Disagreement about philosophical disagreement

Jared Warren fancies himself “the lone contemporary defender of conventionalism in logic and mathematics” (p. 343 of his book Shadows of Syntax, 2020). His notion of “conventionalism” is somewhat offbeat (see below), but even so, he exaggerates wildly.  

Warren goes out of his way to distance himself from Carnap, though admitting in asides that Carnap comes closer to his own “conventionalist” position than any other philosopher of the past. (I’m not so sure.) Carnap seems mostly (I haven’t read the whole book yet) to be portrayed as the garrulous old uncle who insists on boring us at dinner parties, and who may have got certain things right (perhaps by accident), but was too easily led astray by Neurath and other colorful personalities to be emulated as an inspiring forerunner. 

This affords Warren ample opportunities to rap Carnap over the knuckles and tell us what Carnap should have thought or written, to bring him into conformity with Warren’s own more consistent and better-informed version of “conventionalism.”  Warren does not, however, despite this frequent use of such normative language (addressed to Carnap), regard the question whether his own conventionalism is “correct” as a normative question. No, there is a fact of the matter about that; Warren is right, in his view, and everyone else is wrong. And yes, he means factually right! He has arrived at the “uniquely true and correct theory.”  

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Catching up: Recent and forthcoming publications

We all know, meanwhile, about the productivity gap that has opened up between academics (and lots of others) who have children at home full time because the schools have been closed and those who don’t. I’m pretty sure it’s worse for the children than it is for us, on the whole, but anyway, I’m on the wrong side of that divide. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to squeeze out a few bits and pieces over the past year or so.

For Thomas Uebel’s forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Logical Empiricism, I wrote a shorter and snappier and more accessible version of “Carnapian Rationality” (I’ve noticed that other contributors have had their chapters online for years).

For Jordi Cat and Adam Tuboly’s huge new Neurath Reconsidered, I contributed a chapter on Neurath’s notorious disagreement with Carnap about semantics. The book has the terrific feature that it reprints the entire wartime (1940-45) Neurath-Carnap correspondence, in which that disagreement largely played out, so I was able to refer to it very conveniently. (The correspondence is on pp. 521-685, which I point out here since it doesn’t appear in the Table of Contents. Very mysterious that the publishers should choose deliberately to hide their light under a bushel.)

In the forthcoming issue of the Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook, on “The Vienna Circle and Religion” (edited by Esther Ramharter), I put together an English version of things I’ve published in German in the past few years to trace the origins of Carnap’s later non-cognitivism. Teaser: it turns out that in the beginning (before 1914) the religious writings of Johannes Müller played a major role; Kant came later — and (Rickert’s) Goethe seems to have played a key role in the transition from Müller to Kant.