Rudolf Carnap

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Carnap, Rudolf

(kär`näp, –năp), 1891–1970, German-American philosopher. He taught philosophy at the Univ. of Vienna (1926–31) and at the German Univ. in Prague (1931–35). After going to the United States he taught at the Univ. of Chicago (1936–52) and at the Univ. of California at Los Angeles (1954–62). Carnap was one of the most influential of contemporary philosophers; he is known as a founder of logical positivismlogical positivism,
also known as logical or scientific empiricism, modern school of philosophy that attempted to introduce the methodology and precision of mathematics and the natural sciences into the field of philosophy. The movement, which began in the early 20th cent.
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 and made important contributions to logic, semantics, and the philosophy of science. In Logische Syntax der Sprache (1934; tr. The Logical Syntax of Language, 1937) he defined philosophy as "the logic of the sciences" and considered it a general language whose only legitimate concern could be to describe and criticize the language of the particular sciences. All propositions were held to be either tautological (embodying logical or mathematical systems), scientific (embodying philosophy properly understood), or nonsensical (embodying the nonverifiable propositions of traditional philosophy). Through an analysis of scientific, logical, and mathematical language he revealed the inadequacies of everyday speech. Carnap later modified this extreme view, which rejects almost all of traditional philosophy. His other works include Introduction to Semantics (1942), Meaning and Necessity (1947, 2d ed. 1956), Logical Foundations of Probability (1950), and Einführung in die symbolische Logik (1954; tr. Introduction to Symbolic Logic and its Applications, 1958).


See studies by P. A. Schilpp, ed. (1963, repr. 1984) and R. Butrick (1970).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Carnap, Rudolf


Born May 18, 1891, in Wuppertal; died Sept. 16, 1970, in Santa Maria, Calif. German-American philosopher and logician; a leading logical positivist and philosopher of science.

Carnap taught at the University of Vienna from 1926 to 1931 and was a professor of philosophy at the German University in Prague from 1931 to 1935. In 1935 he emigrated to the USA, where he was a professor at the University of Chicago from 1936 to 1952 and at the University of California from 1954 until his death. He was a member of the American Academy of Sciences.

Influenced by L. Wittgenstein and B. Russell, Carnap considered the task of the philosophy of science to be the analysis of the structure of knowledge in the natural sciences so that, with the help of mathematical logic, the fundamental concepts of science would be made more precise. Three stages may be discerned in the evolution of Carnap’s work. In the first period, which lasted until the early 1930’s, Carnap was a member of the Vienna Circle and elaborated the ideas of logical empiricism. He advanced several radical neopositivist views, such as physical-ism, and denied the character of philosophy as a world view. In the second period Carnap advanced the thesis that the logic of science is the analysis of purely syntactical connections between propositions, concepts, and theories; he denied the possibility of scientific discussion of questions concerning the nature of real objects and their relation to the propositions of the language of science. Carnap developed the theory of logical syntax, constructing a language for the extended predicate calculus with equality and with a rule of infinite induction as an instrument for the logical analysis of scientific language.

In the third period, after 1936, Carnap was occupied with the construction of a “unified language of science.” He came to the conclusion that a purely syntactical approach was inadequate and that it was necessary to consider semantics as well, that is, the relation between language and the field of objects described by it. On the basis of his semantic theory, Carnap constructed inductive logic as a logic of probability. He also developed a formalized theory of inductive conclusions (in particular, conclusions by analogy) and elaborated a theory of semantic information. He also wrote about semantic interpretation and the quantification of modal logic. Several of his results were used in research on cybernetics by MacCulloch, Peets, and Warren. In his final years Carnap rejected many of the views he had held in the first stage of his career and stated more resolutely his belief in the existence of “unobserved material objects” as the basis for constructing logical systems. However, failure to understand the dialectics of knowledge prevented Carnap from developing this natural-scientific, materialist tendency.

In the area of social issues in the USA, Carnap was a resolute opponent of racial discrimination and American aggression in Vietnam.


Der logische Aufbau der Welt. Berlin-Schlachtensee, 1928.
Scheinprobleme in der Philosophie. Berlin-Schlachtensee, 1928.
Abriss der Logistik. Vienna, 1929.
Der logische Syntax der Sprache. Vienna, 1934.
Studies in Semantics, vols. 1–2. Cambridge, Mass., 1942–43.
Testability and Meaning, 2nd ed. New Haven, Conn., 1954.
The Continuum of Inductive Methods. Chicago, 1952.
Logical Foundations of Probability, 2nd ed. Chicago, 1962.
In Russian translation:
Znachenie i neobkhodimosV. Moscow, 1959.
Filosofskie osnovaniia fiziki: Vvedenie v filosofiiu nauki. Moscow, 1971. (Contains bibliography.)


Narskii, I. S. Sovremennyi pozitivizm. Moscow, 1961.
Smirnov, V. A. “O dostoinstvakh i oshibkakh odnoi logiko-filosofskoi kontseptsii.” In Filosofiia marksizma i neopozitivizm. Moscow, 1963.
Hill, T. Sovremennye teorii poznaniia. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from English.)
P. A. Schilpp, ed. The Philosophy of Rudolph Carnap. La Salle (111.)-London, 1963. (Contains a bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Carnap, Rudolf

(1891–1970) philosopher; born in Rondsdorf, Germany. After earning a doctorate from the University of Jena, he taught at the University of Vienna (1926–31) and became a leader of the Vienna Circle of logical positivists. Emigrating to the U.S.A. in 1935 to escape Nazism, he held posts at the University of Chicago (1936–52), the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton (1952–54), and the University of California (from 1955). A pioneer in the rigorous analytic tradition, he wrote such works as The Logical Syntax of Language (translated 1937), Meaning and Necessity (1947), and Logical Foundations of Probability (1950).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.