General Theory of Knowledge

General Theory of Knowledge

General Theory of Knowledge

General Theory of Knowledge


First published in Germany in 1918, this acutely reasoned treatise attacks many of philosophys contemporary sacred cows, including the concept of metaphysics and Kants arguments for synthetic a priori knowledge. The book expounds most of the doctrines that would later be identified with the classical period of the Vienna Circle. Unlike many of his peers, Schlick displays a detailed and sensitive knowledge of the traditions he criticizes, displayed here in the chief work of this pioneering Viennese philosopher.


It may seem odd that a series of works devoted to the natural sciences should include — indeed begin with — a volume on philosophy. Today, of course, it is generally agreed that philosophy and natural science are perfectly compatible. But to grant the theory of knowledge such a prominent position implies not only that these two fields are compatible, but that there is a natural connection between them. Thus the inclusion of this book in the series can be justified only if such an intimate relation of mutual dependence and interpenetration really does exist.

Without anticipating what is to come, the author would like first to explain his point of view on the relationship between epistemology and the sciences, and in so doing make clear at the outset the method to be followed in this book.

It is my view — which I have already expressed elsewhere and which I never tire of repeating — that philosophy is not a separate science to be placed alongside of or above the individual disciplines. Rather, the philosophical element is present in all of the sciences; it is their true soul, and only by virtue of it are they sciences at all. Knowledge in any particular field presupposes a body of quite general principles into which it fits and without which it would not be knowledge. Philosophy is nothing other than the system of these principles, a system which branches out and penetrates the entire system of knowledge and thereby gives it stability. Hence philosophy has its home in all the sciences; and I am convinced that the only way one can reach philosophy is to seek it out in its homeland.

While philosophy has its residence deep within all the sciences, it does not reveal itself with the same readiness in every one of them. On the contrary, first principles will of necessity be found most easily in those disciplines that have already attained the highest . . .

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