This major publication is a history of the semantic tradition in philosophy from the early nineteenth century through its incarnation in the work of the Vienna Circle, the group of logical positivists that emerged in the years 1925–1935 in Vienna who were characterised by a strong commitment to empiricism, a high regard for science, and a conviction that modern logic is the primary tool of analytic philosophy. In the first part of the book, Alberto Coffa traces the roots of logical positivism in a semantic tradition that arose in opposition to Kant's theory that a priori knowledge is based on pure intuition and the constitutive powers of the mind. In Part II, Coffa chronicles the development of this tradition by members and associates of the Vienna Circle. Much of Coffa's analysis draws on the unpublished notes and correspondence of many philosophers. The book, however, is not merely a history of the semantic tradition from Kant 'to the Vienna Station'. Coffa also critically reassesses the role of semantic notions in understanding the ground of a priori knowledge and its relation to empirical knowledge and questions the turn the tradition has taken since Vienna.
Part I. The Semantic Tradition: 1. Kant, analysis, and pure intuition; 2. Bolzano and the birth of semantics; 3. Geometry, pure intuition and the a priori; 4. Frege's semantics and the a priori in arithmetic; 5. Meaning and ontology; 6. On denoting; 7. Logic in transition; 8. A logico-philosophical treatise; Part II Vienna, 1925–1935: 9. Schlick before Vienna; 10. Philosophers on relativity; 1. Carnap before Vienna; 12. Scientific idealism and semantic idealism; 13. Return of Ludwig Wittgenstein; 14. A priori knowledge and the constitution of meaning; 15. The road to syntax; 16. Syntax and truth; 17. Semantic conventionalism and the factuality of meaning; 18. The problem of induction: theories; 19. The problems of experience: protocols; Notes; References; Index.