Carl Hempel

Carl Hempel Biography
In Memoriam: Carl Gustav Hem

Carl Hempel Biography

Carl Gustav Hempel (January 8, 1905 – November 9, 1997) was born in Oranienburg, Germany. Philosopher nationalized American. An outstanding member of the Berlin Circle, a philosophical collective founded by Hans Reichenbach in the 1920s. This group worked together with the Vienna Circle in the development of logical neopositivism, a philosophical current whose greatest exponents were Kurt Gödel, Otto Neurath, and Rudolf Carnap.

At the end of the 1930s, he moved to the United States where he served as a professor of philosophy at various universities. Among his most outstanding works are Fundamentals of the formation of concepts in empirical science (1952), Frontiers of science and philosophy (1963) and the scientific explanation: studies on the philosophy of science (1965).

Hempel finished his first studies at the Realgymnasium in Berlin. In 1923, he entered the University of Gottingen, where he studied mathematics with the renowned mathematicians Edmund Landau and David Hilbert, for this same period he studied symbolic logic, also known as mathematical logic and philosophy. Later, he continued his training at the University of Heidelberg and traveled to Berlin, where he continued with his academic training.

While studying he met Hans Reichenbach, German philosopher and logical founder of the Berlin Circle, he invited him to be part of the collective; at that time Hempel followed Reichenbach’s courses on mathematical logic, probability and philosophy of space and time. Later, he studied physics with Max Planck and logic with John von Neumann.



In 1929, he participated in the first Congress on scientific philosophy, which was organized by logical positivists, in the course of this he met the philosopher of the Vienna Circle, Rudolf Carnap, with whom he became friends. Motivated by Carnap’s proposals, he moved to Vienna, where he took part in the circle meetings. During this period, he was certified as a high school teacher, followed by his Ph.D. in philosophy, a degree he obtained in 1934, after presenting a dissertation on the theory of probability. That same year he moved to Belgium, with the help of Reichenbach, in the country he wrote together with Paul Oppenheim the book Der Typusbegriff im Lichte der neuen Logik (1936), in which he delved into the logical theory and metric scientific concepts.

In the late 1930s Carl Hempel was invited to the University of Chicago as an Associate Researcher in Philosophy, with the help of his friend Carnap, later returned to Belgium for a short time, since the rise of Nazism caused him to leave the country, he moved in 1939 to the United States. Between 1939 and 1940 he taught at the City College of New York, then worked at Queens College, an institution in which he was between 1940 and 1948.

In the course of those years he became interested in the theory of confirmation and the scientific, thematic explanation on which he delved into Studies in the Logic of Confirmation (1945), A Definition of Degree of Confirmation (1945), A Note on the Paradoxes of Confirmation (1946) and Studies in the Logic of Explanation (1948), a study conducted with the collaboration of P. Oppenheim.

At the end of his work at Queens College he taught at Yale University while teaching in this he wrote his most outstanding study Fundamentals of the formation of concepts in empirical science (1952), which appeared in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. From the mid-1950s until the late 1960s he taught at Princeton University, during this period he wrote Frontiers of Science and Philosophy (1963), The Scientific Explanation (1965), Natural Science Philosophy (1966 ) and Mind and Cosmos (1966), a book in which various authors collaborated.

When he passed the retirement age he began teaching in Berkley, Irvine, and Jerusalem, at the end of the 1970s he began working in Pittsburgh, an institution where he worked between 1976 and 1985. In the last decades of his academic career, he distanced himself from the logical positivism, which was reflected in The Meaning of Theoretical Terms: A Critique of the Standard Empiricist Construal (1973), published in Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science; as well as Valuation and Objectivity in Science (1983), an article that was published in Physics, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis.

In May 1975, Carl Hempel edited volume No. 9 of Erkenntnis magazine together with Wolfgang Stegmüller and Wilhelm K. Essler and also wrote the article The Old and the New ‘Erkenntnis’ included in the volume. The prominent philosopher died on November 9, 1997, in New Jersey.

The work of the philosopher can be divided into two periods, the first period was closely linked to logical positivism, promoted by the Vienna Circle, in this depth on logical theory, confirmation and scientific explanation with famous philosopher Paul Oppenheim. The second period covers the last decades of his academic career, at which time he moved away from logical positivism and focused on the field of language related to significance.

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