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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: January 2010

1 - An Introduction to Logical Empiricism and the Unity of Science Movement in the Cold War

Summary

For those interested in the history of philosophy of science, logical empiricism holds a special attraction. Like old sepia-toned photographs of ancestors who made our lives possible by surviving wars, emigrations, and the vicissitudes of times gone by, logical empiricism holds the nostalgic allure of the smoky Viennese cafés where much of it took shape some eighty years ago. The setting and the story are irresistible. In the Vienna of Freud, Schoenberg, Wittgenstein, and other twentieth-century luminaries, the philosophers, mathematicians, and logicians making up the Vienna Circle were surrounded by intellectual creativity. They themselves were on the front lines of the century's exciting developments in physics and logic. The core members included Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap, Kurt Gödel, Philipp Frank, and Otto Neurath, while their colleagues and devotees in Europe and America included Hans Reichenbach, Carl Hempel, Ernest Nagel, and W. V. O. Quine. Until the circle's dissolution and demise in the early 1930s, these present and future leaders in philosophy met regularly at the University of Vienna and at various cafés to debate their ideas about knowledge, science, logic, and language. As they sipped coffee and lit their pipes, they ignited nothing less than a revolution in philosophy and bequeathed to us the discipline we know today as philosophy of science.

Nostalgia, of course, carries little philosophical weight.

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