[hist-analytic] Analytic Philosophy: Oxonian Varieties

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Tue Aug 11 16:48:22 EDT 2009

Carnap on Carnap is going to be Carnapian. We have to get 
beyond Schilpp without neglecting its many good lessons.
In discussion with someone who was in a position to know,
or so I believe, Carnap and McKeon fought bitterly over this
matter. Voices were raised and personal attacks that seemed
more personal than academic were made against McKeon's
philosophical orientation. Again, McKeon left this department
and my sources have it that this was owing to the battle
between Carnap and Mckeon which were by this account
as I said bitter. I'm not absolving McKeon of any responsibility,
only  raising skepticism of a non-contemptuous sort about
the saintly reputation of Carnap's tolerance in matters of Philosophy.
Charles Hartshorne was a good philosopher. I don't agree with him
but his work on this is respectably analytical; heaven forbit had
it not been. Whoops, "I see the campus cops are comin', gotta
split now" (The Fugs)
Roger, you say:
"Surely if analytic philosophers stand for anything they must
stand for sound reasoning, and hence be to some extent
intolerant of unsound reasoning, at the very least to the
extent of showing its defects?"
This line of reasoning has been the rationale for virtually every
repressive academic regime since Pythogoras, whose
lack of tolerance in the name of mathematics lacks the luster
of Carnap but possesses the same "flare" for diminishing the
significance of alternatives to *the* mathematical view of the
world: the square root of 2 and all that.
One might as well exclude theology from discussion or,
perhaps, bar the door and close the departments, despite
the historical connection between philosophy and "rational"
theology. No, intolerance in the name of reason is still intolerance.
Carnap has put a "spiin" on this; McKeon might have put a spin
on this but the fact remains; tempers flared. 
Don't get me wrong. I love reading Carnap. No other analytical
philosopher of his competence, except maybe Russell of his
generation wrote as lucidly or was so generous in sharing
his knowledge. But the ontological argument is no more
doubtful than mechanistic determinism in the tradition of Lang
and there are plenty of dissertations, papers, etc. devoted to
defending one or another form of this point of view. No. It was
not for Carnap to in any way attempt to reject this dissertation.


--- On Tue, 8/11/09, Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com> wrote:

From: Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com>
Subject: Re: Analytic Philosophy: Oxonian Varieties
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk
Date: Tuesday, August 11, 2009, 3:04 PM

On Sunday 09 August 2009 23:38:46 Baynesr at comcast.net wrote:

> ... there is one
> troubling thing I've heard about Carnap while he was at Chicago. There was
> a dispute involving McKeon, with whom I've had some interesting discussion
> on Aristotle. It is said that Carnap would not approve a diss. on the
> ontological argument because the argument was fallacious. An argument
> ensued with McKeon who it is said left the department and became head of a
> new department, Ideas and Methods. If a guy can tolerate Heidegger, then he
> ought to tolerate a scholarly treatment of the Ontolotical Argument, or so
> its seems.

This is discussed by Carnap in the Schilpp volume,

I.I.4.B "The Situation of Philosophy in the United States", pp 39-43.

He does not say that he declined to approve the dissertation,
and I would ask you to check your facts on that.
Nor does he have any problem with a scholarly treatment of the
Ontological Argument.
He has on p41 a long paragraph in which he is aknowledging
the value of doing history of philosophy fully from the point
of view of the historical figures being studied (he is stronger
on this point than I could manage to be myself), before
going on to describe the problem with the Ontological argument.
In this his complaint seemed to be that the dissertation
failed to fully aknowledge the significance of the results
of modern logic, treating them as if they were just an alternative
point of view.

Those philosophers who are dissatisfied with the perpertual
flux in received philosophical opinion (when viewed over the
long term), and who seek to make philosophy, at least in part
as rigorous as mathematics, will naturally deprecate unsound
Surely if analytic philosophers stand for anything they must
stand for sound reasoning, and hence be to some extent
intolerant of unsound reasoning, at the very least to the
extent of showing its defects?

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