• Connor Syrewicz

    regarding the jokes that you “don’t understand,”

    Carnap was an analytic philosopher of the Vienna Circle, a group of thinkers who were greatly influenced by Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, a book that deals with, in Bertrand Russell’s words, “the conditions which would have to be fulfilled by a logically perfect language,” the eponymous last line of which read: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

    Carnap, himself, was a major critic of Martin Heidegger in particular, calling his work basically metaphysical garbage and, more importantly, “cognitively meaningless.” To (over)simplify Carnap’s theory of language, Carnap thought that most propositions could be grouped into two categories, “cognitively meaningful” and “cognitively meaningless” based on the requirements that a proposition be verifiable. If a proposition was verifiable, then, even if the proposition was false, it had meaning. If it was unverifiable, the charge he attacked Heidegger with, then it was “cognitively meaningless” and, here comes Wittgenstein, “thereof one must be silent.”

    Karl Popper was another analyic philosopher (whose influence was far greater than Carnap’s in the long run) who critiqued Carnap’s understanding of language, basically asserting that a proposition and/or theory had scientific weight not because it was verifiable (“you can verify anything!” popper says in the comic) but because it was falsifiable. Popper was a critic of Marx and Freud because, according to him, their views were not falsifiable. (Though, they could be “verified”: “Literally everything proves you right, Marx.”) Popper’s views, at least as they relate to the joke, are covered in the 5th frame above which leads us to…..

    Thomas Kuhn, whose best known work “The Structure of Scientific Revolution,” took a far more macro view of how science works and progresses and established the notion of scientific “paradigms”; prevailing theory is dominant and abandoned only once a better theory emerges (as Kuhn says in the comic, “all theories would be false every time someone lost a hand”). Kuhn’s view of science was far less “smooth” or “consistent” than popular views of science, that we are slowly, fact by fact, moving up the ladder of progress. Instead, his view of science was more sociological wherein scientific practive established dominant views which were amended repeatedly when experience did not fit the theory until a new paradigm emerges which has a greater capacity to explain both the old established facts and the new areas of experience which didn’t fit. Think of Ptolmey’s amendments to geocentrism (which established geocentrism as the dominant cosmological paradigm for the next 1000 years) and the “Copernican revolution” which definitively replaced geocentrism with heliocentricism for an easy example of this kind of paradigmatic revolution.

    Anyway, the comic is funny either way.