Carnap and the Tractatus' Philosophy of Logic


  • Oskari Kuusela University of East Anglia



This article discusses the relation between the early Wittgenstein’s and Carnap’s philosophies of logic, arguing that Carnap’s position in The Logical Syntax of Language is in certain respects much closer to the Tractatus than has been recognized. In Carnapian terms, the Tractatus’ goal is to introduce, by means of quasi-syntactical sentences, syntactical principles and concepts to be used in philosophical clarification in the formal mode. A distinction between the material and formal mode is therefore already part of the Tractatus’ view, and its method for introducing syntactical concepts and principles should be entirely acceptable for Carnap by his own criteria. Moreover, despite the Tractatus’ rejection of syntactical statements, there is an important correspondence between Wittgenstein’s saying-showing distinction and Carnap’s object-language-syntax-language distinction: both constitute a distinction between logico-syntactical determinations concerning language and language as determined or described by those determinations. Wittgenstein’s distinction therefore constitutes a precursor of the object-language syntax-language distinction which the latter in a certain sense affirms, rather than simply contradicting it. The saying-showing distinction agrees with Carnap’s position also in marking logic as something that isn’t true/false about either language or reality, which is a conception that underlies Carnap’s principle of tolerance.


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Author Biography

Oskari Kuusela, University of East Anglia

School of Philosophy, Lecturer in philosophy