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Carl Hempel and Positivism Essay

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Updated: Jul 16th, 2022


Hempel Carl lived between 1905 and 1997 when he was the renowned advocate for the theory that covered the confirmation of paradoxes and explanation law, which were the basic scientific theory elements.

Hempel was regarded as the master of philosophical methodologies and he aimed at pursuing clarifications about the concepts that were primarily ambiguous and vague.

These initial theories were essential to justify particular adequacy criteria in science.

The presence of Reichenbach Hans and Camap Rudolf made Hempel influential in the revolution of the principal philosophical factions of the fiscal 1930s and 1940s.

Carl transformed the central philosophical movement dubbed as logical positivism to logical empiricism.

Hempel conducted different scientific researches on rationality, explanation, and induction.

The studies significantly influenced generations of scientific philosophers and most of these philosophers were recognized leaders in their respective philosophical disciplines.

Hempel was regarded as the master of philosophical methodologies and he aimed at pursuing clarifications on the concepts that were primarily ambiguous and vague (Hempel, 1968).

Bibliography Sketch on How Hempel was Influenced

Carl Hempel (Gustav) was born on 8 January, 1905 in Germany next to Berlin where most of his friends called him Peter.

At the University of Heidelberg and Gottingen, he studied physics, mathematics, and philosophy before joining Berlin University in the fiscal 1925.

While at the University of Berlin, Hempel studied together with Reinchenbach Hans who introduced him to the study of Carnap Rudolph.

The foundation of mathematics work laid by Bernays Paul and Hilbert David fascinated Hempel, which made him assert that symbolic logics application had a fundamental role in solving far-reaching philosophical bottlenecks.

The guarantee on his investigation hailed from his personal compulsion to arduous revelations on the methodical rationality, scientific justification, as well as the nature of cognitive sways.

In fact, this had a greater influence on specialized philosophers’ in the middle of the twentieth century.

Hempel got influence from logical positivism philosophers and advocates such as Waismann Fredrick, Schlick Moritz, and Carnap.

The influence from prominent philosophers occurred when Carl spent the fall semester at Vienna University after Reinchenbach suggested and requested him to do so in 1929.

The influence from the prominent philosophers occurred at a time when Carl spent the fall semester at Vienna University after Reinchenbach suggested and requested to so in the year 1929 (Hempel, 1966).

Hempel moved to Brussels when the powers of Hitler increased, but he was a non-Jew who intended to support the Nazi government in Germany.

The move inspired Hempel to produce a number of classical papers including studies in the Logic of Explanation, which he accomplished in collaboration with other philosophers like Oppenheim Paul.

Carl visited New York City College and Chicago University in the United States between 1937 and 1940, and this influenced him after he resigned from the chief academic position.

During Carl’s stay in U.S., the prevailing influence increased the number of important publications, which made him productive throughout his career.

Hempel move to Brussels due to the increased powers of Hitler and being a non-Jew to support the Nazi government in Germany inspired him to produce a number of classic papers including studies in Logic of Explanation in collaboration with other philosophers like Oppenheim Paul (Klemke, Hollinger, & Rudge, 1998).

A history of major influences

An appraisal of logical positivism

The traditional progress in the philosophy of science had a chronological setting in logical positivism, but Hempel was recognized as the main reviewer of the development.

Hempel was influenced by the stipulations and provisions made in logical positivism where every claim concerning the globe was assessed based on experience.

According to logical positivism, the type of the displayed knowledge was a posteriori while any knowledge whose truth could be separately recognized from the experience was a priori.

These assertions greatly influenced Hempel to write an article that entirely defended logicism based on mathematics including the set theory but excluding geometry.

Hempel claimed that mathematics served as an example of knowledge that could be analyzed a priori implying that; each concept in mathematics could be defined through the fundamental logical concepts, and every theorem in mathematics may be deduced from truths that are basically logical.

The traditional progress in the philosophy of science had a chronological setting in logical positivism, but Hempel was recognized as the main reviewer of the development (Klemke, Hollinger, & Rudge, 1998).

The synthetic or analytic distinction

The verifiability meaningless criterion jointly tied the theoretical or observational distinction and synthetic or analytic distinction, which had their particular conditionality.

According to the standards set in these distinctions, non-verifiable and non-analytic sentences including metaphysical or theological assertions should be rendered cognitively meaningless.

Hempel viewed the outcomes as desirable, but he was influenced to illustrate that the scope of these results were very extensive given that they equally made the distinctive assertions in science developed from theories and laws to be meaningless.

Hempel carried out mathematical studies to demonstrate that whichever the alternative; the scientifically stated conditions may be violated albeit in dissimilar ways.

Carl was influenced to illustrate that whichever the type of system, the most suitable choice should depends on the empirical studies outcomes, and must not be disputed as meaningless.

Quine’s complaints

The complaints made by Willard van Orman Quine were part of the research aspects that influenced Hempel study on positivism.

In the fiscal 1953, Quine, the prominent logician published an article titled ‘The Two Empiricism Dogmas’ that challenged the adequacy of the synthetic and analytic distinctions.

The argument of Quine was that none of the notions being used namely inter-substitutability while preserving the truth and synonym in use are comprehensible exclusive of the other, and this created a circular amid the two notions.

Given that the analyticity idea seemed to have been deposed, the assertions made by Quine greatly influenced the philosopher, Hempel to conduct further studies on positivism.

The generated paper on the topic became astounding and has been perceived as the most dominant article in the field of philosophy for the last one hundred years.

Hempel’s concerns

Hempel endorsed explication in his 1952 article titled the Fundamental of Concepts Formation in Empirical Science.

Carl wanted to show that explication was a method that could be used instead of developing theories and it entailed taking idioms and words, which were somehow ambiguous or vague and exposing them to disambiguation and clarification process.

The undertaken processes influenced Hempel who wanted to illustrate that sufficient explications are essential to justify the pragmatic benefit, semantic relevance, and syntactical determinacy criteria.

In the explication, it was essential to illuminate and clarify the meanings of phrases and words in specific contexts.

According to Hempel’s assertions, the phrase ‘probability’ seems to be ambiguous and vague, but when used in other contexts it can be illustrious and suppositions of causal propensity, relative frequency, and evidential support may be advanced.

Hempel yearned to advance accordingly the methodology that was dealing with the analytical paradox laid before the ‘Two Dogmas’ following the study conducted by Camap in the fiscal 1950.

To Hempel, the view that synthetic sentences could possibly be bear analytic effects was never a welcoming outcome.

Carl similarly had his personal reasons why he doubted that the synthetic or analytic distinctions were tenable and this influenced him to conducted research on dispositional predicates including magnetic, soluble, and malleable studies that gave positive results.

However, Hempel acknowledged the significance of subjunctive conditionality for comprehending both the law like sentences and counterfactual conditionals, but Carl considered the explications less satisfying and their usage were program based instead of solution based.

Hempel wanted to adopt the Camap approach to conquer the difficulties, whereby, rather than attributing the questionable property to other things that are not dependent on the tests; the predicate is partly described through the reduction sentences.

Intentional methodology

In the fiscal 1963, Hempel was influenced by the fact that he wanted to justify the adoption of the intentional methodology, which went beyond the extensional logic constraints.

During the same financial year, it was apparent that Hempel was receptive and considered the adoption of intentional methodology in science.

The cognitive significance verifiability criterion

In 1950 and 1951, Hempel wanted to illustrate that the criterion for verifiability was unsustainable and only generated effects, which were rationally contradictory if not counterintuitive.

Hempel aspired to reveal in his empirical testability and cognitive significance research studies that the criterion for verifiability implied that the generalizations in existential are significant.

Carl on the other hand wanted to demonstrate that the global generalizations are hardly meaningful although such generalizations incorporate the principal objects and general laws of scientific discoveries.

Scientific explanations

The renowned philosopher, Hempel, intended to make major contributions to the scientific premises through generating a sequence of structural explications regarding explanations in science.

Despite the fact that the concept of explanations via sub-assumption appeared to be somehow old, Carl saw the need of advancing the overt formulations, which drew differences amid different types of explanations.

The explanations that were advanced included those, which invoked the explanations of laws, probabilistic or statistical laws, as well as deterministic or universal laws through theories.

The importance of positivism to nursing science

The traditional view contains varied implications and significance designed for nursing science.

From the historic periods before the commencement of the twentieth century, the leading notion in science contained some elements of positivism.

The establishment of positivism took place together with the movement of Nightingale’s nursing.

Positivism is important since the excellent publication of Nightingale augmented the contemporary hygienist atmosphere with doctrines of air, light, space, and sanitation.

At Crimea, the registration of Nightingale’s intercessions contributed to the reduction of nursing room deaths and the infection of the defense force.

This contributed to the evasion of health problems since Nightingale’s proceedings appeared as visible statistics and tangible evidence that formerly helped nursing to cross to health sciences.

In 1847, from the influences that were evidence-based, Nightingale emerged to be amongst the honored American Statistical Association affiliates.

Nursing is designed based on the archetype qualitative approach and it influences the formative nursing tradition and grounds on positivism.

In the Mexican health institutes and several high-level teaching organizations taught nursing, and they show that there is a conservation of privileges towards organic in the present-day.

They disclaim ultimately the emotional or individual part that devoid of doubt, nurses supports patients to recuperate though they believe that what matters is clinical data.

This denotes that the exercise of upbringing learners is established on quantifiable biological subjects that render certifiable consequences by means of the tangible empirical systems and expertise such as physical survey.

The tradition is important, as it has initiated several clinical data such as detecting low concentration of hemoglobin in the aspect of nutrients deficiency, verification of hyperthermia by way of cultivation as caused by contagions owing to bacteria, exploring neurology by use of Glasgow scale, as well as identification of cardiac arrhythmia instigated by the shortage of electrolytes.

Additional inventions entails the specification of hemodynamic contour using Swan Ganz catheter in modifying cardiac stretch, regulating air circulation perimeters in a synthetic respirational devices through attesting arterial gases, traits and tally of occurrence of heartbeat by dint of palpation, and using the esfingmomanometer to gauge the pressure of arteries.

These strictures can be wholly dignified and their concrete data specifies to the nurses what they can do to recuperate or keep up average levels, as they are feasible to the versification of mathematics.

The patients organic stability is what matters since their emotional prerequisites are not taken into concern thus, everything else lacks significance.

In general, all these significance and importance provides a clear indication of positivism objectivity required inside the hospital scope by the labor marketplace.

The relevance of positivism tradition to nursing science

The tradition of positivism has a strong influence on the expanse of clinical outfit.

In the rational cognitive, a number of disciplines a well as study of nursing practices scientific model that is the positivism method.

In nursing for instance, ANP (Applying Nurses Processes) exists as the directly derived main instrument form scientific technique.

The approach is similarly pertinent as questionnaires and other mechanisms having quantitative gages are fabricated and used in evaluating theories metamorphosed to variables in research.

A specific entity represented by the concept of theoretical concretion procedure initiates the inductive reasoning.

This can aid in making these concepts a substance of dimension to allow for their transformation into indicators or reactive to complement scale statistics in translation to arithmetical representation.

The ultimate datum or outcome is mathematically deduced to assist in determining the implication of research sample.

Upon the reaction of the study protocol under different sample and specific conditions, it becomes easy for one to reach at its result realization.

Science provides sense to the elucidated phenomenon via the verification technique hence, after the reputation of phenomenon in certain conditions; its truth is proven such that generalizations, laws, and scientific postulates ascend.

The positivism investigation in nursing objectively provides a contributing segment in explanation and description of the phenomena around the health facility.

Together with other upshot evidence assembled, there is a possibility to suggest systems that are inventive to aid in determining the clusters of patients with a specific nurse, transform means of inhibiting jeopardy and illnesses, as well as adapting the public and clinical in practicing technical dealings.

As a matter of fact, the Latin American research has got impact from the North America research positivism tendency as it has an affinity of using nursing theories and simulations.

The scientific substantiation of nursing is developed on the patient’s principle, earnest positivism ground and the specialist’s capability is advocated for its backing is on anything randomly organized, quantifiable, and on the realm of data.

Its relevance is evident in the present day as scientific researchers can regularly use schemes of pseudo experiment, investigational, and correlation in responding to research problems.

This would comfort in breeding understanding that authenticates the theory of a derivative relationship from the postulated theories of nursing therefore helping in getting closer to the explanation of reality of humanoid groups health care.

The pros of the viewpoint for contemporary nursing

Due to the key developments in nursing and philosophy disciplines, it could be logical to make assumptions that rational positivism lacks particular influence in contemporary nursing.

Whereas the viewpoint has failed to dominate the nursing knowledge discussions, the apparent and long-lasting legacies of viewpoints that have been received are hard to dismiss.

Philosophers like Baldwin, Jacox, Webster, and Hempel have made reference to the ‘spirit’ of the acknowledged viewpoint and additional positivism specters still continue.

From logical positivism viewpoint, various vocabularies have been developed in contemporary nursing while an extensive dogma base continues to emerge in conversations that accrue from nursing discipline.

Distinctions amid science and art, nursing uniqueness, references to the boundaries that surrounds the nursing discipline, the objectivity refinement, as well as truth as a scientific goal stemmed from this philosophical viewpoint hence, making positivism to continue being part of knowledge development in nursing.

The logical positivism viewpoint offered key incentives for examining the knowledge foundation in nursing and the advancement of the nursing discipline.

The cons of the viewpoint for contemporary nursing

The unjustified observance of the ideas and positions of the viewpoint in contemporary nursing has off-centered the advancement of theories in nursing.

The contemporary commitment of nurses to the discipline has made nursing to be deeply engrossed in this contracted scientific philosophy leading to over reliance on the viewpoint control over the advancement of knowledge.

Overreliance on this viewpoint has made it possible for nursing practitioners to lack awareness of the alternative scientific views while other disciplines discuss and discover other broader viewpoints.

The condition that knowledge should be structured into firmly prescribed theories, which might be articulated through calculus and logic principles, has proved to be practically unfeasible in most disciplines.

The requirement proved futile in placing enough importance on formal or less organized knowledge that could have been meaningful or useful in the discipline even devoid of supposition formality.

The correspondence requirement as assessment criteria for knowing the accuracy of theories similarly presented different problems.

For instance, scientific scholars are obliged to develop strategies on how to assess the phenomenon of interests so as to make them open to authentication via collecting the empirical data.

For entities including pain, hope, and even dignity, there seems to be no obvious empirical relationships.

Scientific scholars are therefore obliged to construct observational or empirical definitions for the interesting phenomena probably ignoring or omitting the essential situational aspects that are not amenable to this observation.


Auguste Comte was the first philosopher to introduce the fundamental principles of positivism, which has been advanced overtime by other philosophers including Hempel Carl.

Since its establishment, positivism has become of great importance in nursing practice and nursing science.

Nursing deals with human totality hence it does not have the essential structures for establishing the global law relating to human healthcare, and this makes it neither to be totally biological science nor hard science.

The healthcare trends alongside their numerous variables about the individual response tend to pose different limitations relating to conducts that accrue from the deep theoretical nature.

It is apparent that nearly all philosophical currents are hardly the best means to generate knowledge neither do they have absolute truth.

Positivism has however emerged to be prevailing in nursing where its effects are completely highlighted in most hospital or medical practices, which utilize evidence-based science that rely on experimental clinical information.

From the traditional perspective (positivism), anything that is of great essence in nursing or healthcare outcomes is the statistical data.

Thus, positivism can be applied in healthcare or nursing via the utilization of hypothetical nursing concepts that make it useful in medical practices through illustrating the circles amid research studies and practices so as to apply as well as generate knowledge.


It is apparent that nearly all philosophical currents are hardly the best means to generate knowledge neither do they have absolute truth. However, is positivism the only premise of knowledge that is able to prevail in nursing practices and nursing science?


Dahnke, M. D. & Dreher, M. (2011). Philosophy of science for nursing practice: concepts and application. New York, NY: Springer Publishers.

Fawcett, J. (2005). Analysis and evaluation of contemporary nursing knowledge: Nursing models and theories. F.A. Davis: Philadelphia.

Hempel, C. (1966). Philosophy of natural science. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hempel, C. (1968). Maximal specificity and law likeness in probabilistic explanation. Philosophy of Science, 35 (1), 116–133.

Klemke, E., Hollinger, R., & Rudge, A. (1998). Introductory reading in the philosophy of science. New York, NY: Prometheus Books.

Polit, D. & Beck, C. (2004). Foundations of nursing research: Principles and methods. USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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