Journal Article

Neuraths Enzyklopädismus: Entwurf eines radikalen Empirizismus

Thomas Mormann
Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie
Vol. 22, No. 1 (1991), pp. 73-100
Published by: Springer
Page Count: 28

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Topics: Hats, Kantianism, Encyclopedias, Empiricism, Gilts, Unified science, Slang, Topology
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Neuraths Enzyklopädismus: Entwurf eines radikalen Empirizismus
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Otto Neurath was one of the most active and prominent members of the Vienna Circle. However, after the war his philosophical influence has been rather limited. In this paper I want to show that the main theme of Neurath's philosophical work has been the formulation of a radically empiricist theory of science. His approach - encyclopedism - can be characterised by the following five theses: scientific knowledge is (1) fallible, (2) pluralistic, (3) holistic, (4) it can be logically systematized only locally, and (5) it does not give us a (faithful) description of the real world. (4) is considered as the most original thesis of encyclopedism and is discussed in detail. Neurath never fully elaborated his approach. However, the central features of encyclopedism can be reconstructed from Neurath's penetrating criticisms of Popper's falsificationism and Carnap's semantics. In both cases, his approach is based on a transformed Kantian motive, namely to map out the legitime limits of empiricist reason.