Carl Gustav Hempel

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Carl Gustav Hempel (born January 8, 1905 in Oranienburg , † November 9, 1997 in Princeton , New Jersey ) was a German philosopher in the tradition of logical positivism . Together with Paul Oppenheim, he developed the Hempel-Oppenheim scheme (DN model) for the scientific explanation and later developed it further on his own.


Carl G. Hempel grew up in the Eden settlement founded by intellectuals on the outskirts of Oranienburg , the oldest vegetarian settlement in Germany, in which the dream of life, economic and land reform was to become a reality. He attended a secondary school in Berlin and began his studies in 1923 at the University of Göttingen in the subjects of mathematics and philosophy. Here he got to know David Hilbert and was fascinated by his idea of using elementary methods to prove the consistency of mathematics.

After a short stay in Heidelberg, he studied mathematics, philosophy and physics in Berlin from 1924. In 1929 he took part in the first congress for scientific philosophy, which was organized by the Berlin positivists . Here he met Rudolf Carnap , whom he was so impressed with that he moved to Vienna and was accepted into the Vienna Circle . In 1934 he received his doctorate from the University of Berlin with a dissertation on probability theory. The reviewer was originally supposed to be the scientific theorist Hans Reichenbach , who, however, had to emigrate for “racial” reasons (reviewers were now the philosopher Nicolai Hartmann and the psychologist Wolfgang Köhler ).

Hempel himself emigrated to Belgium with the help of Paul Oppenheim. In 1936 both published the book The Type Concept in the Light of New Logic .

In 1937 Hempel received an invitation from the University of Chicago as a research assistant in philosophy. In 1939 he emigrated - he was married to the Jew Eva Ahrends - to the USA. He taught at the City College of New York and from 1940 to 1948 at Queens College . During this time he dealt with questions of confirmation and explanation of scientific statements and published several articles on this. During this time his wife died shortly after the birth of their son Peter Andrew. Three years later he married Diane Perlow with whom he had the daughter Miranda TobyAnne.

From 1948 to 1955 Hempel taught at Yale University , from 1955 to his retirement in 1974 at Princeton . In 1957 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences , 1966 to the American Philosophical Society and 1977 as a corresponding member of the British Academy . In 1961 he became president of the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division . In 1974 he went to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem until 1976 and from there to Pittsburgh until 1985 .

Oranienburg was the first German city to commemorate his place of birth (following a suggestion by Horst Wolfgang Boger) by renaming Schmachtenhagener Straße to “Carl-Gustav-Hempel-Straße” on January 8, 2005. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in the field of philosophy from the University of Konstanz . The Department of Economics at the Free University of Berlin also awarded him an honorary doctorate on December 10, 1984.


Hempel made significant contributions to the scientific theory of logical empiricism . In his later years he turned away from logical empiricism by approaching the position of Thomas S. Kuhn , but remained connected to the position previously represented by critical comments.

Together with Paul Oppenheim, Hempel developed the Hempel-Oppenheim schema or legal schema , a theory of explaining. According to this deductive-nomological explanation , an event can be explained by inferring it from general laws and a number of special initial conditions.

The raven paradox , also called Hempel's paradox , belongs to the field of inductive confirmation theory.

Hempel has pointed out that the term real definition can be understood to mean three different classes of cases: the nominal definition, the meaning analysis or the empirical analysis.


  • Contributions to the logical analysis of the concept of probability. Dissertation. Berlin. Neuenhahn, Jena 1934.
  • About the content of probability statements. In: Knowledge. Volume 5, 1935/1936, pp. 228-260.
  • with Paul Oppenheim: The concept of type in the light of the new logic. Sijthoff, Leiden 1936.
  • The problem of the vérité. In: Theoria. Volume 3. 1937, pp. 206-246.
  • The Function of General Laws in History. In: The Journal of Philosophy. Volume 39, 1942, pp. 35-48.
  • Studies in the Logic of Confirmation. In: Min. Volume 54, 1945, pp. 1-26 and 97f.
  • Fundamentals of Concept Formation in Empirical Science (= International Encyclopedia of Unified Science . Volume 2, No. 7). University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1952; 10th edition 1969.
    • Basics of the formation of concepts in empirical science. Bertelsmann University Press, Düsseldorf 1974.
  • The Logic of Functional Analysis. In: L. Gross (Ed.): Symposium on Sociological Theory. Evanston, Ill / White Plains, NY, 1959, pp. 271-307.
  • Philosophy of Natural Science. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1966, ISBN 0-13-663823-6 .

Essay collections:

  • Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. Free Press, New York 1965, ISBN 0-02-914340-3 .
    • Aspects of scientific explanation. de Gruyter, Berlin 1977.
  • Selected Philosophical Essays. Edited by Richard Jeffrey. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2000, ISBN 0-521-62475-4 .
  • The Philosophy of Carl G. Hempel: Studies in Science, Explanation, and Rationality. Edited by James H. Fetzer. Oxford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-19-512136-8 .


  • James Fetzer: Science, Explanation, and Rationality: Aspects of the Philosophy of Carl G. Hempel , Oxford: Oxford University Press 2000.
  • Nicholas Rescher (ed.): Essays in Honor of Carl G. Hempel , Dordrecht (Netherlands): D. Reidel 1969.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Member History: Carl G. Hempel. American Philosophical Society, accessed September 27, 2018 .
  2. ^ Deceased Fellows. British Academy, accessed June 9, 2020 .