Philosophers of the Vienna Circle

Philosophers of the Vienna Circle

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

Logical positivism can be defined as a philosophical approach that took shape as a result of the intellectual pursuits of a group of philosophers and scientists who came together in Vienna. The activities of this community, known as the Vienna Circle, spanned from the early 1920s to the mid-1930s.

The group held regular weekly meetings from 1924 to 1936 under the leadership of physicist and philosopher Moritz Schlick. Rudolf Carnap, another important name of the environment, joined the group in 1926.

Among the leading names of the Vienna Circle are mathematician Hans Hahn, physicist Philip Frank, social scientist Otto Neurath and his wife, mathematician Olga Hahn Neurath, philosopher Viktor Kraft, mathematician Theodor Radacovic and Gustav Bergmann. Later, Schlick’s students Friedrich Waismann, Herbert Feigl and Marcel Natkin; Hahn’s students Karl Menger and Kurt Gödel also attended.

However, while some of these people were officially members of the group, some preferred to be defined as sympathizers only. For example, Karl Popper, one of Hahn’s students, has never considered himself a member of the group, even though he attended some meetings and was a party to the discussions. The members and sympathizers of the group are not limited to these. There were other names who attended and left the meetings at different times.

Vienna Circle

The work and discussions of the Vienna Circle are based on reshaping empiricism and science, especially in the light of advances in logic, mathematics, and physics in the period from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century.


According to thinkers who have this point of view, philosophy should be purified from metaphysical ways of thinking and metaphysical propositions. As we will discuss in detail below, metaphysical statements are more meaningless than false.

Denial of the possibility of synthetic a priori judgments

As we tried to reveal in the first chapter, some developments in mathematics and physics dealt effective blows to the Kantian understanding of mathematics and science. The close relations of the group members with physics and mathematics have created an important awareness in this regard. If mathematics and science do not have a ground based on synthetic a priori judgments, what will the foundations of mathematics and science be based on? This is perhaps the most prominent theme of the discussion of the environment.

A logical foundation of mathematics

The group is aware of the work of logicians such as Frege, Russell, and Whitehead, and they consider the propositions of mathematics to be logical, that is, analytical and a priori. Wittgenstein’s understanding of logic in Tractatus, who attended the meetings of the circle for a while, strengthened the tendencies in this regard.

Confirmatory understanding of meaning

When one thinks of logical positivism, perhaps the first term that comes to mind is verificationism. 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. Philosopher of science Carl Hempel, one of the supporters of the Vienna Circle, in a comment he made in 1991, claimed that the Vienna Circle had two separate lines, one developed around the work of Schlick and Carnap, and the other, of Otto Neurath. While Schlick and Carnap’s line is based on the analysis of the logic of language, Neurath’s point of view is much more pragmatic (Wolters 2003, p.117).

Related topics:

History of the Vienna Circle
Verifiability of Meaning Theory
Metaphysical Critique of the Vienna Circle

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