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Positivism and the Pragmatic Theory of Observation

Thomas Oberdan
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1990, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1990), pp. 25-37
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/192690
Page Count: 13
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Positivism and the Pragmatic Theory of Observation
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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to undermine Paul Feyerabend's claim, which is crucial to the success of his analysis of Positivism, that the Pragmatic Theory of Observation was first developed by Rudolf Carnap in his early discussions of protocol sentences. Rather, it will be argued that Carnap's conception of protocols was founded on considerations drawn from his conception of language so that Carnap's reasons for endorsing certain aspects of the Pragmatic Theory are nothing like Feyerabend's. Moreover, Carnap never approved the final conclusion of the Pragmatic Theory, that observational reports are distinguished by their causes. These historical conclusions provide the basis for arguing that, despite Feyerabend's critique, Carnap's later views (in "The Methodological Character of Theoretical Concepts") clearly countenance theoretical influences on observational statements.

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