Rudolf Carnap

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Rudolf Carnap (May 18, 1891 – September 14, 1970) was an influential German-born philosopher who was active in Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter. He was a leading member of the Vienna Circle and a prominent advocate of logical positivism.


Life and work

Carnap was born to a west German family that had been humble until his parents' generation. He began his formal education at the Barmen Gymnasium. From 1910 to 1914, he attended the University of Jena, intending to write a thesis in physics. But he also carefully studied Kant's Critique of Pure Reason in a course taught by Bruno Bauch, and was one of very few students to take Frege's courses in mathematical logic. After serving in the German army during World War I for three years, he was given permission to study physics at the University of Berlin, 1917–18, where Albert Einstein was a newly appointed professor. Carnap then attended the University of Jena, where he wrote a thesis setting out an axiomatic theory of space and time. The physics department said it was too philosophical, and Bruno Bauch of the philosophy department said it was pure physics. Carnap then wrote another thesis, under Bauch's supervision, on the theory of space from a more orthodox Kantian point of view, and published as Der Raum (Space) in a supplemental issue of Kant-Studien (1922).

In 1921, Carnap wrote a letter to Bertrand Russell, who responded by copying out by hand long passages from his Principia Mathematica for Carnap's benefit, as neither Carnap nor Freiburg could afford a copy of this epochal work. In 1924 and 1925, he attended seminars led by Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, and continued to write on physics from a logical positivist perspective.

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