In the first chapter of his book Logical Foundations of Probability, Rudolf Carnap introduced and endorsed a philosophical methodology which he called the method of ‘explication’ . P.F. Strawson took issue with this methodology, but it is currently undergoing a revival. In a series of articles, Patrick Maher has recently argued that explication is an appropriate method for ‘formal epistemology’, has defended it against Strawson’s objection, and has himself put it to work in the philosophy of science in further clarification of the very concepts on which Carnap originally used it (degree of confirmation, and probability), as well as some concepts to which Carnap did not apply it (such as justified degree of belief).
We shall outline Carnap’s original idea, plus Maher’s recent application of such a methodology, and then seek to show that the problem Strawson raised for it has not been dealt with. The method is indeed, we argue, problematic and therefore not obviously superior to the ‘ descriptive’ method associated with Strawson. Our targets will not only be Carnapians, though, for what we shall say also bears negatively on a project that Paul Horwich has pursued under the name ‘therapeutic’ , or ‘Wittgensteinian’ Bayesianism. Finally, explication, as we shall suggest and as Carnap recognised, is not the only route to philosophical enlightenment.
Ever since the rise of the so-called analytic school in 20th century philosophy, philosophical analysis has often been considered to be synonymous with conceptual analysis. However, criticism has also been levelled at the conceptual analysis procedures, which undermined confidence in the merits of conceptual analysis. As far as the clarification of concepts is concerned, explication is therefore sometimes proposed as an alternative means. Combining historical and systematic perspectives, this volume collects new work on analytical and explicatory methods within 20th century philosophy. The contributions explore how clarificatory and reformatory methods of engaging with concepts have been construed and utilized by such different authors as Aristotle, Russell, Wittgenstein, Carnap or Mackie, marking out underappreciated congruencies and reevaluating historical disputes. They explore the role of analysis in metaphysics as well as metaethics and examine how methodological accounts relate to underlying ideas about concepts.