Dear Carnap, Dear Van: The Quine-Carnap Correspondence and Related Works

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He died on September 14, , in Santa Monica, California. Carnap's work and method were strongly characterized by an emphasis on clarity, and a conviction that clarity is achieved through expressing things in symbolic form. He himself wrote that from an early age:. I began to apply symbolic notation, now more frequently in the Principia form than in Frege's, in my own thinking about philosophical problems or in the formulation of axiom systems.

When I considered a concept or a proposition occurring in a scientific or philosophical discussion, I thought I understood it clearly only if I felt that I could express it, if I wanted to, in symbolic language. According to Carnap, a scientific theory is an axiomatized formal system, consisting of five parts:. For Carnap, and the logical positivists in general, the distinction between observational and theoretical terms was central and crucial.


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In Philosophical Foundations of Physics , Carnap based this difference on a distinction between empirical and theoretical laws. An empirical law, he claimed, deals with things that can be observed or measured. Such a law can be confirmed by direct observation. A theoretical law, however, deals with things that we cannot observe or measure, but that we can only infer from observation; it cannot be confirmed or justified by observation.

It is a hypothesis that reaches beyond direct experience. In many cases the distinction is clear, but Carnap had to admit that it is sometimes arbitrary. German philosopher Immanuel Kant had made a distinction between analytic and synthetic statements and a priori and a posteriori ones. This made possible a fourfold classification of statements: analytic and synthetic a priori , and analytic and synthetic a posteriori.

Everyone agreed that all analytic statements are a priori , so the analytic a posteriori category is empty. But what about synthetic a priori statements—statements that say something new about the world in that the predicate is not merely "contained in" the subject, but are also known before or apart from experience? Kant claimed that this is not an empty category, and he gave some mathematical and philosophical statements as examples.

But the logical empiricists claimed that there are no such statements; that there are only two kinds of statements, the analytic a priori ones and the synthetic a posteriori ones. Much of Carnap's work was based on this conviction and his subsequent attempt to distinguish precisely between analytic and synthetic statements—a conviction and program that was central to all the logical positivists or logical empiricists, but that was rejected in Quine's seminal essay, Two Dogmas of Empiricism In the Aufbau , Carnap used a methodology he called constitution or construction theory.

The main concept is reducibility, by which a concept x can be reducible to a set of concepts y if every sentence of x can be reformulated into sentences concerning concepts belonging to y , with the truth values preserved. Carnap's goal or intention was to put all known or knowable objects into such a constitution system. He thought that there are four main types of known objects: social-cultural ones, other minds, physical objects, and one's own private experiences. He did not think that he was giving an actual description of the process of concept formation, but rather a logical reconstruction of it.

Finally, Carnap's view was that metaphysics has nothing to do with science—he was concerned to eliminate all metaphysics because he regarded it as being meaningless. In The Logical Syntax of Language , Carnap attempted to develop a formal language in which mathematics and scientific theories could be expressed.

1891 - 1970

In the article "Testability and Meaning" Carnap introduced semantic concepts. A statement is analytic if and only if it is logically true. It is self contradictory if and only if it is logically false. In all other cases the statement is synthetic. A statement is L-true, he held, if its truth depends on semantic rules, and it is L-false if its negation is L-true.

Analytic statements are L-determined, meaning that they are L-true or L-false; synthetic statements are not L-determined. In the Aufbau , Carnap had claimed that a statement is meaningful only if every non-logical term in it is definable in phenomenalistic language. Later, however, he realized that this is untenable, so he switched to an objective language as his basic language.

Why “is at”? —On Quine’s Objection to Carnap’s Aufbau in “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”

When he turned to consider probability statements, Carnap worked to give an account of probability as a degree of confirmation, so that p h,e , read as "the probability of hypothesis h on the evidence e ," is a logical relation between the statement and the evidence for it. Inductive logic, then, Carnap held, would give us a way of ascertaining mathematically the reliability of a hypothesis.

But Carnap was not successful in this effort because in Carnap's inductive logic the degree of confirmation of every universal hypothesis is always zero. Carnap also worked on the philosophy of physics, both in his doctoral dissertation, Der Raum , and in his book Philosophical Foundations of Physics ed.

1891 - 1970

Martin Gardner, According to Carnap there are three kinds of theories of space: Formal space, which is analytic a priori , physical space, which is synthetic a posteriori , and intuitive space, which is synthetic a priori. Physical space is the subject of natural science.

In the later work Carnap accepted and used Hempel's covering law theory of scientific explanation in both its general and its probabilistic forms. From about December to July , a month before Carnap's death, Carnap and Quine carried on a long and philosophically fruitful correspondence. Quine was the younger man and first dealt with Carnap as his teacher, but the two became strong friends and remained so until the end of Carnap's life—they soon came to address one another as "Dear Carnap," because Carnap did not like his first name, and "Dear Van," as Quine was known to his friends—even though Quine eventually came to reject central points of Carnap's view, especially Carnap's notion of analyticity.

Moreover, after Carnap's death Quine continued to speak and write favorably about him, writing a memorial "Homage to Rudolf Carnap" in In , he made his way to Denver and back with a few friends, hopping freight trains, hitchhiking, and riding on running boards. Lodging often included jail houses where one could sleep for free in relative safety , park benches and the ground. At the end of his junior year, he traveled to Europe. Graduating from Oberlin with an A- average, he was accepted, and received his Ph.

For our purposes, we may understand an extensional definition as a set of particular things.

Rudolf Carnap - New World Encyclopedia

For instance, the extensional definition of a cat would consist of the set of all cats and the extensional definition of the property orange would consist of the set of all orange things which could include things that are only partly orange. Intensional definitions are, broadly speaking, generalizations, where particular things for example, particular cats are not employed in the definition.

This distinction underlines the difference between objects and names of objects.

Rudolf Carnap- Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology

Quine uses single quotation marks to denote a name. After completing his dissertation in , Quine was awarded a Sheldon Traveling Fellowship by Harvard. This would prove to be a momentous trip; Carnap had a singular and lasting influence on Quine. As Quine understood it via Carnap , analytic truths are true as a result of their meaning. Rather, the truth of these statements turns on facts.

They were titled: "The a priori," "Syntax," and "Philosophy as Syntax. Not only was Quine reading Carnap's work at this time, but Carnap was reading Quine's recent book, A System of Logistic , the published rewrite of his dissertation Creath — , Quine's respect for Carnap at this time is indisputable; a rapport had grown between the two such that they could easily exchange ideas and, for the most part, understand each other.

He thinks not. But as we saw above, Quine had been brooding over the matter since at least Not only did his qualms about this distinction surface in his discussions and correspondence with Carnap but also in conversation with other prominent philosophers and logicians, for example, Alfred Tarski, Nelson Goodman, and Morton White Quine, The problem with this characterization, he explains, is that the nature of meanings is obscure; Quine reminds the reader of what he takes to be one of Carnap's biggest mistakes in semantics—meaning is not to be confused with naming.

For instance, he points out, the two general terms "creature with a heart" and "creature with a kidney" both have the same extension because every creature with a heart has a kidney, and likewise. But these two statements clearly don't have the same meaning. Thus, for Quine there is a clear distinction between intensions and extensions, which reflects an equally clear distinction between meanings and references.

Quine then briefly explains the notion of what a word might mean, as opposed to what essential qualities an object denoted by that word might be said to have.


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Or as Quine puts it: "meaning is what essence becomes when it is divorced from the object of reference and wedded to the word" Quine, Logical truths, Quine explains, are any statements that remain true no matter how we interpret the non-logical particles in the statement. Logical particles are logical operators, for example, not, if then, or, all, no, some, and so forth. Quine suggests that one might, as is often done, appeal to definitions to explain the notion of synonymy. In fact, Quine writes, the only kind of definition that does not presuppose the notion of synonymy, is the act of ascribing an abbreviation purely conventionally.

For the rest, definition rests on synonymy rather than explaining it" Quine, Perhaps then, Quine suggests, one could define synonymy in terms of "interchangability. However, this is problematic as well. However, Quine is not quite sure what cognitive synonymy entails. In particular, we had to assume the meanings of the two kinds of analyticity explained above, that is, analyticity qua logical axioms and analyticity qua synonymy. So, the question is, can we give an account of cognitive synonymy by appealing to interchangeability recall that this is the task at hand without presupposing any definition of analyticity?

However, Quine finds the same kind of circularity here that he has found elsewhere. To show why, Quine reconstructs a general Carnapian paradigm regarding artificial languages and semantical rules, that, broadly speaking, proceeds as follows:. Its semantical rules explicitly specify which statements are analytic in L 0. But, Quine asks, why the specific class K, and not some other arbitrary class, for example, L-Z?