Logic and metaphysics in early analytic philosophy

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The emergence of analytic philosophy has often been seen as inaugurating a linguistic turn in philosophy, a turn with profound anti-metaphysical implications. Metaphysics and epistemology, on this view, were replaced by logic and philosophy of language as forming the basis of philosophy. But if we look at the work of the four founders of analytic philosophy, Frege, Russell, Moore and Wittgenstein, we find metaphysical conceptions at the heart of their endeavours. Frege, for example, regarded numbers and the truth-values as logical objects, and the ontological distinction between concept and object was fundamental to his philosophy. Both Russell and Moore in their early work developed a realist view of propositions, and even when Russell abandoned the metaphysics of propositions in his later work, this was simply replaced by a metaphysics of facts. Wittgenstein, too, in the Tractatus, articulated a raft of theses that seem paradigmatically metaphysical, though their precise status has been controversial. In this paper I outline some of the key metaphysical conceptions of Frege, Russell, Moore and the early Wittgenstein, and explore the connections with their logical views, taking as my main example the problem of relational propositions. I end by addressing the question of the status of the metaphysical statements that Frege and Wittgenstein, in particular, found themselves making.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCategories of Being
Subtitle of host publicationEssays on Metaphysics and Logic
EditorsLeila Haaparanta, Heikki Koskinen
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages36
ISBN (Print)9780199890576
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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