Course on Logical Positivism

I committed to teach a course on Logical Positivism next year, and I have to figure out which books I should order. Here’s a list; if you have any comments or ideas, please let me know.

Thats approx. 80 bucks. Plus some copies of Mach and Hilbert on geometry, passages from the Tractatus, Carnap and Quine on logical truth and convention, Two Dogmas, stuff like that. Sarkar, Logical Empiricism at Its Peak: Schlick, Carnap, and Neurath might be a good resource, but too expensive to make a required text.

7 thoughts on “Course on Logical Positivism

  1. These are just some random things; I don’t know whether any of them are really course text material, but lots of them are relevant and interesting.You could mention to students that Carnap’s “Meaning and Necessity” is one of the easiest to find philosophy books in secondhand bookshops, and its appendix contains “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology”, as well as “Meaning Postulates”, and “Meaning and Synonymy in Natural Languages.” Coffa’s “The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap.” The first chapter of Popper’s Objective Knowledge?Hempel – “Changes in the Empiricist Critierion of Meaning”Dick Jeffrey’s slides for his talk “I was a teenage logical positivist” are here .The first volume of Scott Soames’ history books has a couple of chapters on the positivists. Mark Johnston’s “Verificationism as Philosophical Narcissism” is very cool.  Posted by Gillian Russell

  2. Friedman’s book is very good. I’d suggest that _The Logical Syntax of Language_ is both better and more interesting than the _Logical Construction of the World_, but it might be less important to positivism as a trend. Syntax is a surprisingly interesting and readable book, especially since it at first looks like a logic text book in a formalism no one uses anymore. Papers by Tom Ricketts and Warren Goldfarb on Carnap are also excellent . Posted by Matt

  3. A few more thoughts- The Ayre anthology is good for giving a general over-view, though it can also give a misleading view if one isn’t careful. If you use it in connection w/ the Friedman book, or papers by Rickets and Goldfarb, it should be fine. I think it’s fine to use Language Truth and Logic as an example of “popular” positivism, but it would be a huge mistake to let the students think that Ayer’s own views, especially as presented there, were the most sophisticated or interesting ones. His views are closer to Schlick’s than any one elses, but Carnap and Neurath are much more interesting and sophisticated. Peter Galison’s article “Aufbau Bauhaus” might be fun for helping put the movement in its social context. Posted by Matt

  4. Hey the Aufbau is back in print! I had no idea.Perhaps you might want to do more stuff on the roots of positivism: Russel, Frege, all of the Tractatus? Looking at the roots might help see how people got to a place where verificationism seemed like a reasonable possibility. We read some of Our Knowledge of the External World in the symbolic logic class I’ve been teaching, and it helped put a lot of stuff in perspective.  Posted by rob loftis

  5. As to the influence of Tractatus and its author on Logical Positivism, there are some interesting passages in Monk’s “Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius” . Posted by Rafal

  6. Hey RichardI would probably go with the Coffa book as well. (At least that is what we used in a history of analytic philosophy class). Also, I just came across an edition of synthese which is exclusively on Carnap. It is volume 93 (1992) and has a dozen or so papers on Carnap’s philosophy — you might some useful papers and references there.Cheers,Philip Posted by Philip Ebert

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