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An Explication of ‘Explication’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2022

Joseph F. Hanna*
Michigan State University


It is generally agreed that the method of explication consists in replacing a vague, presystematic notion (the explicandum) with a precise notion (the explicatum) formulated in a systematic context. However, Carnap and others who have used this and related terms appear to hold inconsistent views as to what constitutes an adequate explication. The central feature of the present explication of ‘explication’ is the correspondence condition: permitting the explicandum to deviate from some established “ordinary-language” conventions but, at the same time, requiring that the explicatum correspond (via an effective translation) to the chosen “definitive intension” of the explicandum. (In effect, the first stages of an explication provide an informal characterization of a vague and possibly inconsistent language convention.) The present account of explication contrasts sharply with that sketched by Quine in Word and Object (although Quine accepts a correspondence condition of a sort). The terms ‘explication1’ and ‘explication2’ are used to indicate these quite different senses of the term. In Kaplan's terminology, explication1 is intended to remedy “external vagueness” while explication2 is intended to remedy “internal vagueness.”

Research Article
Copyright © Philosophy of Science Association 1968

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I am indebted to my colleagues Gerald J. Massey, James Roper, and Ronald Suter for detailed and constructive criticisms of an earlier draft of this paper.


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