Tag Archives: carnap

Coming to America: Carnap, Reichenbach and the Great Intellectual Migration

Volume 8.11 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published online, with full open-access.

It features a two-part article by Sander Verhaegh, called “Coming to America: Carnap, Reichenbach and the Great Intellectual Migration” with Part I on Rudolf Carnap and Part II on Hans Reichenbach. Here are the abstracts:

Part I: Rudolf Carnap.

In the years before the Second World War, Rudolf Carnap and Hans Reichenbach emigrated to the United States, escaping the quickly deteriorating political situation on the continent. Once in the U. S., the two significantly changed the American philosophical climate. This two-part paper reconstructs Carnap’s and Reichenbach’s surprisingly numerous interactions with American academics in the decades before their move in order to explain the impact of their arrival in the late 1930s. Building on archival material of several key players and institutions, I take some first steps toward answering the question why logical empiricism became so successful in the United States after the War. This first part reconstructs Carnap’s development between 1923, when he first visited New York, and 1936, when he was offered a position at the University of Chicago. I describe Carnap’s first substantive contacts with American philosophers as well as the events leading up to his decision to emigrate. In addition, I argue that some of Carnap’s work from the mid-1930s—in particular “Testability and Meaning”—can be better understood if we take into account (1) his attempts to correct the American narrative about logical positivism and (2) his increasingly desperate efforts to find a position in the United States.


Part II: Hans Reichenbach

In the late 1930s, a few years before the start of the Second World War, a small number of European philosophers of science emigrated to the United States, escaping the increasingly perilous situation on the continent. Among the first expatriates were Rudolf Carnap and Hans Reichenbach, arguably the most influential logical empiricists of their time. In this two-part paper, I reconstruct Carnap’s and Reichenbach’s surprisingly numerous interactions with American academics in the decades before their move in order to explain the impact of their arrival in the late 1930s. This second part traces Reichenbach’s development and focuses on his frequent interactions with American academics throughout the 1930s. I show that Reichenbach was quite ignorant about developments in Anglophone philosophy in the first stages of his career but became increasingly focused on the United States from the late 1920s onwards. I reconstruct Reichenbach’s efforts to find a job across the Atlantic and show that some of his English publications—most notably Experience and Prediction—were attempts to change the American narrative about logical empiricism. Whereas U. S. philosophers identified scientific philosophy with the views of the Vienna Circle, Reichenbach aimed to market his probabilistic philosophy of science as a subtler alternative.

JHAP is a free, open-access, peer-reviewed journal. It is available at https://jhaponline.org/. Submissions welcome!

Verificationism and (Some of) its Discontents

Volume 7.4 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published online, with full open-access.

It features an article by Thomas Uebel entitled “Verificationism and (Some of) its Discontents”. Here is an abstract:

Verificationism has had a bad press for many years. The view that the meaning of our words is bound up with the discernible difference it would make if what we say, think or write were true or false, nowadays is scorned as “positivist” though it was shared by eminent empiricists and pragmatists. This paper seeks to sort through some of the complexities of what is often portrayed as an unduly simplistic conception. I begin with an overview of its main logical empiricist varieties before considering which aspects of it fall victim to which of the three major types of objection that have been raised against it. I will conclude that what is left standing is a modest proposal that seems worth further investigation.

JHAP is a free, open-access peer reviewed journal. It is available at https://jhaponline.org/. Submissions welcome!

Why “is at”? —On Quine’s Objection to Carnap’s Aufbau in “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”

Volume 6.4 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published online, with full open access.

It features an article by Ka Ho Lam entitled ‘Why “is at”? —On Quine’s Objection to Carnap’s Aufbau in “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”’. Here is an Abstract:

In “Two Dogmas”, Quine indicates that Carnap’s Aufbau fails “in principle” to reduce our knowledge of the external world to sense data. This is because in projecting the sensory material to reconstruct the physical world, Carnap gives up the use of operating rules and switches to a procedure informed by general principles. This procedure falls short of providing an eliminative translation for the connective “is at”, which is necessary for the reduction. In dissecting Quine’s objection, I argue that Quine has at best proven the claim that the use of general principles essentially fails the task of radical reductionism. However, in order to establish the conclusion that the Aufbau fails in principle, Quine needs to further vindicate two other claims. They are: first, a switch from operating rules to general principles is necessary; second, the set of general principles Carnap adopts is the best alternative. By disambiguating the notion of “explicit definition” and examining the concept of definability in the Aufbau, I explore the possibility of justifying these two claims that Quine overlooks in his objection. The result suggests that Quine’s objection stands in tension with his radical reductionist reading of the Aufbau.

The volume also contains a review of Anna Boncompagni’s Wittgenstein and Pragmatism. On Certainty in the Light of Peirce and James, written by Annalisa Coliva.

JHAP is a free, open-access peer reviewed journal. It is available at https://jhaponline.org/. Submissions welcome!