Carnap’s and Quine’s debate on semantic austerity: Revaluing their empiricist extensionalism

Sofia Inês Albornoz Stein


In this paper I will show why Carnap’s and Quine’s sympathy for the extensionality thesis can be considered equivalent to their concern with clear logical criteria for the manipulation—that is, identification and permutation—of empirical linguistic terms and also why Carnap renounced to the extensionality thesis in the late 1930s. Quine’s inclination to see extensionality as an avoidance of semantic confusion triggered his profound admiration for Carnap’s early works, which are very much of an extensionalist nature. But Quine realizes, as early as the 1930s, that Carnap does not have the same resistance to admitting intensional objects. Already in the Aufbau (1928), Carnap’s phenomenalist and structuralist approach to knowledge, and his pragmatic approach to language systems, leads to the conclusion that the self-psyche and others’ psyche are not something, in principle, inaccessible to knowledge, and, therefore, that intensional—including intentional—objects could, in principle, be scientific objects. In addition to the historical development of semantics—which influenced Carnap—there are two fundamental reasons for Carnap’s increasing tolerance of intensional terminology and analysis in the philosophy of language. In the first place, Carnap thinks it possible to maintain a discourse on intensions without this leading to an ontological commitment to abstract intensional entities. Second, the behaviourist criteria for the identification of intensions that he offered demonstrates that he believed it possible to meet clear identification criteria for intensions. I will show why Carnap disagrees on these two points, in his semantic period, with Quine.


Extensionality Thesis; Rudolf Carnap; Willard V. O. Quine; Semantic Austerity.

Texto completo:

PDF (English)


Carnap, Rudolf. Der logische Aufbau der Welt. Hamburg, Felix Meiner Verlag, 1966 [1928]. 290 p.

Carnap, R. The Logical Structure of the World; And, Pseudoproblems in Philosophy. Translated by Rolf A. George. California: University of California Press, 1969 [1928].

Carnap, R. Die Logische Syntax der Sprache. Wien/New York: Springer Verlag, 1968 [1934].

Carnap, R. Meaning and Necessity: A Study in Semantics and Modal Logic. 2.ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988a [1947].

Carnap, R. Meaning Postulates. In: ______. Meaning and Necessity. 2ª ed. Chicago. London: The University of Chicago Press, 1988b [1952].

Carnap, R. Meaning and Synonymy in Natural Languages. In: ______. Meaning and Necessity: A Study in Semantics and Modal Logic. 2nd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988c [1955]. p. 233–247.

Carnap, R. Empiricism, semantics, and ontology. In: ______. Meaning and necessity: a study in semantics and modal logic. 2.ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988d [1950]. p. 205-221.

Carnap, R. Homage to Rudolf Carnap. In: ______. The ways of paradox and other essays. Rev. enl. ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1976. p. 40-43.

Frege, Gottlob. Über Sinn und Bedeutung. In: Patzig, Günther (Hrsg.). Funktion, Begriff, Bedeutung. 6. Aufl. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986 [1892]. p. 3–107.

Gibson Jr., R. F. The Philosophy of W. O. Quine: an expository essay. Tampa: University of South Florida, 1982. xx, 218 p.

Hylton, Peter. Quine on Reference and Ontology. In: Gibson Jr., Roger F. The Cambridge Companion to Quine. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 2004. 323 p.

Koppelberg, D. Die Aufhebung der Analytischen Philosophie: Quine als Synthese von Carnap uns Neurath. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1987.

Quine, Willard V.O. Two Dogmas of Empiricism. In: Quine, Willard V.O. From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical essays. 2nd ed., Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1951a. p. 20–46.

Quine, Willard V.O. Ontology and Ideology. Philosophical Studies, v. 2, p. 11–16, 1951b.

Quine, Willard V.O. Semantics and Abstract Objects. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 80, 1: 90–96. 1951c. Contributions to the Analysis and Synthesis of Knowledge (Jul., 1951).

Quine, Willard V.O. Word and Object. Cambridge, The MIT Press, 1960. 294 p.

Quine, Willard V.O. Lectures on Carnap. In: Quine, Willard V.O.; Carnap, Rudolf. Dear Carnap, Dear Van: The Quine–Carnap correspondence and related work. Edited, with and introduction by Richard Creath. Berkeley: University of California, 1990a. p. 45–103.

Quine, Willard V.O. Three Indeterminancies. In: Barrett, R. and Gibson, R. Perspectives on Quine. Cambridge, Basil Blackwell, 1990b. p. 1–16.

Quine, Willard V.O. “Two Dogmas in Retrospect.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21: 265–274. 1991.

Quine, Willard V.O. From Stimulus to Science. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995. 114 p.

Tarski, Alfred. The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages. In: ______. Logic, semantics, metamathematics. Oxford: Clarendon, p. 152–278. 1956.

Tugendhat, Ernst. Tarskis semantische Definition der Wahrheit und ihre Stellung innerhalb der Geschichte des Wahrheitsproblems im logischen Positivismus. In: Skirbekk, G. (Org.). Wahrheitstheorien. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1977. p.179-213.



  • Não há apontamentos.

Comentários sobre o artigo

Visualizar todos os comentários


DISSERTATIO Revista de Filosofia

Universidade Federal de Pelotas - UFPel | Instituto de Filosofia, Sociologia e Política

Departamento de Filosofia | Programa de Pós-Graduação em Filosofia

Caixa Postal 354 | CEP 96001-970 | Pelotas, RS | Brasil


Licença Creative Commons
Revista licenciada pela Creative Commons Atribuição 4.0 Internacional. Com esta licença os leitores podem copiar e compartilhar o conteúdo dos artigos em qualquer meio ou formato, desde que o autor seja devidamente citado.