Empiricism semantics and ontology carn essay

Quine are two influential philosophers of the twentieth century that possess a different ontology, or account of what exists in the world.

Empiricism semantics and ontology carn essay

Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology Rudolph Carnap [In this essay Carnap is concerned with the question of the "reality" of the sorts of what he calls "abstract entities" which are not the objects of direct observation.

Examples of such "abstract objects" include the objects of mathematics, propositions in languages, classes, and relations between objects. While earlier positivists had wanted to ban "metaphysical" questions about the "reality" of things from meaningful discourse altogether, their attempt to "reduce" all knowledge to a foundation of observation statements about "sense data" in effect was committed to the metaphysical view that such "sense data" are the real things of which reality consists, a metaphysical view known as "phenomenalism.

Such questions that take the linguistic framework as given are called by Carnap "internal" questions to that framework i. However, if one steps "outside" the framework, and asks not whether statements referring to such entities are meaningful in this language, but whether this language is the "correct" or "true" framework which "corresponds to "reality," then one is asking what Carnap calls an "external question.

The linguistic framework itself cannot be meaningfully said to "correspond" or "not correspond" to "reality"; instead Carnap now tells us it "can only be judged as being more or less expedient, fruitful, conducive to the aim for which the language is intended.

Judgments of this kind supply the motivation for the decision of accepting or rejecting the kind of entities. This is naturally problematic for the empiricist who wants to justify scientific claims to knowledge, giving the positivist a sort of "uneasy conscience": Empiricists are in general rather suspicious with respect to any kind of abstract entities like properties, classes, relations, numbers, propositions, etc.

They usually feel much more in sympathy with nominalists than with realists in the medieval sense. As far as possible they try to avoid any reference to abstract entities and to restrict themselves to what is sometimes called a nominalistic language, i.

However, within certain scientific contexts it seems hardly possible to avoid them. In the case of mathematics, some empiricists try to find a way out by treating the whole of mathematics as a mere calculus, a formal system for which no interpretation is given or can be given.

Accordingly, the mathematician is said to speak not about numbers, functions, and infinite classes, but merely about meaningless symbols and formulas manipulated according to given formal rules. In physics it is more difficult to shun the suspected entities, because the language of physics serves for the communication of reports and predictions and hence cannot be taken as a mere calculus.

A physicist who is suspicious of abstract entities may perhaps try to declare a certain part of the language of physics as uninterpreted and uninterpretable, that part which refers to real numbers as space-time coordinates or as values of physical magnitudes, to functions, limits, etc.

More probably he will just speak about all these things like anybody else but with an uneasy conscience, like a man who in his everyday life does with qualms many things which are not in accord with the high moral principles he professes on Sundays.

Recently the problem of abstract entities has arisen again in connection with semantics, the theory of meaning and truth. Some semanticists say that certain expressions designate certain entities, and among these designated entities they include not only concrete material things but also abstract entities, e.

Empiricism semantics and ontology carn essay

Thus he hope to help epiricists who find it necessary to refer to such abstract entities in their scientific claims, as must all use of mathematics, to "overcome" their "nominalistic scruples": It is the purpose of this article to clarify this controversial issue.

The nature and implications of the acceptance of a language referring to abstract entities will first be discussed in general; it will be shown that using such a language does not imply embracing a Platonic ontology but is perfectly compatible with empiricism and strictly scientific thinking.

Then the special question of the role of abstract entities in semantics will be discussed. It is hoped that the clarification of the issue will be useful to those who would like to accept abstract entities in their work in mathematics, physics, semantics, or any other field; it may help them to overcome nominalistic scruples.

Are there properties, classes, numbers, propositions? In order to understand more clearly the nature of these and related problems it is above all necessary to recognize a fundamental distinction between two kinds of questions concerning the existence or reality of entities.

If someone wishes to speak in his language about a new kind of entities, he has to introduce a system of new ways of speaking, subject to new rules; we shall call this procedure the construction of a linguistic framework for the new entities in question.

And now we must distinguish two kinds of questions of existence: Internal questions and possible answers to them are formulated with the help of the new forms of expressions. The answers may be found either by purely logical methods or by empirical methods, depending upon whether the framework is a logical or a factual one.

An external question is of a problematic character which is in need of closer examination. One linguistic framework one might adopt, the one which is in fact the one ordinarily adopted both by Carnap and everyone who uses "everyday language," is what Carnap calls the "thing language" which refers to "observable things and events.

The world of things Let us consider as an example the simplest kind of entities dealt with in the everyday language: Once we have accepted the thing language with its framework for things, we can raise and answer internal questions, e. These questions are to be answered by empirical investigations.

Results of observations are evaluated according to certain rules as confirming or disconfirming evidence for possible answers. This evaluation is usually carried out, of course, as a matter of habit rather than a deliberate, rational procedure.

But it is possible, in a rational reconstruction, to lay down explicit rules for the evaluation. This is one of the main tasks of a pure, as distinguished from a psychological, epistemology.

The concept of reality occurring in these internal questions is an empirical, scientific, non-metaphysical concept. To recognize something as a real thing or event means to succeed in incorporating it into the system of things at a particular space-time position so that it fits together with the other things recognized as real, according to the rules of the framework.

However, if we attempt to ask "external questions" about the "reality" of the thing world itself, the sort of question the metaphysician as opposed to the ordinary language user asks, we generate an insoluble metaphysical puzzle, which realists and idealists try to answer in their opposing ways.

The position that Carnap defends now is not that such disputes are meaningless, but are to recongized as practical questions about the choice of a linguistic framework: “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” by Rudolf Carnap I. The Problem of Abstract Entities Empiricists attempt to limit themselves to nominalistic language, a language not containing references to abstract entities such as properties, classes, relations, numbers, propositions, etc.

The essay makes a case for looking at Nehruvian science as a way of structuring the problem of postcolonial science, particularly in relation to understanding the authority of science and its evaluation in terms of its capacity to deliver socioeconomic change.

This violates the basic principles of empiricism and leads back to a metaphysical ontology3 of the platonic kind. Carnap rejects the idea that the use of such language embraces Platonic ontology, but is rather compatible with empiricism and scientific thinking. But he wasn t really moved to write until a powerful experience in the summer of brought his pen together with his passion for the natural world, and he wrote his first heartfelt essay.

That essay began a life path devoted to natural history, nature conservation, and language and how they all meet in the literature of the land. Xirau, a few years before writing this essay, wrote a review for the Spanish translation of the Scienza Nuova, a reading which results we present in this paper.

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Rudolf Carnap, Empiricism, semantics, and ontology - PhilPapers