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Thanks for the name-check! I was especially happy to see this post, because one of my papers (hopefully!) nearing completion is about the notion of clarity in Quine. In particular, it tries to explain changes in Quine's wider philosophical views in terms of changes of his beliefs involving the notion of clarity.*

I thought your claim that clarity is aesthetic for/ in Carnap was very interesting -- that thought had never occurred to me before. I need to think about it some more before I make up my mind about it. But I did think of a possible additional piece of evidence for this view. In the Introduction to the Aufbau, you may recall that Carnap says: "We too have 'emotional needs' in philosophy. But they are fulfilled by clarity of concepts," and some other things (xvii). If there is an appropriate background premise about the connection between the emotional and the aesthetic, this quotation might be further evidence for your claim.

*Just in case anyone reading this might care, here's a synopsis of the relevant bit of my paper I mentioned above:
Quine gives up nominalism in March 1948. Why? Because he stopped thinking nominalism fully instantiated what he previously considered its primary theoretical virtue, namely, clarity. The reason Quine stopped thinking that is that modern science suggests that concrete objects -- the nominalist’s paradigm examples of clarity -- are actually unclear. Third (and this is much more complicated and speculative), at least in some places and some times, Quine seems to down-grade the importance of clarity as a theoretical virtue. That is, whereas before 1948 Quine would place greater weight on the clarity (intelligibility, intuitiveness) of a theory when attempting to choose between theories, after 1948 Quine places much less (and perhaps no) weight on a theory’s clarity, focusing instead on its other virtues, such as its empirical adequacy and simplicity.

Eric Schliesser

Dear Greg,
I am very pleased you liked this post so much. On Quine, I am inclined to suspect you are right that clarity becomes less important. (It's still mentioned, more in passing, in Word & Object.) I agree that other theoretical virtues do become more important. I look forward to your paper.
On Carnap, I like your further line of evidence. As you may know, Abe Stone's work on Carnap and his exploration of the influence of Nietzsche (on the Aufbau), has greatly influenced my own understanding of Carnap; so this is why I was willing to explore this speculative line of thought. (I think it is important to Carnap not to cede the aesthetic to Heidegger and his followers.)

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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