[hist-analytic] Reichenbach, Carnap, Positivism

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sat Nov 7 11:07:04 EST 2009

I'm going to reply to Roger's post piece meal. 

"I thought we were talking about the philosophies of Carnap and 
Reichenbach, and I don't believe that either of them subscribed to that 
kind of metaphysics." 

You can have a theory where it is believed by the theorizer that there is 
no reality. One can have an atomic theory without believing atoms are real. 
The idea goes back as far as the early astronomers who held that the 
Copernican theory was only a calculational device. So I reject th eidea 
that a theory must be a theory of "reality" even when it is scientific. 

I don't think I ever suggested that a model is a claim. You do with 
a model what you will in order to arrive at novel predictions that 
will confirm the theory suggesing the model. A theory can be, and has 
been, regarded as a set of laws. 

You persist in denying that Carnap's views were, at least at one point, 
very metaphysical. You need to look at the Aufbau. It is a phenomenalist 
approach to constructionism. Later he took physical objects as fundamental 
but during this period he did not. The work is one of ontology, not 
semantics. That comes after Tarski. Reichenbach would deny being a 
metaphysician, but so did Kant. What these guys say and what they do are 
different, sometimes, especially when "metaphysics" is involved. 

Nor did Carnap abandon his metaphysical approach in the Aubau. Oh, he 
would say it wasn't metaphysics, but it clearly is; his use of relation; 
his denial of any difference between objects and events etc. Moreover, 
Carnap says of the Aufbau: 

"I still agree with the philosophical orientation which stands behind this 
book." This was in 1961! 

The basic elements of his system are "elementary experiences," not 
physical objects (whatever those are). He is, essentially, a Machian; who 
of course was a neutral monist and held highly metaphysical views on 
such things as the unreality of atoms etc. So forget Schillp; look at the 
text. I'm not saying Carnap was exactly a Machian; indeed he was far 

more metaphysical than Mach. One might quibble with the word, but 

forget that approach. Look at the text; look at the Aufbau; it is a great 

work in reconstructive metaphysics! 


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