Logical Positivism – Neurath
In a series of articles I will be forming a bite size guide to the philosophical composition known as Logical Positivism.
Logical positivism was a school of thought that appeared in Vienna in the 1920’s. It was centred around the discussions of a group of philosophers known as the Vienna Circle. They discussed logic, mathematics, language and had a great distaste of metaphysics. They claimed that true knowledge was gained through sense experience and reason alone. Influenced by advances in modern science, logical positivists sought to apply the scientific paradigm to philosophy and show metaphysics to be meaningless.
Otto Neurath (1882 – 1945)
Widely recognised as one of the founding father’s of the Vienna Circle, Neurath had a great effect on the work within Logical Positivism.
Having experienced and studied various fields of subjects throughout his time such as Mathematics, Political economics, Sociology and Scientific Philosophy he was regarded as a prevailing academic.
Through his wide range of knowledge Neurath was able to use both his experience and notoriety to help shape the ideas of Logical Positivism that arose during the first half of the twentieth century.
It was, in some sense the radical support of Logical Positivism and the forceful inclination towards scientific knowledge that Neurath will be remembered for. However, throughout his productive lifetime and particularly from his work within the Vienna circle there are numerous theories of Logical Positivism that are still regarded as necessary by philosopher’s today.
Throughout his years Neurath acquired several high profile work placements including the director of the German Museum of war economy, a central economic planner for the German Social Democratic Party and the proprietor of the Social and Economical Museum in Vienna. It was throughout his tenure in these occupations that Neurath developed his concepts of empiricism and rationality. As a reflection of the turbulent changes within the first half of the twentieth century Neurath moved from place to place, often forcibly due to his Marxist views and Jewish heritage. Prior to his death in 1945 Neurath opened his own institution displaying his personal pictorial language named ISOTYPE (below) that signified his desire for greater understanding through fact based rationale.
Neurath was personally active within the Vienna Circle from around 1923 – 1938. Promoting the concept of Logical Positivism, Neurath worked alongside other academics with varying levels of agreement displayed.
It is said amongst historians and philosophers alike that Neurath, amongst the group was the most radical logical empiricist. With glaring originality, Neurath championed the destruction of Metaphysics and in doing so bringing in a new age of Empiricism. The most prominent of Neurath’s ideas came in the form of universal understanding of a ‘unified science’. From the outset Neurath whole heartedly wanted to ‘fashion tools for everyday life’ in order to consciously re-shape of existence. In particular the feeling was that the population were viewing the ideas behind knowledge and science mistakenly.
Discussions within the circle evolved around the processes of logical positivism which incorporated the ‘unifying of science’ theory. It suited Neurath for scientific knowledge to be meticulous in order to get rid of what he called ‘deleterious metaphysical nonsense’ and the dogma that surrounded it. From then on any meaningful enquiry, for Neurath would be divided into empirical and logical ones so that unproven concepts are completely avoided.