Who is Moritz Schlick?

Who is Moritz Schlick?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

As one of the founders of the Vienna Circle and one of the leading logical positivists of his time, Schlick rejected both Neo-Kantian tendencies and Husserl’s philosophy, emphasizing the importance of analytical and logical methods in philosophy, making an effort to analyze perception in a critical way.

Moritz Schlick, who opposes Kant and Kantianism on knowledge, adopts an empiricist point of view, argues that the propositions of mathematics and logic are not synthetic a priori propositions, but are true by definition, analytical, that is, empty in terms of content. He also strongly opposed the conventionalism in question and claimed that scientific theories are an a posteriori system consisting of concepts whose accuracy depends on correspondence.

Therefore, Schlick, who divided propositions into logically necessary analytical propositions and empirical or synthetic a posteriori propositions with a real content, argued that it is impossible to reach absolute certain knowledge; He stated that the best thing to do is to turn to the propositional systems that science creates while describing reality.

Friedrich Albert Moritz Schlick was born in Berlin in 1882 to a wealthy family. He studied physics in Heidelberg and Lausanne. He became a student of the famous physicist Max Planck at the University of Berlin and wrote his doctoral thesis under his supervision. The title of his doctoral thesis was Über die Reshexion des Lichts in einer inhomogenen Schicht (Reflection of Light in an Inhomogeneous Environment).

Schlick’s interests were not limited to physics and natural sciences. In 1908 he published a small volume called Lebensweisheit (Wisdom of Life). In this work, he argued that happiness is the highest goal worth pursuing. His associate professorship thesis Das Wesen der Wahrheit nach der modernen Logik (The Nature of Truth According to Modern Logic) was published in 1910.

Schlick was aware of what was going on in physics at that time and even wrote an article about Einstein’s special theory of relativity in 1915. He also publishes a work on post-Newtonian physics under the title Raum und Zeit in der gegenwärtigen Physik (Space and Time in Contemporary Physics).

In 1922 he was appointed professor in the Philosophy of Inductive Sciences at the University of Vienna. The year 1922 was also the year the Tractatus was published, and as such, it witnessed extremely important developments in the history of logical positivism.

A group of scientists and philosophers, including Rudolf Carnap, Herbert Feigl, Kurt Gödel, Hans Hahn, Otto Neurath, and Friedrich Waisman, suggested that Schlick meet at regular meetings. At first they called themselves the Ernst Mach Society, but later they became known as the Vienna Circle.

Schlick and Waismann persuaded Wittgenstein to attend meetings of the Vienna Circle to discuss his views in the Tractatus. Wittgenstein came into contact with the Vienna Circle between 1924 and 1932 and returned to his philosophical studies through Schlick’s efforts.

Schlick worked on his work Allgemeine Erkenntnislehre (General Theory of Knowledge) between 1918 and 1925. In this work, Schlick presented a comprehensive critique of synthetic a priori truths.

Between 1926 and 1930 he concentrated on his work Fragen der Ethik (Questions of Moral Philosophy). Schlick’s treatment of ethics as an important part of philosophy was criticized by some members of the Vienna Circle. His article titled “Positivism and Realism”, which he wrote in 1932-1933, revealed the basic theses of positivism as agreed by all logical positivists. At the same time, members of the circle published the book Scientific World View: The Vienna Circle.

Due to the rise of Nazism in Germany and Austria, some members of the Vienna Circle left Vienna for the United States and England. Schlick was shot and killed by a former student with a pistol on the steps of the university in 1936. There were different opinions about the reason for the student who murdered Schlick. Some attributed the murder to rising antisemitism at the time, although Schlick was not of Jewish descent. He joined the Austrian National Socialist Party after the student in question was released after serving two years of his ten-year sentence.

Schlick has been called a prominent representative of logical positivism for his contribution to the development of a science-based understanding of philosophy.

– Verifiability as a theory of meaning

– Limits of verifiability

– The nature of philosophy

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