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Explication is an appropriate methodology for philosophy

Explication. A philosophical endeavour

By any criterion, the explication process is a noble one, as its key objective is to make the implicit explicit – to divine new explicit knowledge from a detailed investigation of something which has been previously vague, inexact or incomplete.

This process has been clearly described and defined by Carnap (1950), and those who see merit in the idea and practice of explication, invariably turn to his contribution and to Maher’s article, “Explication defended” (2007), for advice and comfort.

Context and application

For the purposes of this web site, and for the purposes of others who are not trained philosophers, we can take comfort from other writers who see explication as

“an appropriate methodology for formal philosophy”. (Maher, 2007)

In this context, so long as an explication process abides by Carnap’s rules – his “Requirements for an Explicatum“- the outcomes of the process might be regarded as knowledge products: i.e. products which the explicator might claim as forming an original contribution to knowledge.

Explication as a source of philosophical dispute

Explication has been a source of philosophical dispute for many years.

Following Carnap’s (1950) intellectual argument about the nature, impact and value of explication, intellectual arguments – and quarrels – delayed the formal adoption of explication as “an appropriate methodology for formal philosophy” (Maher, 2007).  Following Maher’s recent defence of explication, however,  Williamson (2011) is now able to claim that explication is an “exciting… tool for philosophers as it is for scientists and – as we are beginning to see – it is a tool with important consequences for philosophical practice”.


Carnap, R. (1950) Logical foundations of probability, University of Chicago Press, Illinois.

Maher, P. (2007) “Explication defended”, Studia Logica, Volume 86, Number 2, July 2007, pp. 331-341.

Williamson, J. (2011) “Ideas of the century: Explication 49/50”, The Philosophers Magazine, Issue 50.

Page edited: 08 May 2013