Explanation in Wittgenstein's Atomism

Date
2017
Authors
Deleon, Sarah
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Abstract

My research takes an analytical approach to the philosophical atomism of Ludwig Wittgenstein. My view holds, the atomist theory discussed in the Tractatus has an explanatory component that seeks to explain the structure of the world, and why it was structured in that way. Wittgenstein's goal was to shape metaphysical reality so that it may be appropriately pictured by language. I argue that Wittgenstein's atomism, if taken as an explanation, is insufficient for satisfying a principle of sufficient reason (PSR) meant to explain the structure of metaphysical reality. This explanation fails to adequately account for why the actual world obtained rather than one of the possible worlds. This unanswered why-question creates an explanatory gap within his metaphysical picture. The goal of this project is to close the gap using PSR, while remaining consistent with Wittgenstein's view. I offer two ways of developing Wittgenstein's atomism that seek to close the gap. While an answer to the why-question is not determined, the explanatory routes offer ways that might instead close the gap by explaining the lack of an ultimate answer. The first way suggests the explanation terminate with contingent autonomous facts. This provides an explanation all the way down to the simples, and then argues the demand for a further explanation is illegitimate. Another way suggests the explanation terminate upon completion, given the appropriate grounds. This option provides an explanation for why it is not necessary to explain further than what Wittgenstein has.

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Keywords
Analytic Philosophy, Logical Atomism
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Department
Philosophy