Philosophers Around Vienna

Philosophers Around Vienna

December 24, 2019 0 By Felso

Logical positivism can be defined as a philosophical approach that has been shaped by the intellectual quests of a group of philosophers and scientists gathered in Vienna.

The activities of this community, called the Vienna Circle, spread from the early 1920s to the mid-1930s. From 1924 to 1936, the community held regular weekly meetings under the leadership of physicist and philosopher  Moritz Schlick . Another important name of the environment  , Rudolf Carnap , joined the group in 1926.

Leading names in the Vienna Circle include mathematicians  Hans Hahn , physicist  Philipp Frank , sociologist  Otto Neurath  and his wife, mathematician Olga Hahn Neurath, philosopher Viktor Kraft, mathematician Theodor Radacovic and Gustav Bergmann. Schlick’s students Friedrich Waismann, Herbert Feigl and Marcel Natkin; Hahn’s students Karl Menger and  Kurt Gödel  also attended. However, some of these people were formally members of the group, while others chose to identify themselves as sympathetic. Karl Popper, for example, is one of Hahn’s students.  Although he was a party in some meetings and debates, he never considered himself a member of the group. Members and sympathizers of the group are not limited to these. There have been other names who have attended and left the meetings at different times.

The work and debates of the Vienna Circle were based on reshaping empiricism and science in the light of advances in logic, mathematics and physics from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. The main characteristics of this perspective can be summarized as follows:

Metaphysical contradiction:  Philosophers should be free from metaphysical thinking and metaphysical propositions according to thinkers with this perspective. As we will discuss in detail below, metaphysical expressions are meaningless rather than false. Rejection of the possibility of synthetic a priori judgments: As we have put forward in the first chapter, some advances in mathematics and physics have influenced the Kantian understanding of mathematics and science. The close relationship between the members of the group and physics and mathematics has created an important awareness on this subject. If mathematics and science do not have a basis based on synthetic a priori judgments, what will the foundations of mathematics and science be based on? This is perhaps the foremost theme of the debates of the environment.


 Logical grounding of mathematics : The group is aware of the work of logicians such as Frege, Russell and Whitehead, and they think that mathematical propositions are logical, analytical and a priori. Attending the meetings of the environment for a while, Wittgenstein’s understanding of logic in Tractatus strengthened the tendencies in this regard.

Confirmatory sense of understanding: When we  think of logical positivism, perhaps the first term that comes to mind is validationism. According to this understanding, the meaning of a proposition is its method of verification.

Recent historical studies show that group members have different views and perspectives rather than the same or similar views. In a comment he made in 1991, the philosopher Carl Hempel, a supporter of the Vienna Circle, argued that the Vienna Circle had two distinct lines, one developed specifically by Schlick and Carnap and the other by Otto Neurath. While Schlick and Carnap’s line is based on the analysis of the logic of language, Neurath’s perspective is much more pragmatic (Wolters 2003, p.117).

Prepared by:
  Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Ömer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Department of Sociology 1st Grade Giriş Introduction to Philosophy ”and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade Tarihi History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook