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Biographical Notes: Moritz Schlick
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[5. Biographical Notes.]


Moritz Schlick.

The physicist and philosopher Moritz Schlick (Berlin 1882 - Vienna 1936) studied at the University of Losanna, in Heidelberg and Vienna, where he received his degree in physics with a dissertation written under the direction of Max Planck. Between 1911 and 1917 he taught at the University of Rostock. In those years, Schlick was interested in the Theory of Relativity. He wrote "Die Philosophische Bedeutung der Relativitätsprinzip" in Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik, 159, 1915; Raum und Zeit in der gegenwärtingen Physik, Berlin, 1917 (English translation: Space and Time in Contemporary Physics, 1920). In 1918 he published Allgemeine Erkenntnislehre (English translation: General Theory of Knowledge, 1974). With the help of Frank, Hahn, and Neurath, in 1922 Schlick moved to the University of Vienna, where he held the chair of theory of inductive science. Schlick organized a discussion group known as the Vienna Circle. He was an editor of the series published by the Vienna Circle Schriften zur wissenschaftlichen Weltauffassung. In 1929 and 1932 he was Visiting Professor at Stanford University and he was the herald of the philosophy of logical positivism in the USA. The American journal Philosophical Review hosted an interesting exchange of opinions between American philosopher C. I. Lewis and Schlick on the Verifiability Principle (C. I. Lewis, "Experience and Meaning" 1934; M. Schlick, "Meaning and Verification" 1936). In 1929, the manifesto of the Vienna Circle was written by Hahn, Neurath and Carnap.  It was dedicated to Schlick, and in 1930 the first article published in the new journal Erkenntnis was Schlick's Die Wende der Philosophie. Schlick was killed in the University of Vienna by a Nazi student on June 22 1936.
Schlick can be regarded as the father of logical positivism, both for his organizational skills and for his philosophical ideas.
According to Schlick, scientific laws are not genuine statements, for they are not completely verifiable. He argued that scientific laws are rules employed to make predictions. The only criterion for justifying scientific laws is the reliability of forecasts; causal laws express nothing but the possibility of making a prediction. Quantum physics has proved, Schlick asserted, that there is a limit to such a possibility. That limitation is not due to a failure of human knowledge or to an interference of the human observer within the physical system. If quantum mechanics proves the impossibility of a simultaneous measurement of position and momentum, then, according to Schlick, simultaneous position and momentum do not exist.
Schlick criticized Neurath's linguistic theory of science. According to Schlick, science is not characterized by its internal coherence; rather, scientific statements must be tested with respect to the given experience.

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