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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: April 2008

7 - Carnap and the Vienna Circle: rational reconstructionism refined



Rudolf Carnap is today the best known representative of the Vienna Circle, even though he was neither its nominal leader (Moritz Schlick), nor its effective founder (Hans Hahn), nor its most prolific writer and propagandist (Otto Neurath). The reason for Carnap's prominence lies in two books - The Logical Construction of the World (1928, better known as the Aufbau) and The Logical Syntax of Language (1934c, translated in 1937) - and a series of papers - including “The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language” (1932d/1959) and “The Physical Language as the Universal Language of Science” (1932a, translated as The Unity of Science, 1934) - published between 1928 and 1936. In these works Carnap managed to articulate with until then unsurpassed clarity certain theses of extreme boldness and daring complexity that were closely associated with the Circle as a whole. Yet while he provided exemplary articulations of its members' characteristic convictions and also set themes for the Circle's continuing discussions, it must be stressed that the development of these theses was very much Carnap's own and that many of his positions encountered opposition even within the Circle itself. If one is then moved to add that there is more to the Vienna Circle's philosophy than Carnap's, one must also add that there is more to Rudolf Carnap than the Vienna Circle's influence.