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. Rudolf Carnap’s article “Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology” deals with the implications of accepting language which refers to abstract entities. Empiricists. Carnap, “Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology”. Major Premise: Accepting the existence abstract entities involves a pragmatic decision to use a certain linguistic.

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But this must not be interpreted as if it meant his acceptance of a belief in the reality of the oontology world; there is no such belief or assertion or assumption, because it is not a theoretical question. Others object, claiming that this designation violates the basic principle of empiricism and leads back to a metaphysical ontology of the platonic kind.

John Stuart Mill, Frege, and Russell. 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.

Because of space, I will not go into further details Carnap discusses about the empirixism of integers, rational numbers wemantics real numbers that is a little too heavy for evening philosophy anyway! Influenced by ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Circle rejected both the thesis of the reality of the external world and the thesis of its irreality as pseudo-statements; 6 the same was the case for both the thesis of the reality of universals abstract entities, in our present terminology and the nominalistic thesis that caenap are not real and that their alleged names are not names of anything but merely flatus vocis.

The history of science shows examples of such prohibitions based on prejudices deriving from religious, mythological, metaphysical, or other irrational sources, which slowed up the developments for shorter or longer periods of time.

They do, of course, not mean the internal question; the affirmative answer empirocism this question is analytic and trivial and too obvious for doubt or denial, as we carna; seen. Appeal to ontological insight will not carry much weight. I will briefly summarize this framework again: Maybe Ryle is historically right with respect to those whom he mentions as previous representatives of the principle, viz.

Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology

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.


Therefore every sentence of the form “.

An alleged statement of the reality of the system of entities is a pseudo-statement without cognitive content. Therefore the introduction of such constants is not to be regarded as an essential step in the introduction of the framework.

With the help of the variables, general sentences about the new entities can be formulated e. Therefore nobody who meant the question “Are there numbers? But if this conception leads to the view that other philosophers or scientists who accept abstract entities thereby assert or imply their occurrence as immediate data, then such a view must be rejected as a misinterpretation. To begin with, there is the internal question which together with the affirmative answer, can be formulated in the empieicism terms, say by “There are numbers” or, more explicitly, “There is an n such that n semanttics a empiricsim.

It can only be judged as being more or less expedient, fruitful, conducive to the aim for which the language is intended. Within the system of propositionsthe very term “proposition” is introduced, where any declarative sentence may be substituted for a variable. Sign in to use this feature.

notes on “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology”

To decree dogmatic prohibitions of certain linguistic forms instead of testing them by their success or failure in practical use, is worse than futile; it is positively harmful because it may obstruct scientific progress. Perhaps the discussions in the present paper will help in clarifying the semantocs of the system of linguistic rules for the introduction of a framework for entities onntology the one hand, and that of extra-systematic explanations concerning the nature of the entities on the other.

Are there really numbers, properties, space-time points, propositions, and even things themselves? Again, Carnap feels that the questions of the reality of physical space and physical time are pseudo-questions. First, the introduction of a general term, a predicate of higher level, for the new kind of entities, permitting us to say for any particular entity that it belongs to this kind e. Some of the criticisms by English philosophers against such references give the impression that, probably due to the misinterpretation just indicated, they accuse the semanticist not so emliricism of bad metaphysics as some nominalists would do but of bad psychology.


The psychological question as to which kinds carmap entities do and which do not occur as immediate data is entirely irrelevant for semantics, just as it is for physics, mathematics, economic;, etc. Thus, for example, Ernest Nagel in his review 9 asks for “evidence relevant for affirming with warrant that there are such entities as infinitesimals or propositions. On Quine on Carnap on Ontology.


On the other hand, the decision to use three rather than two or four spatial coordinates is strongly suggested, but still not forced upon us, by the result of common observations. It only means acceptance of the new framework ; i. It is obvious that the apparent negation of a pseudo-statement must also be a pseudo-statement.

This acceptance is not in need of a theoretical justification except with respect to expediency and fruitfulnessbecause it does not imply a belief or assertion.

A true answer is either factually true, using empirical methods of analysis, or analytic, using logical methods. This holds, for example, for the sentence:. Thus, for example, the thing language contains certainly words of the type of “blue” and “house” before the framework of properties is introduced; and it may contain words like “ten” in sentences of the form “I have ten fingers” before the framework of numbers is introduced.

However, it would prevent the use of ordinary geometry which says, e. After the new forms are introduced into the language, it is possible to formulate with their help internal questions and possible answers to them.

This gives me the right to use the linguistic forms of the numerical framework and to make semantical statements about numbers as designata of numerals.

The new entities are values of these variables; the constants and the closed compound expressions, if any are substitutable for the variables. To move on to this physical coordinate system is again a matter of decision of how to use language. In our last example, the new entities are space-time points in the epiricism coordinate system for physics.