The Vienna Circle were a group of philosophers who gathered round Moritz Schlick, after his coming to Vienna in 1922. They formed a philosophical association named the
Ernst Mach Association to discuss matters scientific social and philosophical. Amongst their members were
Rudolf Carnap, Herbert Feigl, Phillip Frank, Kurt Gödel, H. Hahn, V. Kraft, Otto Neurath and F. Waismann. Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein on occasion attended their meetings and the tone of their ideology was strongly influenced by Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.
So that's who they were, now why were they, what did they do
and what hapened to them. First the why. Note the year, Germany, post WW1. Germany had just suffered a massive and humiliating defeat at the hands of the allied powers. The Germans needed a scapegoat for this and they chose science. It was felt that science had promised them victory and now must be blamed for defeat. The intellectual mood of the country swung away, not just from science but from rationalim itself. This can be seen by the rise at that time in proponants of spiritualism, of epic cycles and the abundance of fin de sciecle literature. The whole mood
was captured by Oswald Spengler's book The Decline of the West. In this work Spengler argued that Western Civilisation had come to to the end of it's natural
cycle and was doomed to dissapear. A very Hegelian
idea. This book became a standard piece of work
in most German literary households at that time.
Other writers across Europe were writing in the same theme,
notably Yeats as can be seen in his poem The Circus Animals Dissertation. Arguably this idea led to modernism which in it's turn led to postmodernism.
The Rationalists of the day were horrified at this turn
away from science. Planck writes at the time
"the iconoclast has entered the temple of science" in reference to
the idea that science did not hold absoloute truth.
The Vienna Circle attempted to rectify this
by setting forth a program to determine what
truth was and what knowledge could be considered
valuable. I know this sounds like a cliched and tired
idea, but these philosophers were the first to programatically
explore the question in relation to science. Before them
science had simply been accepted due to it's
successes. Here is the first attempt to defend it
For this reason they named themselves after Ernst Mach
and clearly took on thet mantle of the empiricisit.
They helped to produce
the doctrine of logical positivism and this is how they did that ...
They created the Verification Criteria of Meaning,
with this tool they attempted to reassert
the physical sciences in the position od authority
that they had in pre world war Germany. The effect was mixed.
In general their arguments were ignored by the Germans,
but had a huge influence on the development of the philosophy
of science. The German Nation had its
frustrations channelled against ethnic minorities.
Most of the Vienna Circle were Jewish and eventually
were hounded out of their academic positions.
One of the Vienna Circle faild a student who was
a Hitler sympathiser. The student assassinated his
tutor on the steps of the university and evaded
prosocution. I can't currently remember
which Vienna circle member this happened to but when I do
I will update this node.
By 1935 the Vienna Circle ceased to be yet their
arguments remain with us to this day.
says It was Schlick who was killed. The subject was ethics: the student failed his ehtics. Well yes :)
thanks to Colorless Green Idea for some of the names