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The Vienna Circle and Logical Positivism

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Uploaded on Mar 2, 2009

This clip briefly describes the rise of the Vienna Circle and the ideas of logical positivism. The Vienna Circle had various members, however, this clip only mentions Moritz Schlick, Rudolph Carnap, Otto Neurath, and Kurt Gödel. It then briefly discusses the relationship between logical positivism and Ludwig Wittgenstein's early work (exemplified in his "Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus").

The main thought behind logical positivism was the notion that all worthwhile knowledge is scientific knowledge. This can be best expressed in their "Verificationist Criterion of Meaning." Simply put, there exist only two types of genuine knowledge: analytic truths that are true by definition (i.e. mathematics and logic), and synthetic truths that are true by repeatable empirical observations (i.e. physics, biology, chemistry, etc.). All statements that fail to fit into these two categories (i.e. metaphysical, ethical, aesthetic, etc.) are seen as emotive and cognitively meaningless.

Another signature aspect of logical positivism is a general disdain towards metaphysical speculation. While some positivists thought we ought to suspend judgment concerning metaphysics entirely, others felt provisional commitment to a metaphysics to ground the empirical sciences was justified. Consequently, a few promoted physicalism as a metaphysical theory that could provide unification to all of the natural sciences.

The clip also mentions Otto Neurath's idea of building a ship while at sea as a metaphor for an anti-foundationalist epistemology.

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