Saturday, September 4, 2010

Carnap Part 2

OK, I've seriously got to socialize with other humans, I'm starting to get cabin fever.
Oh, and what the crap am I doing at 3 am on a Friday night, drinking wine by myself and
writing about R. Carnap?

In the previous post I introduced R. Carnap, his overarching Enlightenment objectives, the forces confronting his view, and his first attempt at reconciling the Romantic with the Enlightenment. What I will do today is to look at the two key problems he faced and how he proposed to overcome them.

The First Problem: A Clear Definition of Knowledge

The opposition to classical enlightenment thinking is that by putting reason, logic, and scientific thinking, methodology, and language on such a high pedestal; the fuzzier areas of human knowledge--ethics, politics, emotions, the arts, spirituality--were relegated to second rate status. Another way of framing this is consider if we should give different epistemological status to different types of knowledge ----subjective folk knowledge vs objective scientific knowledge. Recall Carnap's first attempt to unify our different fields of knowledge by simply eliminating any term or concept that couldn't be exactly quantified and utilized in an artificial objective language of logic. The downfall of his "radical reductionism" was that everyday language and knowledge were, by the definition, valueless.
Hip Hop clown's response: That's so wack! I have lots of important stuffs to rap about!
Me: Nu-uh!
Hip Hop clown: Oh no, you di'int!
Me: Yup, I did.


The Second Problem: The Connection Between Technical/Scientific Knowledge/Language and Everyday Knowledge/Language

The second problem is that if we grant one type of knowledge special status, how then does the one system of knowledge interact with the other? To better understand the problem lets take a step back for a second. Recall that the whole goal of the Enlightenment undertaking is to use reason to improve our social and personal systems so we can better ourselves and live richer more meaningful lives. With this context in mind we can see that there is a going to be a problem if we separate different forms of knowledge, ways of knowing, and language. We need the scientific language/knowledge for the practical realm. The problem is that by separating the two realms we are implicitly saying that they operate on different principles, respectively. In the realm of everyday affairs people don't use the language of science or the methods of science. In many cases it would be entirely impractical. Yet, we need the scientific domain and it's concepts and language to improve the practical domain. So, how do we connect the two forms of knowledge so the ultimate utopian goals can be met? (I'm imploring you...)

Ok, it 3am on Friday night, and I've had a little wine. Studying is way more fun this way, but maybe not as effective...I think I'm gonna have to finish this post another day...Sorry to keep you all in suspense, I know how badly you want to find out Carnap's master solution!


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