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Landini, Gregory. Wittgenstein's Apprenticeship with Russell.

LANDINI, Gregory. Wittgenstein's Apprenticeship with Russell. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. xi + 300 pp. Cloth, $90.00.--This book makes a very interesting, if provocative, contribution to the history of analytic philosophy. The author's thesis is that the standard interpretation of Wittgenstein's Tractatus (first published in 1921), that it is primarily a criticism of Russell's philosophy, is erroneous. Appealing to many of Russell's unpublished manuscripts, Landini argues that the consensus reading of Wittgenstein's Tractatus as a critique of Russell's ideas is based on a misreading of Russell's overall project, and attributes to Russell ideas he did not hold. In particular, Landini argues that Russell's Principia Mathematica (1910-13) "does not embrace a ramified type-hierarchy of entities. Principia offers a type-free ontology of universals, particulars, and facts. Its type theory is a scaffolding built into its use of structured variables--a scaffolding which emulates the fundamental laws of a type- and order-regimented theory of attributes and thereby emulates a type-theory of classes and relations-in-extension." He further holds that Principia offers a recursive definition of "truth," which assumes that the facts are truth-markers, and the universals inhering in them are logically independent of each other. These discoveries, the author argues, require a new interpretation of the Tractatus.

The early chapters (1-3) are devoted to elaborating these claims and to demonstrating that two theses widely attributed to the early Russell are false: i) that in Principia (co-authored with Whitehead), Russell advanced a ramified type-theory of entities, and ii) that Russell's logical atomism is a form of reductive empiricism. Rather controversially, the author claims that Russell's logical atomism does not involve ontological reduction to known epistemic entities, but retains the structures (for example, logical forms) given by the laws of the traditional ontological framework (just as Maxwell's equations for electromagnetic waves in the aether are retained by Einstein's no aether-theory of relativity). Landini provides a detailed, technical defense of this view, based on a meticulous reading of Russell's published and unpublished work, arguing that initially Russell sought to exclude logic and mathematics from his logical atomism, but eventually concluded (mistakenly) that they too must succumb, and this drove him to naturalism in psychology and Humeanism in epistemology.

Landini applies this rereading of Russell to Wittgenstein, arguing that the Tractatus is really about how to extend and perfect logical atomism (Russell's eliminativistic program for a scientific philosophy based on an analysis of logical form). He holds that Wittgenstein's doctrine of Showing is only a radical form of Russell's eliminativism, and carefully discusses the differences between Wittgenstein and Russell over this notion (chapter 4); he notes also that Wittgenstein did not invent the truth-tables; instead, they may have been invented by Eugen Muller. Chapter 5 is a discussion and comparison of the views of Russell, Frege, and Wittgenstein on logicism (the thesis that mathematics is reducible to logic), and other topics in the philosophy of logic, such as the nature of identity, number, and arithmetic, with Landini offering his own critical commentary on how to solve some of the logical paradoxes. Chapter 6 provides an analysis of the second edition of Principia (1925), which was heavily influenced by the Tractatus. The author alludes throughout to Wittgenstein's idea of the ladder as a metaphor for going beyond issues in logic to the realm of the mystical, as a way of realizing that logic can only take us so far to what is really important; yet he does not pursue this notion adequately. Perhaps this is too much to expect from this type of study, though the ladder metaphor would apply to the analysis in this book as well!

Landini tells us that, despite the attempts by Russell, Wittgenstein and others, the moral of his fascinating trip through twentieth century logic is that all necessity is logical necessity, and that "logic and knowledge of logic cannot be submitted to a naturalistic or eliminativistic analysis of any kind. Logical atomism depends on the view that logic and mathematics have nothing whatever to do with human conventions, practices or psychology." This is because knowledge of logic is always presupposed in any account of the nature of logic. Russell's original logical atomism avoided this problem of circularity and reduction by exempting logic and knowledge from eliminativistic reconstruction, but Wittgenstein can be read as unabashedly embracing these difficulties.

It is refreshing to see a major study of logic facing up to the (metaphysical) problems raised by the philosophy of logic, rather than ignoring them or pretending that they are easily solved, but one would have liked more discussion of what these metaphysical problems imply about the nature of reality. Although the book overall is very technical, and would benefit from more summary comment throughout, anybody interested in Russell, Wittgenstein, and related thinkers such as Carnap and Frege, as well as in the history of logic, cannot afford to ignore this important, thorough study.--Brendan Sweetman, Rockhurst University.
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Author:Sweetman, Brendan
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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