Carnapian explication, formalisms as cognitive tools, and the paradox of adequate formalization

Synthese 194 (1):195-215 (2017)

Authors
Erich Reck
University of California, Riverside
Abstract
Explication is the conceptual cornerstone of Carnap’s approach to the methodology of scientific analysis. From a philosophical point of view, it gives rise to a number of questions that need to be addressed, but which do not seem to have been fully addressed by Carnap himself. This paper reconsiders Carnapian explication by comparing it to a different approach: the ‘formalisms as cognitive tools’ conception. The comparison allows us to discuss a number of aspects of the Carnapian methodology, as well as issues pertaining to formalization in general. We start by introducing Carnap’s conception of explication, arguing that there is a tension between his proposed criteria of fruitfulness and similarity; we also argue that his further desideratum of exactness is less crucial than might appear at first. We then bring in the general idea of formalisms as cognitive tools, mainly by discussing the reliability of so-called statistical prediction rules, i.e. simple algorithms used to make predictions across a range of areas. SPRs allow for a concrete instantiation of Carnap’s fruitfulness desideratum, which is arguably the most important desideratum for him. Finally, we elaborate on what we call the ‘paradox of adequate formalization’, which for the Carnapian corresponds to the tension between similarity and fruitfulness. We conclude by noting that formalization is an inherently paradoxical enterprise in general, but one worth engaging in given the ‘cognitive boost’ it affords as a tool for discovery.
Keywords Carnap  Explication  Statistical Prediction Rules  Formalization  Cognitive artifacts  Enlightenment
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0816-z
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References found in this work BETA

Logical Foundations of Probability.Rudolf Carnap - 1950 - Chicago]University of Chicago Press.
Meaning and Necessity.Rudolf Carnap - 1947 - University of Chicago Press.
The Frege Reader.Gottlob Frege & Michael Beaney (eds.) - 1997 - Blackwell.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Points of Concepts: Their Types, Tensions, and Connections.Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - Canadian Journal of Philosophy:1-24.
Carnapian Explications, Experimental Philosophy, and Fruitful Concepts.Steffen Koch - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-18.
How Do Logics Explain?Nicole Wyatt & Gillman Payette - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (1):157-167.

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