Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




John L. Bell


This dissertation makes two primary contributions. The first three chapters develop an interpretation of Carnap's Meta-Philosophical Program which places stress upon his methodological analysis of the sciences over and above the Principle of Tolerance. Most importantly, I suggest, is that Carnap sees philosophy as contiguous with science—as a part of the scientific enterprise—so utilizing the very same methods and subject to the same limitations. I argue that the methodological reforms he suggests for philosophy amount to philosophy as the explication of the concepts of science (including mathematics) through the construction and use of suitably robust meta-logical languages. My primary interpretive claim is that Carnap's understanding of logic and mathematics as a set of formal auxiliaries is premised upon this prior analysis of the character of logico-mathematical knowledge, his understanding of its role in the language of science, and the methods used by practicing mathematicians. Thus the Principle of Tolerance, and so Carnap's logical pluralism, is licensed and justified by these methodological insights.

This interpretation of Carnap's program contrasts with the popular Deflationary reading as proposed in Goldfarb & Ricketts (1992). The leading idea they attribute to Carnap is a Logocentrism: That philosophical assertions are always made relative to some particular language(s), and that our choice of syntactical rules for a language are constitutive of its inferential structure and methods of possible justification. Consequently Tolerance is considered the foundation of Carnap's entire program. My third chapter argues that this reading makes Carnap's program philosophically inert, and I present significant evidence that such a reading is misguided.

The final chapter attempts to extend the methodological ideals of Carnap's program to the analysis of the ongoing debate between category- and set-theoretic foundations for mathematics. Recent criticism of category theory as a foundation charges that it is neither autonomous from set theory, nor offers a suitable ontological grounding for mathematics. I argue that an analysis of concepts can be foundationally informative without requiring the construction of those concepts from first principles, and that ontological worries can be seen as methodologically unfruitful.