A misguided critique of Carnapian explication

Back again, finally, from the many distractions of the past year.  With any luck I’ll now be able to catch up on the long list of subjects that has accumulated in the mean time.  I was already way behind before this long absence, and can’t catch up all at once.  But let’s get started again.

I finally gave in at some point last year and bought Ontology after Carnap (OUP 2016, ed. by Stephan Blatti and Sandra Lapointe).  There are some interesting things in it, that I will be commenting on occasionally over the next couple of months if my time doesn’t get away from me again.  Right now I want to focus on Appendix A (“Epistemic vs. Pragmatic Interpretations of the Methodology of Intensions”) of a paper by Stephen Biggs and Jessica Wilson, which is just over two pages long (pp. 98-100) and claims to undermine Carnapian explication. Continue reading

A missed opportunity

The current issue of Philosophy Now has a little article on Carnap by one Alistair MacFarlane, a Scottish electrical engineer who has held a number of academic administrative posts.  To judge by a few of the details he relates about Carnap’s life, he seems to have known or met Carnap personally, though he also commits a surprising number of factual errors. More seriously, he seems completely unaware that after a long period in the doghouse, logical empiricism has attracted some attention again, and a huge literature has accumulated on many aspects of its leading figures, especially Carnap.  He acknowledges none of this.  The Carnap he presents is the die-hard positivist, verificationist, and reductionist familiar from the old comic-strip versions of philosophical mythology that we fancy ourselves to have overcome.  So let this be a warning: the old comic strips may have lost some credibility, but there are still lots of philosophically interested non-philosophers (and perhaps even philosophically interested philosophers) out there to whom this news has not penetrated.  And apparently no one in Philosophy Now editorial is aware of it either, or they’d have asked MacFarlane for revisions. Continue reading