David Corfield
Rudolf Carnap

Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology

Can claims about the difference between internal and external questions be expressed in terms of type theory?

The world of things. Let us consider as an example the simplest kind of entities dealt with in the everyday language: the spatio-temporally ordered system of observable things and events. Once we have accepted the thing language with its framework for things, we can raise and answer internal questions, e.g., “Is there a white piece of paper on my desk?” “Did King Arthur actually live?”, “Are unicorns and centaurs real or merely imaginary?” and the like. These questions are to be answered by empirical investigations. Results of observations are evaluated according to certain rules as confirming or disconfirming evidence for possible answers. (This evaluation is usually carried out, of course, as a matter of habit rather than a deliberate, rational procedure. But it is possible, in a rational reconstruction, to lay down explicit rules for the evaluation. This is one of the main tasks of a pure, as distinguished from a psychological, epistemology.) The concept of reality occurring in these internal questions is an empirical scientific non-metaphysical concept. To recognize something as a real thing or event means to succeed in incorporating it into the system of things at a particular space-time position so that it fits together with the other things as real, according to the rules of the framework.

If someone decides to accept the thing language, there is no objection against saying that he has accepted the world of things. But this must not be interpreted as if it meant his acceptance of a belief in the reality of the thing world; there is no such belief or assertion or assumption, because it is not a theoretical question. To accept the thing world means nothing more than to accept a certain form of language, in other words, to accept rules for forming statements and for testing accepting or rejecting them. The acceptance of the thing language leads on the basis of observations made, also to the acceptance, belief, and assertion of certain statements. But the thesis of the reality of the thing world cannot be among these statements, because it cannot be formulated in the thing language or, it seems, in any other theoretical language.

The acceptance of a new kind of entities is represented in the language by the introduction of a framework of new forms of expressions to be used according to a new set of rules. There may be new names for particular entities of the kind in question; but some such names may already occur in the language before the introduction of the new framework. (Thus, for example, the thing language contains certainly words of the type of “blue” and “house” before the framework of properties is introduced; and it may contain words like “ten” in sentences of the form “I have ten fingers” before the framework of numbers is introduced.) The latter fact shows that the occurrence of constants of the type in question – regarded as names of entities of the new kind after the new framework is introduced – is not a sure sign of the acceptance of the new kind of entities. Therefore the introduction of such constants is not to be regarded as an essential step in the introduction of the framework. The two essential steps are rather the following. First, the introduction of a general term, a predicate of higher level, for the new kind of entities, permitting us to say for any particular entity that it belongs to this kind (e.g., “Red is a property,” “Five is a number”). Second, the introduction of variables of the new type. The new entities are values of these variables; the constants (and the closed compound expressions, if any) are substitutable for the variables. With the help of the variables, general sentences concerning the new entities can be formulated.

Type declarations and term introduction

Footnote 2 for nature of proposition. See Meaning and Necessity p. 27.

(a) Chicago is large is a proposition. (We disregard here the fact that the rules of English grammar require not a sentence but a that-clause as the subject of another sentence; accordingly instead of (a) we should have to say “That Chicago is large is a proposition.”)

p. 8 discussion rather like definitional equality of HoTT, p. 19.


Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology, pdf

Last revised on April 8, 2020 at 04:55:36. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.