such controversies, I argue for modern Confucian familism which emphasizes the family as a common good that provides a safe, stable, and nurturing environment for nurturing children and cultivating civility for future generations with a sense of community and autonomy. I also defend Confucian familism from four possible criticisms: insufficiency of familism, hierarchical relationship in the family, the danger of nepotism, and challenge from postmodern families. I argue that unlike traditional Confucianism, modern moderation of the Confucian family can greatly reduce the hierarchical problem; its emphasis on the family as one of the foundations of politics can avoid the danger of being atomistic liberalism and suppressive communitarianism. (shrink)
Three kinds of "atoms" figure in russell's logical atomism, Though he seems to see no differences between them: logical atoms (the referents of logically proper names); epistemological atoms (things known directly or by acquaintance); and ontological atoms (basic constituents of the universe). This paper speculates on why russell believed that all three of these notions coincide, Thereby bringing out some of his unacknowledged background assumptions.