Gert-Jan C. Lokhorst


G.J.C. Lokhorst. Rudolf Carnap / Hector-Neri Castañeda. In J. de Mul, ed., Eric Claus: Twenty-one Twentieth-Century Philosophers in Bronze, p. 60 / 84. Stichting Lieve, Baarn, 1999.



Rudolf Carnap was one of the leading figures of the Vienna circle, a Viennese society which tried to establish a "scientific philosophy" and which held such high standards that it rejected Karl Popper's application for membership. Carnap's most ambitious contribution to philosophy was his book The Logical Structure of the World (1928), in which he tried to define our whole conceptual framework in terms of one concept, recollection of similarity. He was fond of science and art but hated the metaphysics of Hegel, Bergson and Heidegger, which he regarded as a perversion of both.

"The (pseudo)statements of metaphysics do not serve for the description of states of affairs, neither existing ones (in that case they would be true statements) nor non-existing ones (in that case they would be at least false statements). They serve for the expression of the general attitude of a person towards life.

Perhaps music is the purest means of expression of this attitude because it is entirely free from any reference to facts. The harmonious feeling or attitude, which the metaphysician tries to express in a monistic system, is more clearly expressed in the music of Mozart. And when a metaphysician gives verbal expression to his dualistic-heroic attitude towards life in a dualistic system, is it not perhaps because he lacks the ability of a Beethoven to express this attitude in an adequate medium? Metaphysicians are musicians without musical ability. Instead they have a strong inclination to work within the medium of the theoretical, to connect concepts and thoughts. Now instead of activating, on the one hand, this inclination in the domain of science, and satisfying, on the other hand, the need for expression in art, the metaphysician confuses the two and produces a structure which achieves nothing for knowledge and something inadequate for the expression of attitude." (Rudolf Carnap, "Überwindung der Metaphysik durch logische Analyse der Sprache", Erkenntnis, 1932)


Rudolf Carnap was born in Germany in 1891. He studied physics, mathematics, philosophy and logic and was one of the leading figures of the Vienna circle, which tried to establish a "scientific philosophy" and which was allergic to the obscurantist metaphysics of people like Hegel, Bergson and Heidegger. In 1935, Carnap fled to the United States, where he died in 1970. Carnap worked in the philosophy of science, logic and semantics. He was one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century.



Hector-Neri Castañeda regarded the world as beautiful. He used the beauty of the world to prove the existence of the freedom of the will. Everyone believes that he or she has a free will. If this were the result of systematic delusion, the world would not be beautiful. But it is beautiful. So we have a free will.

Castañeda was more interested in the non-existent than in what actually exists, and he regarded this as the universal human predicament: "To be human is to be doomed (or programmed by natural evolution--or by God) to think in order to live. To live, biographically speaking, is at every step to transact with and even to respect and love the non-existent. It is to play with fiction and to hang up at least one half of one's autobiography on the not yet existing future and spread it over some of the never-to-exist branches of that future--building on the present remnants or effects of the no longer existing past." (Hector-Neri Castañeda, unpublished lecture, Moscow 1987.)


Hector-Neri Castañeda was born in 1924 as the son of a poor peasant in one of the poorest districts of Guatemala (at that time a military dictatorship). When he was four years old, his mother moved to Guatemala City, taking her children with her. There Castañeda was trained as a teacher at the military normal school, until he was dismissed on account of meekness at boxing. He completed his training in Costa Rica and then became a teacher of Spanish at a girls' school in Guatemala. In 1948 he went to the United States, where he studied with Wilfred Sellars and had a successful philosophical career. He was the founder of Noûs and the author of The Structure of Morality (1974), Thinking and Doing (1975), On Philosophical Method (1980) and Thinking, Language and Experience (1989), along with a couple of hundred articles. He died in 1991 of a brain tumor.

Castañeda first became famous by his discovery of the fact that the meaning of a sentence such as "Caesar knew that he crossed the Rubicon" is completely different from the meaning of sentences such as "Caesar knew that the emperor of Rome crossed the Rubicon" or "Caesar knew that Caesar crossed the Rubicon". His profound studies of the central questions of ethics, the theory of action, the theory of knowledge and semantics culminated in his so-called "guise theory". According to this theory, individual objects are to be regarded as sets of properties. Castañeda was convinced that his theory offered a solution to the fundamental problems of philosophy with which thinkers like Kant, Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein had wrestled in vain, but this conviction is not shared by every contemporary philosopher.

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