, Volume 76, Issue 2, pp 147–169 | Cite as

Carnap’s 1934 Objections to Wittgenstein’s Say/Show Distinction

Original Article


In sections 18 and 73 of Carnap’s Logical Syntax of Language, Carnap famously presents what he understands to be decisive objections to Wittgenstein’s Tractarian distinction between saying and showing. However, Carnap has been criticized in recent literature for severely misinterpreting that distinction. Against this criticism it is argued that Carnap reads that distinction as applying to two distinct classes of expressions (Unsinn and sinnlos) that he holds to emerge from his reading of Tractatus 4.1212 and related Tractarian theses. It is then argued that Carnap’s counterexamples to Wittgenstein’s theses are successful given his reading, and that our analysis of his counterexamples puts us in a unique position to reevaluate his conventionalism.


Formal Concept Material Mode Logical Syntax Arithmetization Procedure Philosophical Sentence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I’m grateful to professors Mancosu and Sluga for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper, as well as Solomon Feferman, Michael Friedman, Gregory Lavers, William Demopoulos, and the anonymous referees for helpful comments and criticisms of earlier drafts.


  1. Carnap, R. (1963). Autobiography. In P. Schilpp (Eds.), The philosophy of Rudolf Carnap, vol. 11 of the library of living philosophers. Illinois: Open Court Press.Google Scholar
  2. Carnap, R. (2002). The logical syntax of language (A. Smeaton, Trans.). Chicago: Open Court Press.Google Scholar
  3. Conant, J. (2000). Elucidation and nonsense in Frege and early Wittgenstein. In A. Crary & R. Read (Eds.), The new Wittgenstein (pp. 174–217). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Diamond, C. (2001). The realistic spirit (pp. 95–114). Boston: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Friedman, M. (1999). Reconsidering logical positivism. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Lavers, G. (2004). Carnap, semantics and ontology. Erkenntnis 60, 305ff.Google Scholar
  7. Mancosu, P. (2007). Tarski, Neurath, and Kokoszynska on the semantic conception of truth (unpublished).Google Scholar
  8. Sullivan, P. (2001). A version of the picture theory. In W. Vossenkuhl (Ed.), Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus logico-philosophicus. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.Google Scholar
  9. Wittgenstein, L. (2001). Tractatus logico-philosophicus (D. F. Pears & B. F. McGuinness, Trans.). New York: Routledge Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford Philosophy DepartmentStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations