Higher Seminar in Theoretical Philosophy: Fredrik Österblom "What makes a concept fruitful for inquiry?"
Carnap’s method of explication is the task of replacing, for theoretical reasons, an inadequate concept with a more adequate concept. More specifically, the new concept, called the explicatum, should be (i) somewhat similar to the old concept, (ii) exact, (iii) fruitful, and (iv) as simple as (i-iii) permits. In Carnap’s view, a fruitful (nonlogical) explicatum facilitates the formulation of new laws. In Carnap’s view, by formulating new laws we facilitate the two aims of science: prediction and explanation. Recently, several philosophers who are generally sympathetic to explication as a method have called for revisions of Carnap’s fruitfulness criterion. While some revisions of the criterion are needed, there is a problem with these proposed revisions of the criterion. I argue that by contextualizing the notion of fruitfulness they lose much of the appeal of explication as a philosophical method.