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Carnap, Feyerabend and the pragmatic theory of observation

Kuby, Daniel (2018) Carnap, Feyerabend and the pragmatic theory of observation. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Paul Feyerabend once made a remark to the effect that his pragmatic theory of observation can be traced back to proposals put forward by leading Logical Empiricists during the height of the protocol sentence debate. In this paper I want to vindicate the systematic side of Feyerabend’s remark and show that a pragmatic theory of observation can in fact be found in Rudolf Carnap’s writings of 1932. I first proceed to dispel a misunderstanding concerning the term “pragmatic” raised by Thomas Oberdan. Following Morris’ and Carnap’s documented usage, I show that the intended meaning of “pragmatic” refers to a specific semiotic relation between users of a language and their environment describable by empirical means (specifically, the causal relation between the verbal behavior of language users and their environment). I reconstruct such a pragmatic theory in terms of a detector model that interprets observation sentences as bodily dispositions indicating physical events in the surroundings of the detector. I then proceed to show how Feyerabend’s later theory of observation picks up central features of Carnap’s account and also shares some of the motivations. I conclude by noting how an empirical theory of observation sentences offers a bootstrapping solution to the “basis problem”.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Kuby, Daniel0000-0002-7779-7500
Additional Information: Accepted for publication in The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS).
Keywords: Rudolf Carnap; Paul Feyerabend; Pragmatic theory of observation sentences; protocol sentence debate; Physicalism.
Subjects: General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Dr. Daniel Kuby
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2018 21:52
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2018 21:52
Item ID: 14288
Subjects: General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 2018
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14288

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