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Archive for December, 2019

Philosophy With a Human Face

Vienna in the 1920s was an extraordinary centre of intellectual activity. From amidst a social milieu of artists, philosophers, and scientists, the Vienna Circle — a group of roughly a dozen academics from a range of disciplines — coalesced around, among others, Moritz Schlick, Otto Neurath, Friedrich Waismann, Heinrich Neider, Herbert Feigl, and Karl Menger. Others, like Karl Popper and Kurt Gödel, were moving in the periphery of the Circle, and through its common goal of (in the words of historian Karl Sigmund) “forging a great unification of human knowledge”, it ‘radiated outwards’, ultimately leading to the dominance of logical positivism across much of English-language philosophy in the mid-20th century. The English edition of Sigmund’s book, ‘Exact Thinking in Demented Times’ (Basic Books 2017), is the first ‘picture book’ of the Vienna Circle, telling the various interconnected life stories of its main representatives. While not always fully accurate in portraying the philosophical views of the Circle, when understood as a ‘family saga’ about the very human lives of a group of innovative and socially engaged philosophers — writes our reviewer Adam Tamas Tuboly — the book is well worth buying.