Philosophy as conceptual engineering: Inductive logic in Rudolf Carnap's scientific philosophy

Dissertation, University of British Columbia (2015)
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My dissertation explores the ways in which Rudolf Carnap sought to make philosophy scientific by further developing recent interpretive efforts to explain Carnap’s mature philosophical work as a form of engineering. It does this by looking in detail at his philosophical practice in his most sustained mature project, his work on pure and applied inductive logic. I, first, specify the sort of engineering Carnap is engaged in as involving an engineering design problem and then draw out the complications of design problems from current work in history of engineering and technology studies. I then model Carnap’s practice based on those lessons and uncover ways in which Carnap’s technical work in inductive logic takes some of these lessons on board. This shows ways in which Carnap’s philosophical project subtly changes right through his late work on induction, providing an important corrective to interpretations that ignore the work on inductive logic. Specifically, I show that paying attention to the historical details of Carnap’s attempt to apply his work in inductive logic to decision theory and theoretical statistics in the 1950s and 1960s helps us understand how Carnap develops and rearticulates the philosophical point of the practical/theoretical distinction in his late work, offering thus a new interpretation of Carnap’s technical work within the broader context of philosophy of science and analytical philosophy in general.

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Christopher French
University of British Columbia


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