October, 5-6, Cracow, at Jagiellonian University > Papers

Otto Neurath (Dec., 1945)

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1. E. Köhler, "Neurath's Encyclopedia Concept, or How to Unify Science"

2. E. Köhler, "Empiricism Needs "Updating" Neurath's Unification Program Cannot Have All Sciences Be Empirical"

3. T. Uebel, "Neurath's Protocols Revisited"

4. T. Mormann, To Be Announced

5. E. Nemeth, "Social Science, Visual Education And Neurath's "Image Of Science""

6. T. Bonk, "Concepts of Reality: Schlick, Carnap, Neurath"

7. J. Woleñski, "How did the Concept of Rational Reconstruction Develop?"

...Some other papers or comments will be announced later. Below you will find all submited abstracts.

Institute Vienna Circlce

Justification, Truth, and Belief

 Abstracts > Neurath's Encyclopedia Concept, or How to Unify Science
by Eckehart Köhler (University of Vienna; Institute Vienna Circle)

We may say that Neurath's main philosophical program was to "fully socialize" science (die Wissenschaft "vollsozialisieren"), in analogy to his ideal of "fully socializing" society in the heady days of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919. Inspired by the social utopianism of his beloved mentor, Josef Popper, Neurath felt strongly that human improvement required the propagation of science throughout society in the tradition of the enlightenment. Universities have been a principle medium for the creation and transmission of knowledge, but Neurath chose a medium which could be developed and maintained independently of universities: the publication of an encyclopedia.
     Such an encyclopedia had not only the goal of presenting all knowledge of a given age, but also to demonstrate how the knowledge of different areas was related. The relationship was, Neurath claimed, intimate indeed, since all knowledge was knowledge of nature and was hence essentially one. This was the core idea of Neurath's Unified Science, which was supposed to be constructed on a physicalistic basis—using just the observable concepts of physics—which rejected the transcendentalism of theology and was a more refined form of socialist materialism. This program sounds very systematic, and indeed monolithically rationalist. For example, it is reductionistic, since it assumes that psychology and sociology are branches of physics, at least conceptually; and the reduction would be perfected when psychological and sociological laws (of learning, observation, running institutions, etc.) are reduced to physical laws as well.
     The crux of constructing an encyclopedia, however, is deciding on what represents the standard knowledge of an age. Here Neurath had problems, for there were two souls in him struggling with each other: Authoritarianism and Antiauthoritarianism, the latter of which emphasized fallibilism and was aimed particularly against pseudorationalism. Neurath of course understood that decisions to accept contributions for publication represented social power—after all, the encyclopedia was to be a central organ of social progress. However, power can easily be misused, leading to oppression and chaos. For this reason, Neurath refused to grant final authority to any encyclopedia, but rather encouraged many encyclopedias to grow separately, hoping perhaps that healthy competition would improve the product.
     Neurath emphasized this so much that it sometimes seemed as if he utterly opposed all systematization for fear it would restrict freedom—which was his strongest motive toward the end of his life, when he opposed the regimented Republic of Plato, but also the logical systematization of Carnap's semantics. But if many encyclopedias develop in parallel, we have problems: social decisions requiring coordinated effort (e.g. planning railroads) cannot be solved before a particular encyclopedia is chosen for consultation; developing encyclopedias in parallel would also incur wasted effort and the use of less qualified authors. Neurath's critics felt that his notion of Unified Science was therefore rather empty. It is therefore necessary to explicate a concept of encyclopedia which optimizes the goals Neurath had in mind and minimizes the difficulties. This has to be done by establishing principles for organizing encyclopedias in an axiom system, which would have to involve an acceptance logic, also called a logic of defeasible reasoning. [TOP]

 Abstracts > Empiricism Needs "Updating".
Neurath's Unification Program Cannot Have All Sciences Be Empirical
by Eckehart Köhler (University of Vienna; Institute Vienna Circle)

Neurath's instrument for propagating his "wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung" (manifesto of the Vienna Circle, 1929) was to unify science: to gather together and concentrate all that was truly scientific for the betterment of mankind. Neurath was very concerned that this unification both demonstrate as well as confirm empiricism as the main general principle of all knowledge.
     I. Empiricism not enough. Is empiricism a sufficient foundation for all science, however? If logic and mathematics contain knowledge, the answer is: no. If statistics and decision theory contain knowledge: no. If game theory and (welfare or other normative) economics contain knowledge: no. All of these are normally classified among the sciences. Ethics is often not classified among the sciences—although I think it should be—, but it is also not empirical. (Some philosophers friendly to logical empiricism such as John Dewey and C.I. Lewis thought ethics was empirical, but logical empiricists were honest enough to disagree, just as it disagreed with J.S. Mill that logic and mathematics were empirical.) All of these fields require rational intuition for justifying their principles. This can be considered as a type of observation providing data or information supporting them, analogous to empirical observation supporting empirical propositions (Gödel).
     II. Why is it not enough? If intuition is a form of observation, we might think that empiricism's main methodological criterion of testability is fulfilled, so the debate would seem to be over if empiricism were merely identified with testability. But this would violate empiricist tradition, which had always been aimed against rationalism—held by empiricists to be metaphysical and "consignable to the flames" together with theology and magic (Hume); empiricists had always limited observation to that of the five empirical senses (they are actually over a dozen, based on physiological classifications of receptors); and age-old tradition reserved the loaded term "sixth sense" to the inner light of rational insight, with its Pythagorean-Platonist-occultist connotations. It would be a dishonest hoax on posterity, an "Etikettenschwindel", to suddenly welcome back the prodigal son of ancient philosophy so definitely dismissed by Locke and Hume, and pretend all were well, no harm was done. Harm was done: empiricists called ethics meaningless, discouraging its development for many decades; Wittgenstein even called logic meaningless, which would have discouraged its development (or at least that of metatheory) if more than a few had been fooled; empiricism had no justification for rejecting Hitler, contributing to the abdication of philosophy in the face of the worst crimes against humanity [Oskar Kraus had called the good man Carnap (his wife Ina called him "angel-face") an instrument of evil]—the Vienna Circle should have shouted out that Nazis violate rationally based principles of justice and democracy; the Vienna Circle's sometimes farcical battle against metaphysics created completely unnecessary enemies, leaving a mass of confusion in its wake.
     III. Resuscitation of intuition. It turns out that all the unsavory accusations against intuition so often lodged by empiricists do not hold up; cf. my article "Resuscitation of Intuition". Intuition is fully acceptable as evidence for norms, just as empirical data is for factual propositions. The list of sciences cleanly falls into two columns under the headings descriptive (factual) and prescriptive (normative). The ultimate "reason" for this fundamental dualism lies in the deep fact that psychology cannot avoid a two-factor explanatory model of behavior where stimuli are divided into those giving information about the environment (facts) and those giving information about goals (values). Both learning theory (= empirical psychology describing actual behavior) and decision theory (= normative psychology used for recommending correct or prudent behavior) rely essentially on two "orthogonal" information inputs. Philosophical monism of course wants to lump the two factors together; this can be witnessed in pragmatists like Dewey and Lewis who defend naturalism by claiming that ethics is empirical (Schlick and Neurath also tried this); associationist psychology tries the same thing, but fails in the sense that it too is forced to distinguish certain stimuli as functionally special motivators. This is a dishonest or ignorant hoax instinctively rejected by really knowledgeable scientists like Simon and Suppes: both of these highly experienced men—with absolutely impeccable empiricist credentials (!!!)—stoutly reject any attempt to make decision theory empirical; whereas Dewey and Lewis from an earlier period were not familiar with modern decision theory and its patently rationalist and non- empiricist nature. [Its principles, like those of logic and mathematics, are developed not by consulting empirical observations, but the rational intuition of experienced normative scientists, which is "orthogonal" to empirical observation. Bolzano and Frege were misguided in stating that logic is antipsychologist; what they really can say is that (normative) logic cannot be developed empirically.] The most important witness from the Vienna Circle in favor of dualism is none other than Carnap, who came out of the closet in 1965 and openly abandoned empiricism [cf. my "Resuscitation"; this is also Salmon's judgment of 1965; however, Carnap practised "closet dualism" all along with his distinction of analytic and synthetic; the monist Quine was right to object that Carnap, if he were an empiricist, ought to be an epistemological monist and reject the analytic–synthetic distinction]. The greatest "Kronzeuge" Chief witness who turns state's evidence. of all with maximal empiricist credentials is Hume himself with his dictum against the naturalist fallacy: no Ought can ever be derived from an Is. All those who, like Simon and Suppes, really understand Hume's dictum can never confuse normative with empirical theories. The restriction to empirical evidence is inadequate; any attempt to "extend" empirical evidence to that of rational intuition is a flagrant philosophical hoax because of the fundamentally different functional nature of factual and evaluative information in deliberations and decisions. Case closed.
     IV. What to do now? What should friends of logical empiricism, friends of the Vienna Circle, friends of Otto Neurath do? Before anything else, I urge them to look more closely at their own label and consider its innate tendency. Logical empiricists had been strongly influenced by, even dominated by, mathematicians (mostly logicists) convinced that Mill's attempt to merge mathematics (and logic) into empirical science was somehow deeply wrong. Despite all of the Vienna Circle's diversity, this single conviction was strongly and uniformly held by all participants—with the single possible exception of Neurath, who probably would have agreed (or did agree?) with Quine's rejection of the first of the "two dogmas of empiricism". Since the notions of logicality and rationality have ever been commingled, it seems that, already with its very birth, logical empiricism made a crucial concession to rationalism. a) To be sure, the Vienna Circle fought a rear-guard battle for empiricism, officially keeping occult intuition off the books, but nevertheless giving logic pride of place as an independent factor underlying empirical knowledge next to empirical observation. b) To be sure, the Vienna Circle (including its most competent speakers in this area, both Carnap and Gödel) was embarrassed in failing to properly capture the exact difference between mathematics and empirical science. Nevertheless, it seems clear that the Vienna Circle as a whole conceded to rationalism a definite domain at least under the banner of analyticity and/or the a priori—however, without providing an adequate analysis of what this meant. Carnap in particular did this; and Neurath even made the concession, dreadful for empiricism, of strongly endorsing a "rationale Wirtschaftsbetrachtung", despite his closeness to Quine.
     V. Empiricist Rationalism. Hence my proposal is to simply push logical empiricism's innate tendency toward rationalism further out of the closet by a) first acknowledging logic and mathematics as rationalist based on rational intuition; b) secondly extending the same grace to all other "rationality theories", all the way to ethics (and aesthetics?—I'll provide a full list, complete with borderline definitions). The big debate is—now I go into full Neurathian propaganda mode—what label to use. "Rationalist empiricism" is unfair, since rationalism should be given at least equality with empiricism. "Rationalism-empiricism" seems awkward. "Empirio-Criticism" belongs to Avenarius (and is utterly monist) and "Critical" belongs to Popper. Empiricism itself owes heavy tribute to rationalism, considering its medieval roots in conceptualism (Ockham); indeed (as I pointed out in my "Gödels Platonismus") that the empiricist criterion of meaning itself—i.e. Hume's and Schlick's insistence that, if only sufficient time and energy were expended to collect evidence, all meaningful questions must be answerable by some evidence—is in fact platonistic. Schlick once played with the label "rationalist", and we may even claim that empiricism is simply a variety of rationalism, viz. one which emphasizes that not all knowledge is a priori. Every smart rationalist should accept Peircean fallibilism (a Neurath's core principle of anti-absolutism!)—arguably a principal feature of Plato's teaching! This is nothing other than the critical attitude essential for all philosophy and science, which fundamentally distinguishes these from (ordinary) religion. [Of course, on some definitions, science is also a religion, as Neurath was well aware.] If rationalists were smarter yet, they should even acknowledge that it's irrational to discount empirical evidence—which Plato clumsily appeared to do with "Cave" scenario. The rationalist Newton (maybe Leibniz, too) argued that empirical evidence reveals God's design and mere humans were consigned to humbly consult it for lack of superior calculating faculties; and Newton was fanatically interested in planetary and other data. If so, then "rationalism" alone ought to be enough. But just to keep apriorist hubris at bay, make sure by settling for "empirio-rationalism" or "empiricist rationalism". I don't completely like these terms, though. Please find a better one. [TOP]

 Abstracts > Neurath's Protocols Revisited
by Thomas E. Uebel (University of Manchester; Institute Vienna Circle)

In 1932, as part of his contributions to the ongoing debate in the Vienna Circle about the related issues of the logical form, the semantic content and the epistemic status of scientific evidence statements (protocols), Otto Neurath put forward a complex proposal whose formalism has long remained misunderstood. In my book Overcoming Logical Positivism From Within (1992) and elsewhere I have provided an interpretation that represents the proposal as outlining a set of interlocking empirical conditions on the acceptance of observation statements (with some further thoughts on their bearing on whole scientific theories). In the present paper I shall review the interpretation of Neurath's proposal given and respond to various criticisms. These (sometimes mutually inconsistent) criticisms can be summarised to the effect that my interpretation (1) is unduly rigid in certain subclauses; (2) uses a four-part division of his proposal that misrepresents Neurath's basic intention; (3) is still either too foundationalist in spirit; (4) threatens circularity; and (5) overlooks the complications introduced by Neurath's contemporaneous concept of Ballungen. In response I shall concede that some of my earlier formulations can be improved but defend the interpretation given in all essentials. Most importantly, I shall defend -- with reference to previously not yet considered archive materials--the four-part analysis previously offered as properly reflecting Neurath's intention to codify aspects of what could be called the 'pragmatics of science', the acceptance of singular observation statements and their bearing on theoretical generalisations. In second place, it has to be stressed again that Neurath's proposal provides for acceptance conditions, not truth conditions: what may look like a vicious circularity is but the reflection of an understanding of epistemological justification as deply holistic in nature; moreover, any judgement as to the satisfaction of any one or all of the acceptance conditions is itself fallible. As for Ballungen I shall argue that on a moderate reading of their import their office is to reinforce, in a logico-linguistic garb, the Neurath principle of old: the bearing of protocols on the acceptance of theories is itself conditioned by plausibility considerations, since for a confirmation or disconfirmation to be effected a translation is required from the 'physicalistically cleansed everyday language' to the 'system language' containing the derived predictions. [TOP]

 Abstracts > Social Science, Visual Education and Neurath's "Image of Science"
by Elisabeth Nemeth (University of Vienna; Institute Vienna Circle)

On January 1, 1925 Neurath became the director of the "Social and Economic Museum", one of the important institutions for adult education in "Red Vienna". Here he developed the "Viennese method of picture statistics". During the whole period of the Vienna Circle Neurath was not only a most active member of the group but became an internationally well known expert on picture language and visual education. Though Neurath thought of his picture language as a truly scientific language, the philosophical significance of his ideas on visual education have scarcely been analysed until now.
     In my talk I want to show first that some central features of Neurath's and Arntz's picture language are related to Neurath's position in the "Methodenstreit" in Social Science (see Uebel 1996 and 2002). The "Viennese Method" of pictorial statistics reflects the combination of "individualism" and "holism" Neurath was advocating. The "Viennese Method" was an excellent intellectual instrument to develop Neurath's version of comparative economics further.
     Second: in the context of his reflections on visual education Neurath elaborated his views on how science could contribute to "social enlightenment". The aim of social enlightenment is not primarily to distribute scientific knowledge on social issues to the public, but to communicate and exercise a specific way of considering social phenomena. Visual education tries to transfer a specific "scientific attitude", "a quality not restricted to scholars only; there are laymen who have it and scientists who do not have it." (Neurath 1946)
     Third: The way Neurath characterised the "scientific attitude" he wanted to encourage by visual education, invites us to look at scientific practice from an unusual angle. Scientists and philosophers can learn something new about their own practice by looking carefully at what happens when social phenomena are represented in pictorial statistics. [TOP]

 Abstracts > Concepts of Reality: Schlick, Carnap, Neurath"
by Thomas Bonk (University of Munich)

Hypothetico-deductive realism is a widely held ontological attitude towards non-observables in the sciences. M. Schlick propagated a version in Erkenntnistheorie (2nd. ed., 1925). Neither Neurath nor Carnap adopted this position. I compare the alternative views on ontology they embraced. Neurath's turns out on examination to be untenable and inconsistent with good scientific practise. I discuss difficulties for Carnap's view (in "Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology", 1950) and argue that Schlick's version of hypothetico-deductive realism is the most promising of the three. [TOP]

 Abstracts > How did the Concept of Rational Reconstruction Develop?
by Jan Woleñski (Jagiellonian University; Institute Vienna Circle)

Neglecting earlier anticipations, the first clear account appeared in Carnap's, Logischer Aufbau and his paper on logical analysis (1930). Then Popper's Logik der Forschung comes. It is interesting that Popper says almost nothing about rational reconstruction in Die beiden Grundprobleme, a prototype of Logik. Thus, we have a historical problem how, if anyhow, Popper was influenced by the discussions in the Vienna Circle about logical analysis and its task. Further, classical loci are Reichenbach's Experience and Prediction, his The Rise of Scientific Philosophy and Carnap's The Logical Foundations of Probability. [TOP]

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