An Argument for Completely General Facts

Generalized Molecular Formulas in Logical Atomism


  • Landon D. C. Elkind Western Kentucky University



In his 1918 logical atomism lectures, Russell argued that there are no molecular facts. But he posed a problem for anyone wanting to avoid molecular facts: we need truth-makers for generalizations of molecular formulas, but such truth-makers seem to be both unavoidable and to have an abominably molecular character. Call this the problem of generalized molecular formulas. I clarify the problem here by distinguishing two kinds of generalized molecular formula: incompletely generalized molecular formulas and completely generalized molecular formulas. I next argue that, if empty worlds are logically possible, then the model-theoretic and truth-functional considerations that are usually given address the problem posed by the first kind of formula, but not the problem posed by the second kind. I then show that Russell’s commitments in 1918 provide an answer to the problem of completely generalized molecular formulas: some truth-makers will be non-atomic facts that have no constituents. This shows that the neo-logical atomist goal of defending the principle of atomicity—the principle that only atomic facts are truth-makers—is not realizable.


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