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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: January 2010

2 - Otto Neurath, Charles Morris, Rudolf Carnap, and Philipp Frank: Political Philosophers of Science


Logical empiricists themselves indicated that logical empiricism and the Unity of Science movement had not only intellectual (or narrowly epistemological) ambitions, but also social, cultural, and – broadly construed – political ambitions. In his autobiography, Carnap wrote, “All of us in the [Vienna] Circle were strongly interested in social and political progress. Most of us, myself included, were socialists” (1963a, 23). For most, moreover, their socialist politics or outlooks were in various ways connected to their philosophical projects. Had the Vienna Circle's manifesto, Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung, written by Carnap, Neurath, and Hans Hahn in 1929, been sooner translated and published in America, the progressive, socialist outlook of logical empiricism might have been better known to American philosophers of science. The manifesto sketched a broad, modernist aesthetic that connected the tasks of eliminating metaphysics, reforming philosophy, and unifying the sciences:

The endeavor is to link and harmonise the achievements of individual investigators in their various fields of science. From this aim follows the emphasis on collective efforts, and also the emphasis on what can be grasped intersubjectively; from this springs the search for a neutral system of formulae, for a symbolism freed from the slag of historical languages; and also the search for a total system of concepts. Neatness and clarity are striven for, and dark distances and unfathomable depths rejected. In science there are no “depths”; there is surface everywhere: all experience forms a complex network, which cannot always be surveyed and can often be grasped only in parts. Everything is accessible to man; and man is the measure of all things. […]