Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

Carnap on Internal and External Questions

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

According to Rudolf Carnap, we should distinguish between internal and external questions. Let us say that,

With respect to various expressions, A linguistic framework is a set of rules for using for those expressions.  

Thus, an internal question is a question about whether x exists given a linguistic framework of rules governing the use of 'x'. An external question is a question as to whether it would be useful to adopt the use of 'x' with those rules. 

Suppose one asks but does x exist independent of the linguistic framework? Carnap might argue as follows: 

  1. One can answer an existence question only if there are rules for determining whether exists.

  2. External questions regarding x occur independent of a linguistic framework regarding x.

  3. Therefore, external questions regarding x are not existence questions.

Questions: (a) Is this sound argument? (b) Why or why not? 

Rudolf Carnap

Rudolf Carnap