Mauro Murzi's pages on Philosophy of Science - Vienna Circle
History
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History.

Meetings on philosophy of science and epistemology began as early as 1907, promoted by Frank, Hahn and Neurath. They had roughly the same age, were born in Vienna, and had a common scientific background.
Hans Hahn, the older of the three (1879-1934), was a mathematician. He received his degree in mathematics in 1902; afterwards he studied under the direction of Boltzmann in Vienna and Hilbert, Klein and Minkowski in Göttingen, and in 1905 received the Habilitation in mathematics; he taught at Innsbruck (1905-1906) and Vienna (from 1909).
Otto Neurath (1882-1945) studied in Vienna and Berlin sociology, economics and philosophy; he received the degree in economics in 1905 at Berlin; from 1907 to 1914 he taught in Vienna at the Neuen Wiener Handelsakademie (Viennese Commercial Academy). Neurath married Olga, Hahn's sister, in 1911.
Philipp Frank, the younger of the group (1884-1966), studied physics in Göttingen and Vienna with Boltzmann, Hilbert and Klein; in 1907 he received the degree in physics and in 1912 held the chair of theoretical physics in the German University in Prague.
Their meetings were held in Viennese coffeehouses from 1907 onward. Frank remembered:

After 1910 there began in Vienna a movement which regarded Mach's positivist philosophy of science as having great importance for general intellectual life [..] An attempt was made by a group of young men to retain the most essential points of Mach's positivism, especially his stand against the misuse of metaphysics in science. [...] To this group belonged the mathematician H. Hahn, the political economist Otto Neurath, and the author of this book [i.e. Frank], at the time an instructor in theoretical physics in Vienna. [...] We tried to supplement Mach's ideas by those of the French philosophy of science of Henri Poincaré and Pierre Duhem, and also to connect them with the investigations in logic of such authors as Couturat, Schröder, Hilbert, etc. (cited from Uebel, Thomas, 2003, p.70).

The three friends participated also to the meetings of the Philosophical Society of the University of Vienna, from 1905 to 1927, where Frank discussed on philosophy of physics and Neurath on methodology of history of science and on social science and economics. Between the arguments that interested the Philosophical Society there was the analysis of Kantian philosophy of science and of contemporary classical mechanics.
The meetings of Hahn, Neurath and Frank on philosophy of science, French conventionalism, Mach's empiricism, Hilbert's logicism, were animated by an anti-Kantian attitude; however, Kant's philosophy was not dismissed as meaningless. Presumably the meetings stopped in 1912, when Frank went to Prague, where he held the chair of theoretical physics left vacant by Albert Einstein. Hahn left Vienna during the World War I and returned in 1921. The following year Hahn, with the collaboration of Frank, arranged to bring Schlick at the University of Vienna, where Schlick held the chair of philosophy of the inductive sciences. Schlick had already published his two main works Raum und Zeit in die gegenwärtigen Physik (Space and Time in contemporary Physics) in 1917 and Allgemeine Erkenntnislehre (General Theory of Knowledge) in 1918. Under the direction of Schlick a new regular series of meetings began. Later Schlick and Hahn arranged to bring Carnap at the University of Vienna in 1926. In 1928 the Verein Ernst Mach (Ernst Mach Society) was founded, with Schlick as chairman, and in 1929 the Vienna Circle manifesto Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung. Der Wiener Kreis (The Scientific Conception of the World. The Vienna Circle) was published. The pamphlet is dedicated to Schlick; its preface is signed by Hahn, Neurath and Carnap. In the appendix there is the list of the members of the Vienna Circle.

The Vienna Circle was dispersed when the Nazi party went into power in Germany; many of its members emigrated to USA, where they taught in several universities. Schlick remained in Austria, but in 1936 he was killed by a Nazi sympathizer student in the University of Vienna.

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