On the Logical Positivists' Philosophy of Psychology: Laying a Legend to Rest

In Maria Carla Galavotti, Dennis Dieks, Wenceslao J. Gonzalez, Stephan Hartmann, Thomas Uebel & Marcel Weber (eds.), New Directions in Philosophy of Science. The Philosophy of Science in a European Perspective Vol. 5. Springer. pp. 711-726 (2014)
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The received view in the history of the philosophy of psychology is that the logical positivists—Carnap and Hempel in particular—endorsed the position commonly known as “logical” or “analytical” behaviourism, according to which the relations between psychological statements and the physical-behavioural statements intended to give their meaning are analytic and knowable a priori. This chapter argues that this is sheer legend: most, if not all, such relations were viewed by the logical positivists as synthetic and knowable only a posteriori. It then traces the origins of the legend to the logical positivists’ idiosyncratic extensional or at best weakly intensional use of what are now considered crucially strongly intensional semantic notions, such as “translation,” “meaning” and their cognates, focussing on a particular instance of this latter phenomenon, arguing that a conflation of explicit definition and analyticity may be the chief source of the legend.

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Sean Crawford
University of Manchester


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