Up to Philosophers in Disgrace and Demand


Moritz Schlick

(shot by a student)

Schlick was founder and leader of the German WIENER KREIS, a group of philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians was formed in the 1920s that met regularly in Vienna to investigate scientific language and scientific methodology. The philosophical movement associated with the Circle has been called variously logical positivism, logical empiricism, scientific empiricism, neopositivism, and the unity of science movement. The work of its members, although not unanimous in the treatment of many issues, was distinguished, first, by its attention to the form of scientific theories, in the belief that the logical structure of any particular scientific theory could be specified quite apart from its content. Second, they formulated a verifiability principle or criterion of meaning, a claim that the meaningfulness of a proposition is grounded in experience and observation. For this reason, the statements of ethics, metaphysics, religion, and aesthetics were held to be assertorically meaningless. Third, and as a result of the two other points, a doctrine of unified science was espoused. Thus, no fundamental differences were seen to exist between the physical and the biological sciences or between the natural and the social sciences.

Moritz Schlick was an epistemologist and philosopher of science. Among the members of the Wiener Kreis were Gustav Bergmann, Rudolf Carnap, Herbert Feigl, Philipp Frank, Kurt G�del, Otto Neurath, and Friedrich Waismann; and among the members of a cognate group, the Gesellschaft f�r empirische Philosophie ("Society for Empirical Philosophy"), which met in Berlin, were Carl Hempel and Hans Reichenbach. A formal declaration of the group's intentions was issued in 1929 with the publication of the manifesto Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung: Der Wiener Kreis ("Scientific Conception of the World: The Vienna Circle"), and in that year the first in a series of congresses organized by the group took place in Prague.

Were things went wrong

Vienna, June 22, 1936. Moritz Schlick is murdered by a mentally unstable student who had his special paper refused.

Three weeks after this killing an author calling himself "Prof. Austriacus" published an article in the weekly magazin "Sch�nere Zukunft". Austriacus held Schlick's "radical destructive philosophy" responsible for the mental instability of his killer. This philosophy, Austriacus held, should not have been permitted at the University of Vienna. Austriacus continues:

At this moment jewish circles do not get tired hailing him [Schlick] as the most important thinker. We perfectly understand that. Because the Jew is a born a-metaphysician, what attracts him in philosophy is logicism, mathematicism, formalism and positivism, only properties therefore that Schlick unified in himself in the highest degree. But nevertheless we wish to remind of the fact that we christians live in a christian German state and that we  determine what philosophy is good and appropriate.

Encyclopedia Britannica writes that journals wrote that the student's justified anger stemmed from the contents of Schlicks lectures on social philosophy at the University of Vienna in which he criticised Nazism.

In 1938, after the "Anschluss", the merger of Nazi-Germany and Austria, with the onset of World War II, political pressure was brought to bear against the Wiener Kreis. It disbanded. Many of its members fleeing to the United States and a few to Great Britain.

Nazis quickly "liberated" the student from prison.

Stadler, F., "Aspekte des gesellschaftlichen Hintergrunde und Standorts des Wiener Kreises am Beispiel der Universit�t Wien", in:   Wittgenstein, der Wiener Kreis und der Kritischen Rationalismus. Akten des dritten internationale Wittgenstein Symposiums. Wien: H�ler-Pichler-Tempsky, 1979 p 58
Hegselman, R., "Logischer Emipirismus und Ethik"", in Schlick, M., Fragen der Ethik. Herausgegeben und eingeleitet von Rainer Hegselmann. Frankfurk am Main: Suhrkamp, 1984; p 9

Contributors: HV, BH