Logical Empiricism and Naturalism: Neurath and Carnap’s Meta-theory of Science

Student thesis: Phd


The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate the compatibility of the mature philosophies of Otto Neurath and Rudolf Carnap in a naturalistic meta-theory of science. I argue that recognising this naturalist approach is essential for fully understanding Neurath’s philosophy of science, and Carnap’s mature explicationist methodology. I then demonstrate how the combination of their respective project’s presents a picture of scientific metatheory as a means for fostering the self-reflexive self-direction of science, in pursuit of the material and intellectual development of mankind. Central to this naturalism, and the reflexivity it fosters, is the rejection of what Neurath termed pseudo-rationalism, which I argue is equally (if implicitly) important in Carnap’s explicationism. To reach this conclusion, the thesis begins with an analysis of the meaning of epistemological naturalism, and an orientation of the Vienna Circle relative to it. This is followed by detailed account of Neurath’s philosophy of science, and the significance of naturalism and the rejection of pseudo-rationalism to it. A change of direction then leads to a parallel interpretation of Carnap’s mature philosophy as a form of epistemological naturalism, one that retains a place for the analytic/synthetic distinction, involving a defence of both Carnap’s explicationist methodology and his account of analyticity. With these two naturalistic philosophies in place, the thesis concludes with an exploration of how Neurath and Carnap’s philosophies provide a compatible and complementary scientific meta-theory.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorFrederique Janssen-Lauret (Supervisor) & Thomas Uebel (Supervisor)


  • Naturalism
  • Logical Empiricism
  • Vienna Circle
  • Neurath
  • Carnap

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