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Rudolf Carnap: biography of this analytical philosopher

Rudolf Carnap: biography of this analytical philosopher

November 27, 2021

Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970) was a German philosopher pioneer in logical positivism, empiricism and symbolic logic. It is recognized as one of the greatest exponents of the philosophy of science of the early twentieth century, since among other things it 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.

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Rudolf Carnap: biography of a philosopher of science

Rudolf Carnap was born on May 18, 1891 in Ronsdorf, a municipality located in northwestern Germany. From the year 1910 to the year 1914 he was trained in philosophy and traditional logic, as well as in mathematics , at the University of Jena.

In this institution he worked together with Gottlob Frege, who was recognized as the greatest exponent of nineteenth-century mathematical logic. In the same university, but in the year of 1921 he graduated as a doctor with an investigation on the concept of space , which divided into three types: the formal space, the physical space and the intuitive space.

From this he began to develop in an important way as a philosopher of science and discusses the theories of symbolic logic and physics; At that time he also addressed issues related to time and causality.

The Vienna circle and logical empiricism

In the intellectual beginnings of twentieth-century Vienna, there was a small group of philosophers and mathematicians who they met to discuss some issues related to philosophy and science . This group was known as the circle of Vienna, and its founder, the logical empiricist Moritz Schlick, had invited Carnap to work together 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 would be possible to apply the precision of the exact sciences in reflections and philosophical theories. In contrast to the traditional logic approach, which studies the principles of demonstration and verification of inferences through a language without strict formalization; Rudolf Carnap 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.

Through the concept of stability criterion, Carnap and other philosophers of logical empiricism rejected the more speculative traditions of theology and metaphysics, not so much because they are considered false but because they do not make significant statements in logical and formalistic terms. In addition, they considered that many of the philosophical questions did not have a real sense, and that they were posed by rhetoric and excessive language.

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Logical empiricism of Carnap in Germany and the United States

From here he made different connections with philosophers of science of empiricist tradition working in Germany, and finally, in the year 1930 created a special forum for the development of a new scientific philosophy, called Erkenntniss.

Through the influence of German empiricism, Carnap argued that first-order terms and statements were reducible to those of the second order. through a principle known as the principle of reducibility .

Accordingly, all the concepts used to describe empirical facts are completely definable by terms that refer exclusively to aspects of immediate experience. Then, all empirical statements are susceptible to becoming statements about immediate experiences.

In his period within the circle and the University of Vienna, Carnap developed a more liberal approach to empiricism , from which he argued that the concepts of empirical science are not completely definable by purely experiential terms; but that, at least, can be defined by "reduction statements" and "observation statements". The latter can serve to confirm an empirical statement, although not so much to offer a strict proof of existence or refutation.

Finally he worked as a professor and researcher at the University of Prague, but faced with the conflictive political context prior to the Second World War, Carnap went to the United States, where he was nationalized in the year 1941.In this country he worked as a professor at the University of Chicago, as a researcher at Harvard and later at UCLA. Through new influences and interests, Carnap continued to theorize about semantics, the principle of verification, probability, induction and philosophy of language .

Outstanding works

The most important publication of Rudolf Carnap, which among other things consecrated him as one of the most important logical positivists of the twentieth century It was the book Language logical syntax, of the year 1934. He argued that there is no logic or true language, beyond the specific objectives pursued when we use it.

Other of Rudolf Carnap's most important works are Des Logische Aufbau der Welt (The logical structure of the world), and Pseudoproblems of philosophy, both from the year 1928. Among the most recent and also outstanding works are Two essays in entropy, 1977; two volumes of Studies in inductive logic and probability, of 1971 and 1980 respectively; Y Metalogical, of 1995.

Bibliographic references:

  • Duignan, B. & Hempel, C. (2018). Rudolf Carnap. Retrieved July 23, 2018. Available at //
  • Arthur, P. (1963). The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap. Retrieved July 23, 2018. Available at //

Carnap on Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology (November 2021).

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