About explication


The idea and practice of explication is rooted in the verb , which concerns the process of "unfolding" and of "making clear" the meaning of things, so as to make the implicit explicit.

Carnap's argument

According to Carnap, explication can be regarded as a scientific process which transforms and replaces "an inexact prescientific concept" (which he calls the explicandum), with a "new exact concept" (which he calls the explicatum). A thesis which describes and explains the new explicit knowledge is usually called an "Explication".

Reviews of Carnap's argument

Carnap's argument provides a helpful foundation in understanding and clarifying the nature and value of explication in defining and describing "new" knowledge.

Others' reviews of Carnap's argument offer additional insights about the nature of explication. In particular, Bonolio's paper (2003) "Kant’s Explication and Carnap’s Explication: The Redde Rationem", and Maher's (2007) "Explication defended", add weight to the argument that explication is an appropriate methodology for formal philosophy.

Explication as a verb.. and explication as a noun

When working with explication, it is essential to be clear, and to make clear whether you are dealing with the explication "process" (and hence working with the verb or gerund), or dealing with the "outcomes" of the process, such as a work which documents, describes and explains the new explicit knowledge, i.e. the Explication itself (a noun).

Explication as an interpretative process

Based on the etymology of the word explication, and through extended argumentation (Franklin, et al, 2006), we can deduce that explication in the arts, humanities and social sciences is largely an "interpretative" process where the outcomes - the new explicit knowledge - is open to subsequent dispute, with the possibility of additional and/or different meanings being derived in the future.

On this argument, new explicit knowledge is therefore contingent and context specific. New explicit knowledge is also informed by the explicant's competence in dealing with the explication process, plus an ethical concern that the outcomes (i.e. the new explicit knowledge) can be considered to be an improvement and "true" (i.e. not yet disaffirmed). (cf. Harrison, 2006).

Explication and literary criticism

Explication is often associated with its use in literary criticism, specifically "explication de texte", where additional understandings and meanings are derived from the "close reading" of a poem, novel or play.

In this process explication often involves a line-by-line or episode-by-episode commentary on what is going on in a text. While initially this might seem reasonably innocuous, "explication de texte", and explication per se, is an interpretative process where the resulting new knowledge, new insights or new meanings, are open to subsequent debate and disaffirmation by others.

Explication in other discourses

Along with its use in literary criticism, other disciplines and professions employ the idea and practice of explication, such as those summarized in [http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/Art_of_explication The Scratchpad Wikia - art of explication] . In addition [http://explication.org On Explication] is devoted to the idea and practice of explication.


Bonolio, G. (2003). "Kant’s Explication and Carnap’sExplication: The Redde Rationem", INTERNATIONAL PHILOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY Vol. 43, No. 3, Issue 171, pp. 289-298.

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

Franklin, P. et al (2006). "Conjectures on explication. Explication as a philosophical enterprise", [http://www.explication.org.uk/publications/printer/practice/collection/Franklin/PPrint/Franklin%20et%20al.%20Explication_as_a_philosophical_enterprise_print.htm On explication]

Harrison, S.E. (2006). "Explication without words - A composer's view", Organisations and People, August, Vol.13 (3), pp. 59-63.

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

ee also

*Explication de texte
*Close reading

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