The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap: To the Vienna Station (英語) ペーパーバック – 1993/1/29
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This major publication is a history of the semantic tradition in philosophy from the early nineteenth century through its incarnation in the work of the Vienna Circle, the group of logical positivists that emerged in the years 1925–1935 in Vienna who were characterised by a strong commitment to empiricism, a high regard for science, and a conviction that modern logic is the primary tool of analytic philosophy. In the first part of the book, Alberto Coffa traces the roots of logical positivism in a semantic tradition that arose in opposition to Kant's theory that a priori knowledge is based on pure intuition and the constitutive powers of the mind. In Part II, Coffa chronicles the development of this tradition by members and associates of the Vienna Circle. Much of Coffa's analysis draws on the unpublished notes and correspondence of many philosophers. The book, however, is not merely a history of the semantic tradition from Kant 'to the Vienna Station'. Coffa also critically reassesses the role of semantic notions in understanding the ground of a priori knowledge and its relation to empirical knowledge and questions the turn the tradition has taken since Vienna.
"This is an important book. It sets a standard for discussions of early analytic philosophy, sets the problems for the emerging subject of the history of Positivism and it makes a strong claim for the place of the 'semantic' tradition as an equal to Kantianism and Positivism in 19th-century philosophy and as the direct ancestory of Analytic philosophy. Coffa demonstrates the richness of the views of the Vienna Circle, and a continuity with earlier neo-Kantian philosophy, that should put to rest the caricature of Positivists as attacking a tradition they did not understand. This is all done with carefully crafted and argued discussions of the relevant philosophers, and presented with a lively, if searing, wit." Canadian Philosophical Reviews
'... throughout there is a stimulating and reassuring atmosphere of good judgement and good intellectual taste, not least in the choice of its subject, which is the most profound and exciting revolution in the history of human thought on the nature of logical and mathematical truth'. J. D. Kenyon, Times Higher Education Supplement
"The scholarship is broad and impressive, and the book will alter our ways of thinking about the origins of analytical philosophy." Christopher Hookway, Semiotica
..."throughout there is a stimulating and reassuring atmosphere of good judgement and good intellectual taste, not least in the choice of its subject, which is the most profound and exciting revolution in the history of human thought on the nature of logical and mathematical truth." J.D. Kenyon, Times Higher Education Supplement
"Alberto Coffa is an intellectual pioneer. His book is the first comprehensive treatment of the development of logical positivism that is rigorous and sophisticated from both an historical and a technical point of view. It will constitute an indispensable basis for all future research in the area." Michael Friedman, University of Illinois at Chicago
"The late Alberto Coffa wrote a magnificent book. According to its title, it is a history of the semantic tradition from Kant to Carnap. but it is really much more. It is also a history of the ontological problems that shaped the analytic philosophy of the 20th century. It is a history of the attempts to refute Kant's claim that there are synthetic a priori judgments. And most of all it is a careful analysis of the philosophical background of the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle." International Studies in Philosophy
.,."throughout there is a stimulating and reassuring atmosphere of good judgement and good intellectual taste, not least in the choice of its subject, which is the most profound and exciting revolution in the history of human thought on the nature of logical and mathematical truth." J.D. Kenyon, Times Higher Education Supplement
This book is a teriffic antidote to dry presentations of logical positivism which focus on the "verification principle" and thereby seek to dispatch it in one lecture in an introductory philosophy class. Instead, Coffa shows how logical positivism arose out of a living tradition and forms an important part of the history of contemporary philosophy. The questions we consider today are formed in part by the conceptual shifts of a century ago. It's good that we have a guide like Coffa to show us some more of our own history.
That, and the jokes (read the footnotes for some of the best ones, especially his love/hate relationship with Wittgenstein!) make this a delight to read.