Carnap and Aristotle
Overview
A presentation of a conception of metaphysics written as if to explain to Carnap why some useful purpose might be served by looking at Aristotle's Metaphysics.
How to persuade Rudolf Carnap that Aristotle's metaphysics might be worth a look.
Introduction
How to persuade Rudolf Carnap that Aristotle's metaphysics might be worth a look.
Background

I am myself a positivist with a desire to make sense of metaphysics. I think I am beginning to get some ideas together, but expressing these ideas to a general (philosophical) audience is made more difficult because of the prevalent antipathy to positivism, in consequence of which the aspects of positivism which feature in my conception of metaphysics are likely to stop people from ever coming to understand what I have to say about metaphysics.

It occurred to me that to explain my ideas to Carnap, in his terms, would be easier, and would be a worthwhile place to start. Here I attempt that task.

Plan of Action
  1. First it is necessary to say something about the central features of positivism, in Hume and in Carnap (inter alia), which are antagonistic to metaphysics. This is basically Hume's fork.
  2. Next we interpret this not as anihilating metaphysics, but as moving it, in Carnap's terminology, from internal to external questions. I will explain that.
  3. Then we look closer at these external questions and suggest, intead of a blanket proscription, that they be dealt with pragmatically. Suggest a classification of manners of resolution, at one end of which is a class called "objective metaphysics".
  4. Then we consider the merits of these various ways of resolving external questions, suggesting that there is some merit in addressing the metaphysics.
  5. Finally, for the contemporary audience, there is some discussion of how this stands up when some of Carnap's ideas (e.g. the internal/external distinction) are questioned.
The Elimination of Metaphysics

Dogmatic Metaphysics and Pragmatic Metaphysics
An approach to distinguishing Carnap's conception of metaphysics

An impression easily gained from the writings of Rudolf Carnap is that he was dogmatically opposed to all metaphysics. A well-known example is Carnap's dismissal as meaningless of Heidegger's claim sometimes translated into English as "Nothing noths".

It is quite possible that Carnap misunderstood Heidegger, and that his condemnation was mistaken. On that I can offer no opinion.

The apparent simplicity of Carnap's dismissal of metaphysics is an illusion which can be dispelled by a closer understanding of what he took metaphysics to be, and of the variety of doctrines which at first blush appear to be metaphysical but fail to fall under the concept as understood by Carnap. An understanding of this may possibly be mediated by the explanation I here offer of a distinction which I here call that between dogmatic and pragmatic metaphysics, and which corresponds pretty well with the distinction between what Carnap considers to be metaphysics (on the one hand) and those other things which quite often will be thought metaphysical by others.

That Carnap's conception of metaphysics was "dogmatic" harks back to his student days, as described in his intellectual autobiography. Im those days he says, his fellow students fell into camps, according to their ontological beliefs and the ways in which those beliefs caused them to talk about the world.

Instead of dogmatically adhering to one of these ontological doctrines Carnap then had a "neutral attitude with respect to the language forms used by the various philosophical schools", e.g. between phenomenalistic and realistic language, which later matured into his principle of tolerance. He regarded controversies in traditional metaphysics such as that between realism and idealism as "sterile and useless".


up quick index © RBJ

privacy policy

Created:2009/05/19

$Id: xps007.xml,v 1.3 2015/04/23 09:58:06 rbj Exp $

V