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13 - Carnapian pragmatism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 April 2008

Michael Friedman
Affiliation:
Stanford University, California
Richard Creath
Affiliation:
Arizona State University
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Summary

Rudolf Carnap is a curious figure in twentieth-century philosophy. His principal reputation is as a leading exponent of logical positivism (or logical empiricism), a school of thought that, according to lore, is notably rigid and technical as well as dismissive of other ways of doing philosophy. One of Carnap's most-read essays (Carnap, 1932d/ 1959) argues, for example, for the elimination or overcoming of metaphysics based on strict adherence to syntactic and verificationist strictures on meaningfulness. W. V. Quine's most famous essay - arguably, the single most famous essay in analytic philosophy - “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (1951/1980) singles out Carnap as its most important target and uses the notion of “dogma ” to characterize the key commitments of his version of empiricism. Quine’s essay begins with the bold claim that “modern empiricism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas” – dogmas his readers would at the time closely associate with Carnap – and then argues that embracing an empiricism without these dogmas has two principal effects:

One effect of abandoning [the dogmas] is, as we shall see, a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science. Another effect is a shift toward pragmatism.

(Quine, 1951/1980, 20)
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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