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  • Cited by 6
  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: January 2008

10 - Philosophy of Social Science in Early Logical Empiricism: The Case of Radical Physicalism

from Part III - Logical Empiricism and the Philosophy of the Special Sciences


Philosophy of social science is unlikely to figure in many people's judgment as a field in which logical empiricism effected great progress. If anything, impressions run to the contrary. Considered in the right light, however, the riches of logical empiricist philosophy of social science were considerable. The trick is to find the proper lighting. Here the aim is to illuminate a much misunderstood early doctrine, not only for its intrinsic interest but also - alongside Chapters 3 and 11 but from a different angle - to highlight what was lost when central members of the Vienna Circle were marginalized in the heyday of orthodox logical empiricism.


For current purposes virtually all post-World War II philosophy of social science must be neglected. The reason is by no means that there is no good work in the field during that time by logical empiricists. Nor is the reason that in this period it is even more difficult to decide membership of the movement than in the previous one. It is rather that no figures central in pre–WorldWar II logical empiricism in this field remained to continue their work after the war. Given this discontinuity of personnel, the concentration here will lie on prewar logical empiricist philosophy of social science. Even so delimited, the field holds forgotten riches.