A Defence of the Notion of ‘Foundedness’ in Carnap’s Aufbau

The New Collection 14:68-87 (2020)
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In Der logische Aufbau der Welt, first published in 1928, Carnap aims to rationally reconstruct all objects of cognition by logico-definitional means. As a result, he intends to obtain a fully objective framework in which scientific discourse can take place. This is made possible by the novel method of ‘purely structural definite description’ of all scientifically relevant objects, which is first introduced in the Aufbau. Key to the attainment of this goal is the notion of ‘foundedness’, which Carnap presents as a new basic notion of logic, in order to establish a link between the purely conventional world of logical and mathematical knowledge and the empirical world of knowledge of scientific objects. This idea experienced major criticism by Friedman (1999a,b) since he considers it to lead to the demolition of the boundary between those two worlds. In this essay, we want to defend foundedness against Friedman’s critique by arguing that its introduction is necessary within Carnap’s logicist world of thought to deal with a more fundamental problem: the demarcation of the empirical parts of the Aufbau. In the last section, we will give an outlook on the actual cause for the failure of the Aufbau, the lack of a principle to determine the truth of the instances of the basic relation in the Aufbau, and we will show how this can contribute to the explanation of Carnap’s future philosophical development and retrospective self-evaluation. This essay serves as a dense informal sketch for a later extensive formal treatment of this reading of foundedness and focuses on its implications for the interpretation of Carnap’s post-Aufbau development.

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Sophie Nagler
University of St. Andrews


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