[hist-analytic] Carnap on Philosophy

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sat Aug 1 07:45:42 EDT 2009

"Among the valid sentences some are analytic, namely 
those which are valid on the basis of the L-rules alone" 

Now if philosophy is the search for analytical sentences then it is the search for L-rules, and if Carnap can be said to follow Russell remarks: 

"Philosophy, if what has been said is correct, becomes indistinguishable from logic as that word has now come to be used," 

the actual record of his work should show it. It does not. 

I am going to address two issues. First, Carnap's conception of philosophy and, second, Russell's relation to Carnap, the discussion having evolved as indicated by the change is subject header. 

I won't repeat what I've already said about Carnap's methodology. That methodolgy consists in the construction of formal metalanguages that translate from an object language into the "syntax language." The "analyticity" of the analytical propositions is not in the sentences translated into. The "analyticity" resides in translatability from one language to another, that is capturing the meaning in the syntax language that remains once the "dross" is removed from object language. But there is a problem for Carnap's methodology. 

It is not always clear what kind of translation you want and what and why you omit certain concepts is, also, subject to debate. Logic cannot resolve these questions, even for Carnap. The Schilpp is fine for an idea of Carnap's final position on issues, but it is no substitute for approaching the original sources if your interest is understanding where is coming from. The problem for Carnap's methodology is that there are always sentences that logic simply cannot resolve. If I am right these are the philosophical questions. Let me give you an example. Carnap in Meaning and Necessity says, 

"Some remarks may help toclarify the sensein which we intend to us theterm 'proposition'. Like the term 'property', it is used neither for a linguistic expression nor for a subjective mental occurrence, but rather for something objective that may or may not be explemfied in nature." (MN. p. 27) 

Lest there be any doubt that Carnap is talking about the world and not logic, consider what he says just a bit later (after expressing disagreement with Russell), 

"Any proposition must be regarded as a complex entity, consisting of component entities, which, in their turn may be simple or again complex." (MN. p. 30) 

These are not analytic statement! They do not follow from logic alone; they are not empirical claims. They are metaphysical CONCLUSIONS! The problem for Carnap is that he must at some point exorcise these ontogical commitments. But his only approach can be to come up with some translation into a language that dispenses with property variables and constants. Neat trick, but by this time all the philosophy is over. You have an "analytical" translation but a metaphysical thesis. So the point is you FIRST establish by philosophical reasoning what kind of language you want to translate into. You then go about the business of creating such a language. Another point. 

The Carnap of 1927 is the Carnap under the heavy influence of Russell. By the time of Schilpp he is no longer so much under the influence of Russell as Tarski. The very concept of logic as between Russell and Frege on the one hand and Tarski and Carnap on the other is positively VAST. So just talking about "logic" is not of much value. 

Take Russell. The guy quoted above identify logic with philosophy. NONE of Russell's philosophical work of significance is pure logic. Take The Analysis of Matter or even Our Knowledge of the External World or many of those essays in Mysticism and Logic. Very little logic in these works. In fact the best logic in the second cited is on continuity and I don't think continuity is a logical notion as such. 

So my polint is: Carnap makes a lot of metaphysical claims; the metaphysical work is done before constructing canonical languages. As Bergmann said: there is a metaphysics to positivism! Carnap was such a metaphysician during his most productive years. 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Roger Bishop Jones" <rbj at rbjones.com> 
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.com 
Sent: Friday, July 31, 2009 5:33:25 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific 
Subject: Carnap on Philosophy 

I observed in an earlier message that: 

"Carnap was surely quite clear that 
the propositions of analytic philosophy 
are analytic." 

Not thinking that this would be a controversial 

Steve asked for citations to support it, and I 
could not immediately locate a straightforward 
statement of this principle. 

In fact, I already had on my web site some relevant 
quotes, in my 

"Quotations from the Writings of Rudolph Carnap" 

>From the autobiographical part of the Schilpp volume (p13) 
talking of "The Logico-Analytic Method in Philosophy", 
Carnap says: 

"Whereas Frege had the strongest influence on me 
in the fields of logic and semantics, in my philosophical 
thinking in general I learned most from Bertrand Russell. 
In the winter of 1921 I read his book, Our Knowledge of 
the External World, as a Field For Scientific Method in 
Philosophy. Some passages made an especially vivid impression 
on me because they formulated clearly and explicitly a view 
of the aim and method of philosophy which I had implicitly held 
for some time. In the Preface he speaks about 
"the logical-analytic method of philosophy" and refers to 
Frege's work as the first complete example of this method. 
And on the very last pages of the book he gives a summarizing 
characterization of this philosophical method 
in the following words:" 

Then he quotes a passage from Russell which is also on 
my web site in a page entitled: 

"Quotations from the Writings of Bertrand Russell" 


"The study of logic becomes the central study in philosophy: 
it gives the method of research in philosophy, 
just as mathematics gives the method in physics...." 

"All this supposed knowledge in the traditional systems 
must be swept away, and a new beginning must be made. . . ." 

"To the large and still growing body of men engaged in 
the pursuit of science, . . . the new method, successful 
already in such time-honored problems as number, infinity, 
continuity, space and time, should make an appeal which the 
older methods have wholly failed to make. 
The one and only condition, I believe, which is necessary 
in order to secure for philosophy in the near future 
an achievement surpassing all that has hitherto been accomplished 
by philosophers, is the creation of a school of men with 
scientific training and philosophical interests, unhampered 
by the traditions of the past, and not misled by the literary 
methods of those who copy the ancients in all except their merits." 

(from: Our Knowledge of the External World, 
as a Field For Scientific Method in Philosophy) 

Carnap follows the Russell Quote with: 

"I felt as if this appeal had been directed to me personally. 
To work in this spirit would be my task from now on! 
And indeed henceforth the application of the new logical 
instrument for the purposes of analyzing scientific concepts 
and of clarifying philosophical problems has been 
the essential aim of my philosophical activity." 

There is a more explicit quote from Russell at: 


Which concludes: 

"Philosophy, if what has been said is correct, 
becomes indistinguishable from logic as that word 
has now come to be used." 

(from: On Scientific Method in Philosophy) 

My own first introduction to this conception of philosophy 
was in "Language Truth and Logic" in which Ayer gives his 
Oxonian interpretation of Logical Positivism. 


"In other words, the propositions of philosophy are not factual, 
but linguistic in character - that is, they do not describe 
the behaviour of physical, or even mental, objects; 
they express definitions, or the formal consequences of definitions. 
Accordingly we may say that philosophy is a department of logic*2. 
For we will see that the characteristic mark of 
a purely logical enquiry, is that it is concerned with 
the formal consequences of our definitions and not with 
questions of empirical fact." 

It was to Ayer's advantage as a propagandist that he was 
not so interested as Carnap was in the technical details. 
Consequently, he does make the plain statements which we 
sometimes have to hunt around for in Carnap. 

The best places to look for these in Carnap are in the 
Schilpp volume (the autobiographical part and also in 
those parts of the "responses" where he summarises his 
then current position before responding in detail to his 
critics), and in "Philosophy and Logical Syntax" which 
are transcripts of public lectures in London and 
are not therefore confused by too much technical detail. 
The Schilpp volume is in my view enormously important 
for any real understanding of Carnap's philosophy, 
because it is the norm for people to speak of Carnap 
as if his philosophy consisted of the Aufbau or 
terminated with his philosophy of logical syntax. 
His philosophy continued to improve throughout his 
life, for example, his presentation of semantics and 
analyticity is improved in the Schilpp to overcome 
some of the spurious objections raised by Quine. 

Anyway, going back to the main thesis, and looking 
again for short explicit statements to support my 
claim, we find: 

"The only proper task of Philosophy is Logical Analysis." 

(Philosophy and Logical Syntax I.7, p35) 

and the rest of that section is very relevant, discussing 
their disagreement with Wittgenstein on the status 
of philosophical propositions and leaving no doubt about 
what he thinks their status is, but actually not containing 
anything quite explicit enough for our present purposes. 

Later he asks: 

"What kind of sentences are those which express 
the results of logical Analysis?" 

(III.1 p68) 

But frustratingly his answer is: 

."..sentences of logical syntax ..." 

not quite explicit enough perhaps. 

Actually, the most explicit concise indication of 
the view in question is in the diagram on page 32. 
I have transcribed this into my notes at: 

What is says is (in my words): 

Philosophy as traditionally conceived may be considered 
to have three components, which are: 

1. Metaphysical (including ethics) 
2. Psychological 
3. Logical 

Of these: 
1. the first is expressive rather than descriptive, 
and therefore should properly be considered a form of art. 
2. the second belongs to empirical science 

and only the third should properly be considered philosophy. 
(hence, the propositions of philosophy as conceived by 
Carnap are logical). 

On the word "analytic", he says on p55 of PLS, 

"Among the valid sentences some are analytic, namely 
those which are valid on the basis of the L-rules alone" 

(note that by "valid" he seems to mean "true") 

On the L-rules he has said on p50 

"Take for instance the system of Principia Mathematica. 
In its present form it contains only such primitive 
sentences and rules of inference as have a purely 
logical character. 
Transformation rules of this logical or mathematical 
character we will call L-rules" 

and on p54 
"Thus every valid sentence is analytic" 

and we see in his table that he means here L-valid. 

Finally, I observe, that though the discussion 
arising from my claim about Carnap has often 
considered matters which pertain to the tenability 
of Carnap's position, I have not myself asserted 
that it is tenable. 

I do not myself hold that all true propositions 
of philosophy are analytic, and have no inclination 
to eject from philosophy those which are not. 
I am inclined to think that Lao-Tzu had some 
interesting philosophical insights, but doubt 
that many of them could be construed as matters 
of logic. 

In Metaphysical Positivism a method of logical 
analysis for use in philosophy (and elsewhere) 
has a central place. 
Its scope of applicability is deductive reasoning. 
Any philosophy in which deductive arguments are 
found is a candidate for analysis by the methods 
which I advocate, as well as other demonstrative 
sciences, and nomologico-deductive science. 
And of course, many varieties of metaphysics. 

Roger Jones 
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