Ontology of Substances and Ontology of Facts: back to Comparison

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The purpose of this work is to characterize clearly the early Wittgenstein’s position in context of the contemporary discussions between the adherers of classical ontology, based on the notion of substance, and its detractors. The Aristotle’s ousiology is usually regarded as a locus classicus of substantial ontology. A noticeable tendency in the contemporary philosophy is the rejective stance towards the notion of substance and towards the vision of the reality as the ‘totality of things’ ( summa rerum ). This trend goes through the 20th century (B. Russell, etc.) and is prominent in the philosophy of the 21th century. Wittgenstein, who calls the world the totality of facts, not of things, is sustainably regarded in the secondary literature as a herald of a non-classical way of thought, presented in his ontology of facts - a radical alternative to substantial ontology. However, how can this claim cohere with the active usage of the classical substantialism terms, going back to Aristotle, in the “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”? In order to answer this question, it’s advisably to address, as the starting point of the analysis, the work of B. Wolniewicz comparing Wittgensteinian ontology to Aristotelian ontology and pointing out not only difference, but also parallelism between them. In the present paper, it’s shown that some of Wolniewicz’s remarks are valuable, but the overall view of the problem should be corrected and supplemented taking into account nuances of both Aristotelian and Wittgensteinian ontologies. Having in mind the results of this analysis, one can read the early Wittgenstein’s philosophy as a statement about the role of the classical forms of thought for a philosopher proposing a non-classical worldview, which helps to elucidate the structure of the contemporary ontological discussions.

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Mikhail A. Smirnov

Interregional Non-Governmental Organization “Russian Society for History and Philosophy of Science”

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Email: mikhailsmirnov84@gmail.com
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7862-0256


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