Who is Carl Gustav Hempel?June 25, 2021
Carl Gustav HemHempel is one of the philosophers who treats science as a product.
Hempel was born on January 8, 1905 in Germany. He studied physics and mathematics at the universities of Göttingen and Heidelberg. In the 1930s he established relations with the Vienna Circle. With their influence, he became interested in philosophy and entered the Berlin Group, the German extension of this school. He received his doctorate from the University of Berlin in 1934. In the same year, he left Germany and went to the USA after doing research in Brussels for three years. He became a national of this country in 1944. He taught at Yale University from 1948 to 1955. He became a professor of philosophy at Princeton in 1955.
Among the philosophers who influenced Hempel’s thought, Schlick, Carnap and Reichenbach from the Vienna Circle are the foremost. The confirmatory theory of meaning, which this school adopted as the main problem, also attracted Hempel’s attention. However, his main contribution to contemporary philosophy is in the philosophy of science. In its efforts to define the concepts of affirmation and scientific explanation, Hempel has been instrumental in initiating intense discussion and study.
First, he tried to define the concept of confirmation as “affirmation of a hypothesis by observation statements”, then he developed the definition of a certain amount of affirmation of a certain assumption by a proposition given as evidence by giving it a quantitative structure. According to the “crow’s paradoxes” he put forward regarding affirmation, the truth of some propositions not having a certain assumption can be inferred consistent with the fact that these propositions and equivalent propositions do not affirm the same assumption.
Hempel analyzes scientific explanation in a scheme known as the “deductive model”. According to this model, the explanation of an event is the deduction of the proposition describing it from the propositions and general law propositions that give the conditions before the occurrence of the event. General laws can be explained as well as particular events. Such a statement would deduce the law in question from the more general laws. Hempel introduces the model with full prevalence: the explanation of human action must be probabilistic, and the historical explanation must have the same deductive structure.
Hempel, as a thinker affiliated with the Vienna Circle, handled the verificationist theory of meaning as a self-criticism and tried to reveal its deficiencies. According to Hempel’s proposed criterion instead of the confirmation criterion, the significance of a proposition depends on its ability to be translated into an empirical language. Accordingly, every meaningful proposition will no longer be expected to be verifiable in experiment, and it will be sufficient to be considered meaningful if it can be translated into a proposition that can be verified in experiment. He also uses this softer interpretation of meaningfulness than the Vienna Circle in interpreting the distinction between theoretical and observational terms. For Hempel, a theoretical system is meaningful if it can be translated, even partially, into observational propositions. Since the “objects” expressed by the theoretical terms are unobservable, these terms are thus prevented from being considered meaningless.
He also tries to explain the structure and method of science, which he sees as a product. According to him, scientific explanation is made in two ways: by deduction and by induction. He calls deductive explanations “legal”, and deductive explanations “probable explanation”.
Although he argues that the scientific method is a combination of induction and deduction, he thinks that deduction plays a more dominant role than induction. Despite all these explanations, according to Hempel, there is no definite method of invention and product creation in science. The important thing in science is not how the invention is realized, but how and by which methods the scientificity of the product is proven. At the same time, according to Hempel, scientific explanations have two conditions; logical suitability and empirical suitability.
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM) Who is pel?