Wittgenstein: Connections and Controversies

By P. M. S. Hacker | Go to book overview

12 On Carnap's Elimination of Metaphysics

1 Background: The Manifesto of the Vienna Circle

Carnap's 'The Elimination of Metaphysics through the Logical Analysis of Language' was published in 1931/2 in Erkenntnis. It was a revised version of a lecture Carnap had given in November 1930 at the University of Warsaw. Over the years, this iconoclastic article attracted considerable attention. It was translated into French (1934), Portuguese (1945), Italian (1950), English (1959), and Spanish (1959). In Schilpp's volume The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap (1963) in The Library of Living Philosophers series, Carnap's erstwhile colleague in the Vienna Circle Philipp Frank remarked that 'Among the numerous writings of Carnap probably none has had so great and wide an effect as th[is] paper'. It was undoubtedly an important contribution to the doctrines of that most influential of twentieth-century schools of philosophy—logical positivism or, less misleadingly, 'logical empiricism'. Indeed, it greatly influenced the primary English statement of the doctrines of the Vienna Circle—namely A. J. Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic (1936), the first chapter of which was entitled 'The Elimination of Metaphysics' and drew heavily upon Carnap's paper.

It is noteworthy that the fundamental ideas developed in the paper had already been incorporated into the 1929 Manifesto The Scientific Conception of the World: The Vienna Circle written for the conference of the Ernst Mach Society and the Berlin Society for Empirical Philosophy in September 1929, and dedicated to Moritz Schlick. The Manifesto was signed by Hahn, Neurath, and Carnap (although apparently Feigl and Waismann wrote parts of it, and Hahn had little to do with the drafting). The opening page of the Manifesto already nails the colours of the Circle to the mast of an anti-metaphysical crusade: the spirit of the scientific conception of the world is an heir to the Enlightenment and dedicated to the eradication of metaphysics. The principled rejection of metaphysics is traced to such Enlightenment

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