Schlick and the Vienna Circle

As promised when I finished Misak’s wonderful biography of Frank Ramsey, I’m now reading David Edmonds “The Murder of Professor Schlick – The Rise and Fall of the Vienna Circle“.

Most interesting chapter so far concerns the different factions of Jews and anti-semites in Vienna as we approach the 1930’s – and the consequences for the academic lives of the circle and their associates. Sobering.

That said, almost everything reinforces my prejudiced position concerning the circle themselves. Idiots to a man. Neurath being the archetype and Schlick the facilitator. Despite their modernist free-thinking aspirations, a totalitarian attitude to denigrating anything remotely fuzzy and replacing it with the presumed certainty of logic. And an explicitly left-wing utopian political agenda to the core. What were they thinking?

Left or right, this stuff stinks. Pretty much my 21st C agenda. Political correctness, driven by orthodox scientism, is destroying sane – humane – public discourse and everything else with it. Sadly now, the whole process is turbocharged by wall-to-wall electronic media. The rise of the right being simply a reaction to the insanity of the left. A pox on both their houses.

[Brexit, Trump, anti-Covid, Q-Anon, LGBTI+ Gender Wars, you name it.]

Can’t help thinking what might have been, had they noticed Gödel at their 7th October 1930 conference in Königsberg, and had Wittgenstein attended and met him, or had Ramsey lived to participate, or … ? Mach would have been turning in his grave – The Vienna Circle being the informal name of what had actually been the Ernst Mach Society.

[Also noticeable that Edmonds makes no qualification for Gödel’s thesis being limited to number theory only, quite explicitly the logic of mathematics generally.]

3 thoughts on “Schlick and the Vienna Circle”

  1. Agreement is rather boring, so I’ll have to read Edmond’s book and reacquaint myself with the Vienna Circle before I give compete assent. But, overall, I’m with you. As to, “a totalitarian attitude to denigrating anything remotely fuzzy and replacing it with the presumed certainty of logic”, I’m currently reading Galen Strawson’s essay ‘The Silliest Thing’. This is his examination of the woeful way the methodological tenets on behaviourism were transmogrified by philosophers into eliminative materialism and the denial of consciousness. This is a parallel process to the one you describe, but no less ridiculous. And maybe more: it is the ‘silliest thing’ to which he refers.

  2. Yes, I had to admit to “prejudice” but I’m finding it hard to find nice things to say.
    What I hadn’t previously realised was how explicit a political agenda it had been from the start. Explains a lot.

    Still, it’s advertised as the “rise and fall” – so hoping the second half is better 😉

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