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Carnap’s architectonic

In the last chapter of my book I tried, far too cryptically, to outline a conception of rationality that had the potential, at least, of doing justice to two desiderata: (a) it would build on what one might call the “Enlightenment rationality” epitomized by inductive logic and (broadly speaking Bayesian) decision theory; (b) it would, however, introduce a broad freedom of choice (“Carnapian tolerance”) regarding the conceptual system in which (a) is undertaken.  These two goals seem at odds, and indeed, this is a conflict which in various forms has haunted the Enlightenment (and scientific rationality in general) from the beginning: die Dialektik der Aufklärung.  And where these goals come into conflict, (a) has generally won out over (b).  This is why science has seemed coercive and authoritarian to so many people; it has seemed like a false religion, and continues to inspire the kind of vituperative rejection Goethe’s polemic against Newton first exemplified two centuries ago.

I am certainly not claiming that Carnap achieved a definitive conception of a rationality meeting these conflicting desiderata, but his approach, at least as interpreted by his student Howard Stein, has long seemed promising to me as a framework in which to pursue such an aim.  One major stumbling block to this program, though, has been his apparent embrace of “emotivism” (which he always thought a misleading name, just as he never liked “positivism”), giving the impression that he thought ultimate normative (or ethical) principles were essentially outside the bounds of reason.  I never accepted this, and when I wrote my book I tried show how this did not follow from what he actually said, and that actually a very different story could be told.  At Michael Friedman’s suggestion (for which I’m obstinately grateful), I — perhaps foolishly — tried to show how the famous controversy between Habermas and Rawls could be aufgehoben by Carnapian tolerance; I don’t think I explained myself in enough detail to convince anybody (even to take the idea seriously).  But, I noticed recently, I also inserted a promissory footnote toward the end, in which I referred for further details to a “forthcoming” paper that I was actually writing at the time, but which never actually made it even to the conference presentation it was meant for.

I won’t claim that I’ve been working on that paper — which finally appeared a few months ago — continuously for all of the intervening eight or nine years, but it’s certainly been on my mind.  The new paper is a lot better than anything I could have written back then, though, not mainly because I’ve thought about it more (though I’m sure that helped), but because I quite fortuitously came across a document in the archives that finally provides some textual evidence for Carnap’s overall strategy (his “architectonic,” as people used to say).  I published the “German” original of this document here a couple of weeks ago.  Now I’m finally in a position to post the English translation with my introduction, which has been accepted as part of Georg Schiemer’s special issue of Synthese on Carnap.  (So Carnap will be not only the subject of the issue, but also a contributor.)  I hope that those who reject my proposed reading of Carnap’s overall conception will take this new document into account, and make some effort, at least, to show how their interpretation is consistent with it.


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