Two months ago today (seems like a bygone era!) I was in Vienna at a workshop about Carnap’s early diaries, hosted by Christian Damböck, who is in the final stages of editing them for publication. I also gave a little talk there, about one of the major turning points in Carnap’s life during this early period, his political awakening during his year in Berlin before and during the German Revolution in October 1918. Just before the revolution, Carnap wrote a kind of manifesto summarizing his political outlook at the time, a piece that remained unpublished (for reasons unknown), called “Deutschlands Niederlage: Sinnloses Schicksal oder Schuld?”
A few years ago, Thomas Mormann wrote a very tendentious diagnosis of this essay and put it up on PhilPapers. He probably intended it just as a kind of provocation; well, I fell for it, and — true to form — overreacted. In any case, I think it was worth it, as the company Carnap kept in the German youth movement before and during the war is certainly a bit suspect, and one inevitably has to wonder whether he really did escape any influence from that quarter altogether. Predictably, I argue, against Mormann, that Carnap did actually emerge entirely unscathed. (And here are the slides for the talk.)
At close to a hundred thousand words (including all the supplements) I think it sets some sort of record for the Stanford Encyclopedia. Anyway, please have a look and if you notice any mistakes, please let me (or Hannes) know right away (either by e-mail to us or via the comments facility on this site).
Vol. 1 of the Carnap edition is now officially available on the Oxford University Press site, for immediate order. Amazon.co.uk is now saying it will be available on Friday (12 July), and is charging the same price as OUP’s own site (which, though high, is much more reasonable than I’d feared). I’m not sure which of the two would arrive sooner if you order it before Friday. After that I’d definitely guess Amazon would be quicker. The German and American Amazon sites are saying the book will be released on 25 August, so you’re better off ordering from Amazon UK or OUP direct (be sure to use their British site, with prices in pounds sterling, or you’ll get the same availability date as the German or American Amazon sites).
The advance copies to the editors and the editorial board are on their way; I’ve already received mine. I won’t post a photo, since it won’t convey any more information than the one in the previous post, but I must say that I’m very pleased with the result of all those years of work, and congratulate OUP on the job they did with it. They deserve their status as the world’s leading philosophy publisher; it looks terrific!
(This is the first of several posts that will try to catch up on a few bits of Carnap-related news over the past year or so. Most of you will already know about most of it; these catching-up posts will mainly be of interest to those who, like me, were too busily focused to pay attention to the wider world.)
A few years ago, I mentioned here that there would be an issue of the Monist on Carnap’s metaphilosophy. Quite a number of people responded to the cfp and sent things in; the result was published last October. Thanks go especially to Fraser MacBride, the editor of the Monist, who helped a great deal, not only with general day-to-day guidance, but specifically with the suggestion that I translate a couple of the early Carnap texts I was writing about at the time and include them in the issue, especially since their originals are about to be published in a conference volume edited by Christian Damböck, Günter Sandner, and Meike Werner (Logical Empiricism, Life Reform, and the German Youth Movement, Springer, forthcoming). These translations were Carnap’s first contributions to the Monist.
When I first went about putting the issue together, the centerpiece was to have been a synthesis by Bill Demopoulos of his various writings on Carnap over the previous decade (mostly collected in his Logicism and its Philosophical Legacy, CUP 2013), in which he intended to spell out the general perspective on Carnap implicit in many of those pieces. I was very much looking forward to this (I disagreed with Bill, around the edges, but it was a very productive sort of disagreement) — but it was never written, alas, as Bill had the effrontery to die before he could get down to work on it. Thanks to Fraser (again) and all the contributors for ensuring that despite this devastating blow, the issue still came together amazingly well; details in my introduction. My own contribution to it, as well as Huw Price’s reply, can be found here.
It does exist (relative to the “thing language”)! OUP sent me this photo of an advance copy. I’m told that once this is approved, the book will be released, most likely this week (I will update again once that occurs). Until then OUP and Amazon will still be accepting pre-orders.
Sorry about the long interruption, but now I can resume with some good news. From today, the long-awaited first volume of Oxford’s 14-volume edition of the Collected Writings of Rudolf Carnap is finally available (from OUP directly and, apparently with some delay, from Amazon.co.uk — the Amazon site in Germany shows a publication date in August, and those in France and the US list it as “temporarily out of stock,” but OUP and Amazon UK deliver to those countries — and presumably others).
It’s been years and years of work, and I’m very glad we finally have something to show for our labors. There are too many people to thank, and I won’t even try here — but see the volume 1 editors’ acknowledgements reproduced below.
For those who haven’t yet seen the propaganda, I will summarize it:
One of the main themes of my book about Carnap is that a decisive component of the original motivation first to write the Aufbau and then to push forward to the radical pluralism of the Syntax (and beyond) was Carnap’s diagnosis of the political situation immediately after the First World War in Germany. Amidst revolution and upheaval, Carnap saw very clearly that the German intelligentsia had contributed to the outbreak and continuation of the war by failing to get politically involved in the 19th century as French and British intellectuals had done, and thus failing to restrain the German elite’s war-oriented Betonköpfe (yes, that’s an anachronism — to make a point). So he advocated greater political involvement (and got involved himself), but also thought that to prevent future wars, the chaotic development of societies over the past century or two of rapid industrialization had to be steered by reason to a greater extent. But there existed no satisfactory account of reason, no system in which all the knowledge accumulated by the sciences over the past century could be seen to fit together. In contrast to the traditional Enlightenment system of knowledge (e.g. the Encyclopédie), where the various parts and components of knowledge were anchored in the various human cognitive, practical, and other mental faculties — so that the system was ultimately grounded in human psychology — Carnap (having studied with Frege) thought, like Leibniz, that the system of knowledge should be deductive. And so on from there.
To show that there was really something to this, I attempted in my concluding chapter, very briefly, to suggest how one might apply the later Carnap’s perspective to actual political discourse. This was suggested to me by Michael Friedman, who was on my dissertation committee, and who said that it might help people to get what I was talking about if I applied it to a controversy they were familiar with, such as the Rawls-Habermas debate. Well, I did exactly that, but no one really noticed, and when they did, they ridiculed the idea that such a rarefied nerd as Carnap, who sticks to the “icy slopes of logic,” could possibly have had a political motivation for the intricacies of his formalistic obsessions — or that his perspective could possibly contribute anything to political deliberation. Until now. James Pearson has taken pity on this explicitly political dimension of my book and devoted a paper to it, in which he tries to apply my Carnapian suggestions to a couple of concrete cases. Continue reading
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
Bill died earlier this week. He’d been ill for a long time, but when I last talked to him it had stabilized, and while he was unable to travel internationally (so I haven’t seen him in a while), he was unconcerned. I had only got to know him personally a few years ago at a conference in Nancy organized by Gerhard Heinzmann.
I am particularly devastated by this news because he and I had, since that conference, been discussing various Carnap-related issues, first surrounding his 2011 paper in Journal of Philosophy on extending ESO to the realism-instrumentalism controversy, through its various drafts before it appeared (in my Oxford Bibliography on Carnap, I call it the “deepest and subtlest analysis of ESO published to date, probing questions Carnap left open”); he had given an early version of it at that Nancy conference. He republished it along with several other papers on Carnap (and other matters) in his collection Logicism and its Philosophical Legacy. When I read that book, I was struck how the Carnap papers added up to a very compelling and original overall interpretation which, however, was never spelled out in any one of them.
I mentioned this to him a year or two ago when I was inviting papers for the Monist special issue on Carnap, and asked whether he’d be willing to write such a paper for that issue. It turned out that he’d been thinking exactly the same thing, about a general synthesis putting his overall view of Carnap together in one place, and would be happy to do that for the Monist issue. So I was very much looking forward to getting his draft so we could continue our conversation begun in Nancy. Even a few weeks ago he was still hoping to send me something before the end of the year. Alas, it will never be! It is a loss for the Monist issue, a loss for the Carnap world (and even the world at large, I would venture) not to have this general statement of his exceptionally careful and well-thought out conception of Carnap, and a particularly acute loss for me personally, as I’d really been looking forward to arguing with him about that conception. One shouldn’t let one’s self get so distracted, one shouldn’t put things off for too long!
Pierre Wagner, Professeur des Universités at Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne), has brought out Der Raum in French. This was a long struggle, but is now brought to a triumphant conclusion, as the book was actually reviewed in the book supplement of Le Monde — the equivalent of getting it into the TLS or New York Review of Books. Pierre’s long efforts, going back twenty years or more, to bring logical empiricism back to some sort of respectability in France, are finally paying off. I won’t list his publications here (you can look them up on his website), but he’s also held a number of conferences in Paris, and, most relevantly to the current book, a fabulous two-day workshop in 2010 on Der Raum at the French cultural center on the Währingerstraße in Vienna, at which we just sat around and talked, without any papers being given at all; the main texts were the first draft of Michael Friedman’s notes on Der Raum (for volume 1 of the Carnap edition, now getting close to publication) and a long e-mail by Howard Stein commenting on some passages from Michael’s notes.
Pierre was a student of Jacques Bouveresse, most recently a professor at the Collège de France, and one of the first to introduce not only Carnap but also Wittgenstein to the attention of French philosophers. Pierre tells me that Bouveresse at certain times had fifty or sixty (I’m spelling this out so you won’t think it’s a typo!) research students at a time because if you wanted to do analytic philosophy at the time, there was no one else to go to. That situation, at least (due at least partly to Pierre’s own efforts) has improved considerably!