Rudolf Carnap is well known for his attack on metaphysics, and W. Receiving far less attention is their basic agreement that a properly scientific approach to philosophy should eliminate the metaphysical excesses of the past. This paper aims to remedy this. Most users should sign in with their email address. If you originally registered with a username please use that to sign in. To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above.

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Rudolf Carnap — was one of the best-known philosophers of the twentieth century. Notorious as one of the founders, and perhaps the leading philosophical representative, of the movement known as logical positivism or logical empiricism, he was one of the originators of the new field of philosophy of science and later a leading contributor to semantics and inductive logic.

Though his views underwent significant changes at various points, he continued to reaffirm the basic tenets of logical empiricism, and is still identified with it. Beginning in the s, a reassessment set in that has resulted in a much more nuanced and complex picture of his philosophy and its development.

The literature on him is now enormous and still growing rapidly, and his ideas are presently enjoying a major revival in various areas of philosophy. Carnap differed fundamentally from the western philosophical tradition in his conception of philosophy and his attitude toward philosophical problems.

These supposed problems, he thought, were largely artifacts of our inadequate tools—they originate in confusions due to the languages our species has evolved over millennia to deal with the practical problems of a pre-scientific and pre-technological everyday life.

These primitive tools leave us unequipped even to express, let alone to address, the traditional problems of philosophy coherently; our inherited languages distort the picture too badly, and to see things more adequately we need to devise new concepts and organize our thoughts in less parochial categories.

Just as we have devised new concepts and vocabularies to find out about the world in systematic scientific inquiry, so we have to leave behind our traditional ways of articulating how everything fits together, how we should understand our place in the world, and how we should shape our lives in response.

Carnap applied this voluntaristic conceptual engineering in many different ways to many different problems, at different levels and on different scales. He applied it both within science and to larger problems about science e.

He applied it both to local reconstructions or explications of particular concepts e. And he wanted the local and global to fit together; precise definitions of explicated concepts were to be situated within such larger frameworks. The terminology evolved over the years. Both refer to the reconstruction or replacement of particular terms or concepts within our more primitive ordinary languages or vestiges of them in scientific languages rather than to the design and development of entire languages or language frameworks.

Ordinary language and traditional concepts were to be overcome ; they were to be replaced by better and more scientific ones. More details are to be found in the supplement on Methodology. For more on conceptual engineering more generally, see, e. Explications or rational reconstructions were envisaged by Carnap as situated where possible in larger linguistic or conceptual frameworks, constructed object languages with a hierarchy of metalanguages in which to define and explore truth, analyticity, synonymity, designation and other semantic resources of the object language, and of the object language with respect to its extra-linguistic environment.

Frameworks always involve logical consequence relation s , their definition s of what follows from what logically. But this need not always mean that frameworks have purely logical object languages that are then provided with empirical interpretations. Other modes of inference employed in existing scientific disciplines, including conceptual inference, experimental procedures, and the reasoning from these, can also be reconstructed in or by frameworks. Carnap continued to hope that all of them could, eventually, be understood in more straightforwardly logical terms, but he realized that this was a long-term program and not immediately on the horizon.

In particular, the framework could also come equipped with an inductive logic, where the deductive consequence relation for the object language is augmented by a numerical degree-of-confirmation assignment that satisfies the axioms of probability. In any case, Carnapian language or framework go beyond what we now mean by a formal language: they do not just involve a syntactic vocabulary and syntactic formation rules.

From the modern logical point of view, a Carnapian framework is close to a logic or a formal theory but perhaps with an interpretation , while from the philosophy of science point of view, a Carnapian framework is meant to reconstruct the conceptual and inferential presuppositions of a scientific theory rather than a scientific theory itself. Carnap there focused on sketching a phenomenalist framework in which scientific concepts could be constructed from pure observation.

The idea was to have a single framework relative to which any scientific sentence whatsoever other than purely logical or mathematical ones could be judged to be cashable or not cashable in empirical, observational terms. However, as Carnap soon realized, the framework failed to address theoretical scientific concepts, disposition concepts, or probabilistic concepts, among much else. The frameworks on which Carnap worked after this were less specific to particular epistemological problems, and more abstract and general.

In his view, the specification of a framework was a prerequisite for any rational reconstruction of rational discourse whatsoever. As we will discuss in more detail below, his Logische Syntax der Sprache , translated as The Logical Syntax of Language , , hereafter LSS worked out two different frameworks for mathematics and physics and developed a corresponding account of philosophy as the logical syntax of the language of science.

In his later work, Carnap extended his construction of semantic frameworks by developing frameworks in which probabilistic relations play a central role, including eventually frameworks for rational decision and action decision theory.

In the Aufbau , Carnap had already discussed the availability of different frameworks phenomenalist, physicalist, and more , and how they were more or less suitable for different purposes see the supplement on Aufbau.

But these frameworks still differed only in the choice of non-logical primitives and in the definition of non-primitive terms—the frameworks were still based on the same syntactic formation rules and on one and the same logical system. As far as the explicit endorsement of syntactic and logical pluralism and tolerance is concerned, the turning point came in , while Carnap was writing his book now often considered his masterpiece Logical Syntax of Language.

The starting point of that book, as we will see in more detail in section 4 below, had been strongly motivated by the search for a single standard language of science. But Carnap had still thought, until late , that a single standard language for logical syntax could be found, and had invested a lot of time in devising such a language system. Both these controversies came to seem to Carnap, after years of involvement in each of them, to stumble over artifacts of inherited language just like the old philosophical problems the Vienna Circle thought it had swept away.

And it seemed to him that these proposals were mostly not mutually exclusive; on the contrary, he came to think that many different alternative languages should be pursued and developed to see how well they perform in different contexts.

This new pluralism undermined the initial premise of the Syntax book on which he was working then, but Carnap nonetheless took it on board. The new linguistic pluralism was stated as the. Everyone is welcome to set up his logic, i.

If he wants to discuss it with us, though, he needs to state his intentions clearly, and give syntactical specifications rather than philosophical debates. For more details on Carnapian tolerance, see the supplement Tolerance, Metaphysics, and Meta-Ontology Sections 1 and 2. Why, under this pluralism, should some statements and expressions still be excluded, as not having any content, as not conveying anything but as being just empty verbiage that purports to say something significant?

Surely the metaphysician is as free as anyone else to choose her language? These questions take us back to the engineering ethos described in section 1. Language choice, for Carnap, was not an end in itself but was rather in the service of freeing ourselves from the distorted perspective on the world imposed on us by our inherited natural languages.

These languages had not evolved to optimize the transparent representation of knowledge, but for very different, primitive practical purposes. For the pursuit of knowledge, and insight into the human condition in the light of that knowledge, better languages are needed. In principle Carnap leaves that open. Everyone has their own values about what they want languages to do for them, and will choose accordingly. His value hierarchy placed the value of escaping from the complacent, passive acceptance of authority, or of traditional or folk ideas—and finding something objectively better—near the top.

This did not mean a rejection of the humanistic tradition, or of dimensions to values other than the scientific and engineering-oriented. But these were for individuals to negotiate. He had resolved, therefore, to attend more to the framework that all humans shared, and that formed the basis for their social and political cohabitation. Objective knowledge was, to him as to the Enlightenment, at the core of this shared framework.

Practical especially political decisions should be informed ones, arrived at in the light of the best possible knowledge about the available choices and their consequences. Metaphysics was, in his view, a distraction from this program. Metaphysics was a kind of failed art form masquerading as knowledge, so it was both fake art and fake knowledge.

Unlike a logical or mathematical proof or the confirmation of a scientific theory, metaphysical proposals are unable to command widespread agreement; even the criteria by which they should be judged are often in dispute. He therefore became more liberal and less exacting about what was to be regarded as metaphysical. This posed an obvious problem in that scientific theories, the very paradigm of what the Circle regarded as proper non-metaphysical knowledge, nearly all contain unrestricted universal quantifiers and thus range, in principle, over an infinite number of instances.

As Carnap already acknowledged in his first writings on the subject, well before Popper appeared on the scene, this meant that theories could not, strictly speaking, be verified; they could only be confirmed up to a certain confidence level, or disconfirmed e. During this period, he was attracted to a form of radical positivism that played down theories as mere auxiliary devices for the prediction of observations. The observations that confirm theories, in this view, was really all there was to science, in what amounted to a kind of instrumentalism about theories, as it would later be called.

The point is to devise languages that meet certain goals of inquiry better than others, in the awareness that some languages may be better for the pursuit of one goal, while other languages are preferable for other goals.

This is perhaps the first fully explicit expression of the engineering ethos described in section 1. Probabilistic concepts would soon come into focus as well as a significant preoccupation. From this period, then, Carnap once again focused on scientific theories, and on theoretical languages as not fully reducible to empirical observation sentences. While he had given up the effort to reduce theories to observations, he remained preoccupied with the complementary problems of how a theory can be confirmed by observations, and how the empirical content of a theory can be determined.

The second problem was the focus of significant attention to the nature of theoretical languages and the degree to which theories are constrained by evidence, as well as the problem how to identify the analytic and synthetic parts of a theoretical hypothesis or a theory, i.

See sections 8. He contrasted it with ii probability understood as an epistemic measure of our certainty or uncertainty about the empirical truth or adequacy of a statement. He worked closely with various students and associates on these problems, especially Richard Jeffrey, Yehoshua Bar-Hillel, and John Kemeny.

See section 8. Ray J. Solomonoff studied with Carnap in Chicago. See Sterkenburg for a discussion and evaluation. The conception of isomorphism pinpoints the unquestionable and ineluctable limit to knowledge. Weyl 22 [ 25—26]. Weyl speaks here in the language of axiomatic systems and their structurally identical—isomorphic—models, a language largely articulated at the beginning of the twentieth century by David Hilbert.

An equally important influence, at about the same time as Klein, was the epistemological structuralism of Hermann von Helmholtz. Carnap was clearly inspired by these ideas, not only in his earliest work, but all through his career, even into his work on probability and induction, as we will see below section 8. Carnap is best known, though, for his application of structuralism first to epistemology, in the Aufbau , and then to mathematics itself, in the Syntax and later work, as well as to mathematically formulated scientific theories.

The frameworks discussed in section 1. The articulation of these structural frameworks is discussed in the supplements Aufbau , Logical Syntax of Language , Semantics , and Reconstruction of Scientific Theories. Carnap is not generally known for his very sparse publications about values, but what he did publish is sufficient in conjunction with recently published texts to yield a fairly accurate insight into his thinking, which turns out to be sufficiently original to have significant potential for further development.

On the basis of this text, Carnap has generally been classified simply as an ethical non-cognitivist. This problem of the irrationality of framework choice George or—put another way—the supposed infinite regress in the selection of meta-frameworks for the choice of framework Richardson ; Steinberger ; Carus has been discussed recently from various angles. It is a special case, in the way Carnap is still usually seen, of the supposedly more general impossibility, for Carnap, of bringing reason to bear on normative choices, since in his view all reasoning seems to presuppose internality to a framework.

But from an interpretive viewpoint, this was clearly an unsatisfactory position, since Carnap had in fact from his earliest days used reasoning to argue for normative positions, and continued to do so all his life.

So there seemed to be a tension, at such a basic level that one would surely think Carnap must or should have been aware of it. In fact, there is no tension, as it turns out that Carnap at least in his later years and probably for much of his career held a quasi-Kantian view whereby the logical reasoning we employ in mathematics, logic, and science including inductive logic and decision theory is conceived as subordinate to and narrower in scope than a purely normative form of reasoning—in Kantian terms, Verstand understanding is subordinate to and narrower than Vernunft reason.

So at least it appears from a recently published fragmentary draft Carnap wrote in of a continuation of or sequel to the reply to Kaplan about values that had appeared in the Schilpp volume Carnap ; see the supplement Tolerance, Metaphysics, and Meta-Ontology for further discussion. From this starting point Huw Price has sought to generalize expressivism to include not only normative language but other kinds as well.

Perhaps, in some respects, current philosophy is beginning to catch up to Carnap. Carnap was born on 18 May in the small town of Ronsdorf, now part of Wuppertal, an industrial city near the Ruhr area of northwestern Germany.


[2. The Main Philosophical Tenets of Logical Positivism.]

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Rudolf Carnap

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On Carnap's Elimination of Metaphysics

Pseudo-statements, i. According to Carnap, pseudo-statements of both kinds occur in metaphysics. A word W has a meaning if two conditions are satisfied. First, the mode of the occurrence of W in its elementary sentence form i. What sentences is S deducible from, and what sentences are deducible from S? Under what conditions is S supposed to be true, and under what conditions false? How S is to verified?

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