A few weeks ago I argued first that Chalmers’s conception of internal and external questions bore little relation to the Carnapian one it’s supposed to explicate, then that the Chalmers version is actually incompatible with the Carnap one. Chalmers says Carnap’s internal-external distinction needs to be replaced (p. 80 of his paper in the Metametaphysics volume) because the idea of a framework is too philosophically tendentious to be allowed to burden that distinction, which must therefore also be replaced by a supposedly more neutral one. In my earlier posts, I focused on Chalmers’s replacement of the internal-external distinction, and bracketed the (in a sense more fundamental) question of his replacement for Carnap’s notion of a framework. That it needs some replacement I take to be obvious; you can’t very well have any notion of “internal” if there isn’t something for concepts or questions to be internal to, a representational medium of some sort in which questions or concepts can be stated. Carnap called that medium a (linguistic) “framework.” Why does Chalmers consider this tendentious? Not clear.
I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who thinks of Howard Stein as something like “the greatest living philosophical historian of science,” though he himself would certainly find such a description distasteful (not the “living philosophical historian of science” part, but the superlative preceding it). And it’s good to see his words examined closely, whatever quarrels I may have with the conclusions reached. Howard’s papers are very dense; there is a lot in there, much more than one can possibly take in on a first reading; putting them under a microscope can only help. Continue reading
Anyone who’s even heard of Popper knows that he advanced his falsifiability criterion (of science) in opposition to the Vienna Circle’s verifiability criterion (of meaning). What the Popper fans seem unaware of (yes, I know, they’re no longer as numerous as in the days of Helmut Schmidt’s public endorsement) is that Carnap actually responded to this criticism by pointing out that you can’t distinguish between verification and falsification except in certain special cases, which happen not to include the laws of e.g. physics. That was in “Testability and Meaning” (1936-7), which Popper praised volubly, e.g. in his Schilpp volume. But despite the fatal consequences of Carnap’s argument for Popper’s whole edifice, Popper never responded, nor, as far as I’m aware, has any of his followers. Continue reading
[Sorry, couldn’t post these past few days as the internet connection at our new apartment here in Munich wasn’t functioning. Welcome to super-efficient Germany! But it’s fixed now.]
Carnap was involved in the international language movement all his life. From the age of 14 — as he himself points out, before he had encountered any logical languages — he was an Esperanto enthusiast and after 1918 went to a number of international Esperanto conferences. We know from McElvenny that — without putting Esperanto aside — he became involved in Ogden’s project of Basic English. And later, in North America, he became an active participant in the International Auxiliary Language Association (I.A.L.A.) — copious notes and comments exist in his papers about the various proposals considered by the association. But the only thing he ever published on the subject, apart from the highly abbreviated remarks in his autobiography (the original passage on this subject is roughly three times as long), Continue reading
This transcription of a shorthand text from the Carnap Papers at Pitt (Archive of Scientific Philosophy) will remain its only publication in its original “German” (actually a mishmash of German and English, in vocabulary as well as syntax and word order); the journal in which my translation of it into English and a brief introduction will appear considered the possibility of publishing the original as well, but then thought better of it. Continue reading
James McElvenny (now a Humboldt Fellow at the University of Potsdam) has written a dissertation, Meaning in the Age of Modernism: C.K. Ogden and his Contemporaries — not in history but in English, if you can believe it! There is a chapter on Ogden’s interactions with Carnap and Neurath (Chapter 4: Ogden and the Vienna Circle). McElvenny has published some papers derived from it, which I haven’t looked at yet, but the dissertation itself is terrific. Continue reading
Expands a little on Carnap’s well-known but brief account of his switch from physics to philosophy in Jena (p. 11 of the autobiography in the Schilpp volume). On other occasions (e.g. in his reply to Ricketts, p. 281 of Reading Putnam), Putnam sometimes argues from the authority of personal acquaintance that some position or another “is just not the Carnap I knew and loved,” but in this case he’s merely telling the story, without editorializing, and it sounds authentic (to me, anyway). Note the parallel between Carnap’s attitude toward his ponderously authoritative professor and toward the ignorant peasant to whom he compares Esperanto disparagers — both pronounce with portentous confidence on matters of which they know nothing.
A few days ago I argued that Chalmers’s proposed replacement of Carnap’s internal-external distinction (in ESO) bears little resemblance to its Carnapian original. Today I will go on to claim that this proposed replacement (like other related proposals from the new metaontologists) not only doesn’t resemble that original, but is actually incompatible with it. Continue reading
Everyone (well, everyone reading this, anyway) knows the story of Wittgenstein’s refusal to countenance Carnap’s further participation at the meetings with himself, Schlick, Waismann, and sometimes Feigl in the late 1920s. One can speculate on Wittgenstein’s motivations here (I have my own ideas, which I won’t go into), but Carnap’s most notorious offense was to have shown some sympathy for Zamenhof and the Esperanto movement, which Wittgenstein — here a true disciple of Herder — found appallingly vulgar and inauthentic. Wittgenstein’s family, parentage, and background have been the subject of extensive biographical and cultural-history study, so it’s clear where he was coming from. Few have heard Carnap’s side of the story, though, Continue reading