The Analysis of Unities: A Thesis in the History of Analytic Philosophy

  • Oliver Spinney

Student thesis: Phd


In the late nineteenth century, the leading British philosophical figure had been Francis Herbert Bradley. Bradley, for reasons which shall be examined, took the view that the world consists of not more than one thing. Both Bertrand Russell and George Edward Moore came to reject this view, arguing that the world in fact consists of a variety of things, and that these things stand in relations to one another. It is this change of view which constitutes the subject matter of chapters one through three of this thesis. I show both why Bradley adopted the position he did, and how Russell and Moore defended their contrary approach. I conclude that both Russell and Moore sought to defend their rejection of Bradley's position through their adoption of novel methodological commitments to which Bradley's thought was alien. A central philosophical problem upon which the foregoing issue turns is that of how relations effect relatedness; or: how is the unity of a complex item for which a relation is putatively responsible capable of being effected by that relation? Having discussed both Bradley's, Russell's, and Moore's interactions, I turn to Ludwig Wittgenstein's treatment of this problem. Wittgenstein was concerned to address certain philosophical problems he had been exposed to during his pupillage with Russell. I provide an understanding of precisely what Wittgenstein's attitude was to the question of unity just mentioned. Wittgenstein, I show, held that attempts to both formulate and answer the relevant question necessarily lead to the production of nonsense. I show why, in Wittgenstein's view, the question of how unity arises is a question which dissolves upon inspection.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorFraser Macbride (Supervisor) & Graham Stevens (Supervisor)

Cite this