Original paper in Philosophy of Science

European Journal for Philosophy of Science

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 161-179

First online:

Carnap on concept determination: methodology for philosophy of science

  • James JustusAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, Florida State University and University of Sydney Email author 

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Recent criticisms of intuition from experimental philosophy and elsewhere have helped undermine the authority of traditional conceptual analysis. As the product of more empirically informed philosophical methodology, this result is compelling and philosophically salutary. But the negative critiques rarely suggest a positive alternative. In particular, a normative account of concept determination—how concepts should be characterized—is strikingly absent from such work. Carnap's underappreciated theory of explication provides such a theory. Analyses of complex concepts in empirical sciences illustrates and supports this claim, and counteracts the charge explication is only suitable for highly mathematical, axiomatic contexts. Explication is also defended against the influential criticism it is “philosophically unilluminating”.


Explication Carnap Strawson Definition Methodology Precision Ecological stability Meaning Concepts