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protocol sentences


Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405139007.2010.x


“Protocol sentences” or “protocol statements” were defined by Carnap ( see CARNAP ) in The Unity of Science (1932) as belonging to the “direct record of a scientist's … experience”. “A ‘primitive’ protocol … exclude[s] all statements obtained indirectly by induction or otherwise and postulates therefore a sharp (theoretical) distinction between the raw material of scientific investigation and its organisation.” The problem for the logical positivists ( see LOGICAL POSITIVISM ) was how such records of “private experience” could serve as foundational ( see FOUNDATIONALISM ) for the public language of a unified science; in effect, how their empiricism ( see EMPIRICISM ) and their physicalism could be reconciled. Carnap himself was undecided whether protocol sentences should take the form of phenomenalistic sense-datum statements (e.g. most crudely “Joy now,” “Here now blue”) ( see PHENOMENALISM ; SENSE-DATA ), or whether they should be more like ordinary reports of observation (e.g. “A red cube is on the table”); he hoped to escape metaphysical commitment by his use of the distinction between “formal” and “material” modes of speech ( see CARNAP ). Neurath insisted that protocol sentences should make explicit the identity and location of the speaker, and the time of utterance; but later recognized that there is no reason to regard such sentences as foundational ( see ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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