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Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 56, Issue 4, 2019

Ekaterina V. Vostrikova, Petr S. Kusliy
Pages 78-98

The Elimination of Carnap’s Critical Arguments Against Metaphysics Through Formal Semantic Analysis of Natural Language

The authors explore Carnap’s (1931) famous critique of Heidegger’s metaphysics and argue that, from the perspective of contemporary formal semantics of natural language, Carnap’s criticism is not convincing. Moreover, they provide direct empirical objections to Carnap’s criticism. In particular, using empirical evidence from languages like Russian that have negative concord, they show that Heidegger cannot be accused of assigning illegitimate logical forms to his sentences about Nothing because terms like “Nothing” can be used non-quantificationally and the fact that it is not clear how their reference is established cannot be the reason why the corresponding sentences are ungrammatical (as Carnap seemed to suggest). The authors also critically discuss the view that natural language is insensitive to meaninglessness or contradiction. With reference to the work of J. Gajewsky, they show that this view is not true either. As a result of this investigation, they arrive at a position that an appeal to ungrammaticality like the one proposed by Carnap does not provide legitimate evidence against metaphysics. This conclusion relates to some recent criticism of the so-called non-analytical philosophers that can be traced back to Carnap’s paper.

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