Enlightenment and Formal Romanticism - Carnap’s Account of Philosophy as Explication

Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 14:263 - 329 (2010)
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Carnap and Twentieth-Century Thought: Explication as En lighten ment is the first book in the English language that seeks to place Carnap's philosophy in a broad cultural, political and intellectual context. According to the author, Carnap synthesized many different cur rents of thought and thereby arrived at a novel philosophical perspective that remains strik ing ly relevant today. Whether the reader agrees with Carus's bold theses on Carnap's place in the landscape of twentieth-century philosophy, and his even bolder claims concerning the role that philosophy in Carnap's style should play in the thought of our century, does not matter so much as the excellent opportunity Carus's book offers to thoroughly rethink one's ideas about Carnap's philosophy. One reason why Carnap and Twentieth-Century Thought might change one's ideas is that Carus has unearthed much hitherto unknown material from the archives that sheds new light on Carnap's early life and thought. Indeed, the many archival findings presented in CTT for the first time suffice to make the book re warding reading for philosophers and historians of philosophy alike. CTT exhibits a high standard of historical scholarship, and the book itself is a beautiful example of high-quality academic publishing. Up to now, Carnap has remained a controversial figure on the philo sophical scene. On the one hand, he has a solid reputation as a leading figure of logical positivism . According to conventional wisdom, this was a school of thought characterized by its formal and technical philosophy, as well as being rather dismissive of other ways of doing philosophy, dogmatically sticking to its own theses. As a typical example of this arrogant logical empiricist attitude, one usually refers to Carnap's notorious Overcoming Metaphysics by Logical Analysis of Language , written when the Vienna Circle's Logical Empiricism had entered its most radical phase. Self-proclaimed postpositivist philosophers of science dismissed logical positivism, in particular Carnap's, as the dogmatic and orthodox “received view.” The tendency to portray logical empiricism as an obsolete doctrine centering around certain “dogmas” started with Quine's Two Dogmas of Empiricism and reached its somewhat ridiculous culmination in the early 1980s when allegedly “six or seven dogmas” were discovered . Thereby an allegedly un brid geable gap between classical “dogmatic” logical em pi ricism and its modern “enlightened” suc ces sors was construed

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Thomas Mormann
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München (PhD)


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