Rudolf Carnap and David Lewis on Metaphysics

A Question of Historical Ancestry


  • Fraser MacBride University of Manchester



In an unpublished speech from 1991, David Lewis told his audience that he counted ‘the metaphysician Carnap (not to be confused with the anti-metaphysician Carnap, who is better known)’ amongst his historical ancestors. Here I provide a novel interpretation of the Aufbau that allows us to make sense of Lewis’s claim. Drawing upon Lewis’s correspondence, I argue it was the Carnap of the Aufbau whom Lewis read as a metaphysician, because Carnap’s appeal to the notion of founded relations in the Aufbau echoes Lewis’s own appeal to the metaphysics of natural properties. I further maintain that Lewis was right to read Carnap this way and that the notion of a founded relation has a legitimate claim to be both logical and metaphysical. I also argue that Carnap’s initial response to Goodman’s puzzle about ‘grue’ relies upon a metaphysics of simple properties which also prefigures Lewis’s own response to Goodman invoking natural properties.


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