Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century

By Stuart G. Shanker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

Logical Positivism

Oswald Hanfling


I INTRODUCTION

'Logical positivism', writes a leading historian of twentieth-century philosophy, 'is dead, or as dead as a philosophical movement ever becomes' (Passmore [5.42]). Most philosophers today, and indeed for some time past, would endorse this statement. In one sense it is absolutely dead, for it lost its cohesive membership with the break-up of the group of philosophers known as the 'Vienna Circle', due to political pressures in the 1930s. It was here that the philosophy known as logical positivism had been initiated, developed and energetically propounded to the philosophical community throughout the world.

The 'death' of the movement was due, however, not only to the dispersal of its members, but also to a widespread recognition of the defects of its ideas. Now in this sense, probably most of the philosophy studied in our universities is dead, for most of it is open to more-or-less fatal criticisms; and criticism is regarded as one of the main approaches to the great philosophers and movements of the past. However, what hastened the widespread rejection of logical positivism was not merely the (unsurprising) discovery that its doctrines were open to criticism, but the aggressive and even arrogant way in which those doctrines were propounded to the world. Chief among these was the 'elimination of metaphysics'. It was claimed by members of the movement that they had noticed something about existing and traditional philosophy, which would completely overturn it and render it largely otiose. There appeared articles with such titles as 'The Elimination of Metaphysics through the Logical Analysis of Language' (Carnap [5.5]) and 'The Turning Point in Philosophy' (Schlick [5.24]). Carnap posed the question: 'Can it be that so many men, of various times and nations, outstanding minds among them, have devoted so much effort, and indeed fervour, to metaphysics, when this consists of

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Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • General Editors' Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Chronology xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 8
  • Chapter 1 - Philosophy of Logic 9
  • Bibliography 39
  • Chapter 2 - Philosophy of Mathematics in the Twentieth Century 50
  • Chapter 3 - Frege 124
  • Bibliography 153
  • Chapter 4 - Wittgenstein's Tractatus 157
  • Notes 187
  • Chapter 5 - Logical Positivism 193
  • Bibliography 210
  • Chapter 6 - The Philosophy of Physics 214
  • Bibliography 233
  • Chapter 7 - The Philosophy of Science Today 235
  • Chapter 8 - Chance, Cause and Conduct: Probability Theory and the Explanation of Human Action 266
  • Chapter 9 - Cybernetics 292
  • Bibliography 313
  • Chapter 10 - Descartes' Legacy: the Mechanist/Vitalist Debates 315
  • Notes 366
  • Glossary 376
  • Index 444
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