Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) was a pioneering German philosopher in logical positivism, empiricism, and symbolic logic. He is recognized as one of the greatest representatives of the philosophy of science of the early twentieth century, because he notably contributed to the consolidation of a paradigm of scientific rigor within philosophy.
Then we will see the biography of Rudolf Carnap, Including some of the most important aspects of his life and work.
Rudolf Carnap: biography of a philosopher of science
Rudolf Carnap was born on May 18, 1891 in Ronsdorf, a municipality in northwestern Germany. From 1910 to 1914 he was trained in philosophy and traditional logic, as well as mathematics, At the University of Jena.
In this institution he worked with Gottlob Frege, who was recognized as the greatest representative of mathematical logic of the nineteenth century. At the same university, but in 1921 he graduated as a doctor with research on the concept of space, Which he divided into three types: formal space, physical space and intuitive space.
From there he began to develop in important ways as a philosopher of science and discusses theories of symbolic logic and physics; at this point he also addressed issues related to time and causation.
The Viennese circle and logical empiricism
At the intellectual dawn of twentieth-century Vienna, there was a small group of philosophers and mathematicians who they met to discuss some topics related to philosophy and science. This group was known as the Vienna Circle, and its founder, the logical empiricist Moritz Schlick, invited Carnap to work with them, within the circle and also at the University of Vienna.
Part of the work of the Vienna Circle was to create a scientific perspective of the world, where it was possible to apply the precision of the exact sciences to philosophical reflections and theories. Unlike the traditional logical approach, which studies the principles of proof and verification of inferences by language without strict formalization; Rudolf carnap he defended the principles of symbolic logic or mathematical logic. The latter translates and systematizes, through a formalist language, intuitive notions of mathematics such as sets, numbers, algorithms, among others.
Using the concept of the criterion of stability, Carnap and another philosopher of logical empiricism rejected the more speculative traditions of theology and metaphysics, not so much for seeing them as false, but for failing to make meaningful statements. in logical and formalistic terms. In addition, they felt that many of the philosophical questions did not make real sense and were asked by excessive rhetoric and language.
Carnap’s logical empiricism in Germany and the United States
From there he established various links with philosophers of science of the empiricist tradition who worked in Germany, and finally in 1930 he created a special forum for the development of a new scientific philosophy, called Erkenntniss.
Under the influence of German empiricism, Carnap argued that first-order terms and statements were reducible to second-order terms. by a principle known as the principle of reducibility.
Accordingly, all concepts used to describe empirical facts are completely definable by terms that refer exclusively to aspects of immediate experience. Then all empirical statements are likely to become statements about immediate experiences.
In his period within the circle and the University of Vienna, Carnap developed a more liberal approach to empiricismHence he argued that the concepts of empirical science are not completely definable in purely experiential terms; but that at least they can be defined by “reduction statements” and “observation statements”. The latter may serve to confirm an empirical claim, but not so much to offer a strict proof of existence or a rebuttal.
Finally, he worked as a professor and researcher at the University of Prague, but faced with the conflicting political context before World War II, Carnap went to the United States, where he was nationalized in 1941. University of Chicago, in as a researcher at Harvard, then at UCLA. Thanks to new influences and interests, Carnap continued to theorize on semantics, principle of verification, probability, induction and philosophy of language.
The most important publication of Rudolf Carnap, who, among others, consecrated it as one of the most important logical positivists of the twentieth century, Was the book Logical Syntax of Language, from the year 1934. It argued that there is no real logic or language, beyond the specific goals that are pursued when we use it.
The other most important works of Rudolf Carnap are Des Logische Aufbau der Welt (The Logical Structure of the World) and Pseudoproblems of Philosophy, both dating from 1928. Among the most recent and notable works are Two entropy essays, 1977; two volumes of studies on inductive logic and probability, from 1971 and 1980 respectively; and Metallogics, 1995.
- Duignan, B. and Hempel, C. (2018). Rudolf Carnap. Accessed July 23, 2018.Available at https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rudolf-Carnap.
- Arthur, P. (1963). The philosophy of Rudolf Carnap. Accessed July 23, 2018.Available at http://fitelson.org/confirmation/carnap_schilpp_volume.pdf.