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Title: Wittgenstein's Critique of Mechanistic Atomism
Authors: McDonough, R. 
Issue Date: 1991
Citation: McDonough, R. (1991). Wittgenstein's Critique of Mechanistic Atomism. Philosophical Investigations 14 (3) : 231-251. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Drawing on the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, it is argued that the atomic theory of matter cannot coherently be conceived as a mechanistic theory; however, this argument requires a qualification of the sense in which mechanistic theories are explanatory. Wittgenstein's nonmiraculous account of the world, including his positive account of mechanical models, is sketched. This account is based on the "use-conception" of meaning, in which the "plan" for understanding the world is founded on certain kinds of cultural regularities, which are not, in principle, miraculous. Among other issues explored are: mechanism & the reductive program, the notion of mechanism in the atomic theory of matter, the nonexplanatory character of atomic theory, & the incoherence of mechanistic action. Based on a comparison between Wittgenstein's later, "Copernican" philosophy of science & Rudolph Carnap's positivism (no reference specified), it is concluded that they are similar to the extent that both insist on ridding science of any concealed metaphysics. W. Howard.
Source Title: Philosophical Investigations
ISSN: 01900536
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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