Are all philosophers inclined

15.2.3 Logical positivism

Logical positivism has permanently changed the (self) understanding of the sciences and still shapes its image today. The following essay by Moritz Schlick, The turning point in philosophy (Knowledge, Vol. 1, 1930/31, pp. 4-11), gives an impression of the criteria that the representatives of the “Vienna Circle” established for the concept of scientific quality.

From time to time one has asked questions about the progress of philosophy over a given period of time. The period of time used to be delimited on the one hand by the name of a great thinker and on the other by the "present". It seemed, therefore, to presuppose that there was some clarity about the philosophical advances made by mankind up to that thinker, but that from then on it was doubtful what new achievements had recently been made.
Such questions clearly show a distrust of the philosophy of the most recent past, and one has the impression that the task at hand is only a shameless formulation of the question: Did philosophy make any progress at all in that period? For if one were sure that there were achievements, one would also know what they consist of.
If the older past is viewed with less doubt and if one is more inclined to recognize an ascending development in its philosophy, this may be due to the fact that one is more reverent towards everything that has already become historical; There is also the fact that the older philosophemes have at least proven their historical effectiveness, so that when considering them one can base their consideration on their historical meaning instead of the factual one, all the more so because one often does not dare to distinguish between the two.
But precisely the best minds among thinkers seldom believed in the unshakable, lasting results of philosophizing from earlier times and even classical models; This is evident from the fact that basically every new system starts all over again, that every thinker seeks his own solid ground and does not want to stand on the shoulders of his predecessors. Descartes feels (not without a right) as a beginning; Spinoza believes he has found the final philosophical method with the introduction of mathematical form (admittedly quite external); and Kant was convinced that on the path he had taken, philosophy would finally take the safe course of science. Further examples are cheap, for almost all great thinkers have found a radical reform of philosophy necessary and attempted it themselves.
This peculiar fate of philosophy has so often been described and lamented that it is trivial to speak of it at all, and that silent skepticism and resignation seem to be the only attitude appropriate to the situation. All attempts to put an end to the chaos of the systems and to turn the fate of philosophy around can no longer be taken seriously, an experience of more than two millennia seems to show. The reference to the fact that man has finally solved the most stubborn problems, such as that of Daedalus, gives the connoisseur no consolation, because what he fears is precisely that philosophy will never lead to a real "problem".
I allow myself to refer to the so often described anarchy of philosophical opinions in order to leave no doubt that I am fully aware of the scope and gravity of the conviction that I would now like to express. For I am convinced that we are in the midst of a definitive turn in philosophy and that we are objectively entitled to regard the sterile dispute between the systems as ended. The present, I maintain, is already in possession of the means which, in principle, make any such quarrel unnecessary; it just depends on applying them resolutely.
These resources have been quietly created, unnoticed by the majority of philosophical teachers and writers, and thus a situation has emerged which is incomparable with any previous one. That the situation is really unique and that the turn that has taken place is really final can only be seen by acquainting oneself with the new paths and looking back from the standpoint to which they lead to all the endeavors that were ever considered "philosophical" to have.
The paths start from logic. Leibniz saw its beginning indistinctly, important stretches were opened up in the last decades by Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell, but Ludwig Wittgenstein (in the “Tractatus logico-philosophicus”, 1922) first advanced to the decisive turning point.
It is well known that mathematicians have developed new logical methods in the last few decades, initially to solve their own problems which could not be overcome with the help of traditional forms of logic; but then the resulting logic (see Carnap's article in this booklet) has long since proven its superiority over the old forms and will undoubtedly soon have completely supplanted them. Is this logic the great means of which I said earlier that it is capable of relieving us in principle of all philosophical disputes, does it supply us with general rules with the help of which all traditional questions of philosophy can be resolved, at least in principle?
If this were the case, I would hardly have had the right to say that a completely new situation had been created, because then only a gradual, as it were technical progress would be achieved, as soon as the invention of the gasoline engine finally made the solution of the flight problem possible. As high as the value of the new method is to be appreciated, something so fundamental can never be achieved through the mere development of a method. The big change is not to be thanked for herself, but for something completely different, which was probably made possible and stimulated in the first place, but takes place in a much deeper layer: that is the insight into the essence of the logical itself.
It was stated early and often that the logical is in some sense the purely formal; yet one had not really been clear about the nature of the pure forms. The path to clarity about this starts from the fact that every knowledge is an expression, a representation. It expresses the fact that is recognized in it, and this can happen in any number of ways, in any language, through any arbitrary system of signs; All these possible modes of representation, if they really express the same knowledge differently, must therefore have something in common, and what is common is their logical form.
So all knowledge is knowledge only by virtue of its form; through it it represents the known facts, but the form itself cannot be represented again; it is all that matters when it comes to the knowledge that everything else about it is insignificant and accidental material of expression, not unlike, for example, the ink with which we write a sentence.
This simple insight has consequences of the greatest possible consequence. Through them, the traditional problems of "epistemology" are first dismissed. In place of investigations into human “cognitive faculties”, insofar as they cannot be entrusted to psychology, there is a reflection on the nature of expression, representation, i. H. every possible “language” in the most general sense of the word. The questions about the “validity and the limits of knowledge” do not apply. Everything that can be expressed is recognizable, and that is all that one can meaningfully ask about. There are therefore no fundamentally unanswerable questions, no fundamentally unsolvable problems. What has been taken for granted so far are no real questions, but senseless strings of words that outwardly look like questions because they seem to meet the usual rules of grammar, but in reality consist of empty sounds because they go against the violate the deep inner rules of logical syntax revealed by the new analysis.
Wherever there is a meaningful problem, one can theoretically always indicate the path that leads to its solution, because it turns out that the indication of this path basically coincides with the demonstration of the meaning; the practical treading of the path can of course be prevented by actual circumstances, e.g. inadequate human skills. The act of verification, in which the path to the solution finally ends, is always of the same kind: it is the occurrence of a certain state of affairs that is ascertained through observation, through direct experience. Indeed, in everyday life, as in any science, the truth (or falsity) of every statement is established in this way. So there is no other test and confirmation of truths than that through observation and empirical science. Every science (insofar as we think of the content and not of the human events in order to obtain it) is a system of knowledge, i.e. H. of true empirical statements; and the totality of the sciences, including the statements of daily life, is the system of knowledge; outside of it there is no other area of ​​“philosophical” truths, philosophy is not a system of propositions, it is not a science.
But what is it then? Well, no science, but something so significant and great that she may continue to be revered as the Queen of Science, as it was once upon a time; for nowhere is it written that the queen of the sciences itself must also be a science. We now recognize in it - and the great turning point in the present is thus positively marked - instead of a system of knowledge, a system of files; namely, it is the activity through which the meaning of the statements is established or revealed. Sentences are clarified by philosophy, verified by the sciences. These are about the truth of statements, but those are about what the statements actually mean. The content, soul, and spirit of science are naturally contained in what is ultimately meant by their statements; the philosophical activity of giving meaning is therefore the alpha and omega of all scientific knowledge. One has surely guessed this correctly when one said that philosophy provides both the basis and the conclusion of the edifice of the sciences; The only mistake was the opinion that the foundation was formed by “philosophical propositions” (the propositions of epistemology) and that the building was also crowned by a dome of philosophical propositions (called metaphysics).
It is easy to see that the work of philosophy does not consist in the establishment of propositions, that is, that the meaning of propositions cannot be given in turn by propositions. For if I give the meaning of my words by means of explanatory sentences and definitions, that is, with the help of new words, then one must continue to ask about the meaning of these other words, and so on. This process cannot go on forever; it only ever ends in actual demonstrations, in presentations of what is meant, in other words in actual acts; only these are incapable of any further explanation; and needy; the ultimate sense of meaning always occurs through actions; they make up the philosophical activity.
It was one of the gravest errors of the past that one believed that the actual meaning and ultimate content could be formulated again through statements, that is, represented in knowledge: it was the error of "metaphysics". The striving of metaphysicians has always been directed towards the absurd goal (cf. my essay "Experience, Recognize, Metaphysics", Kantstudien, Vol. 31, p. 146), the content of pure qualities (the "essence" of things) through knowledge to express, that is, to say the unspeakable; Qualities cannot be said, but only shown in the experience, but knowledge has nothing to do with it.
Metaphysics thus falls apart, not because the solution to its task would be an undertaking that human reason cannot cope with (as Kant said, for example), but because this task does not even exist. With the discovery of the wrong question, however, the history of the metaphysical dispute becomes understandable at the same time.
In general, our view, if it is correct, must also legitimize itself historically. It must be shown that it is able to give some account of the change in meaning of the word philosophy.
This is really the case now. If in ancient times, and actually up to modern times, philosophy was simply identical with any purely theoretical scientific research, this indicates that science was just at a stage in which it was still in the process of clarifying its main task had to see own basic concepts; and the emancipation of the individual sciences from their common mother philosophy is the expression of the fact that the meaning of certain basic concepts had become clear enough to be able to continue working with them successfully. If, furthermore, ethics and aesthetics, for example, and sometimes even psychology, are still considered branches of philosophy, these disciplines show that they do not yet have sufficiently clear basic concepts, that their efforts are still mainly directed towards the meaning of their sentences. And finally: if, in the midst of firmly consolidated science, the necessity suddenly emerges at some point to reflect anew on the true meaning of the fundamental concepts, and thereby a deeper clarification of the meaning is brought about, this achievement immediately becomes eminent felt philosophical; all agree that z. B. Einstein's act, which proceeded from an analysis of the meaning of the statements about time and space, was really a philosophical act. Here we may add that the most decisive, epoch-making advances in science are always of this kind, that they signify a clarification of the meaning of the fundamental propositions and that only those who are gifted for philosophical activity succeed; that means: the great researcher is always also a philosopher.
That mental activities often also bear the name of philosophy, which aim not at pure knowledge but at the conduct of life, also seems easy to understand, because the wise man stands out from the incomprehensible crowd precisely because he understands the meaning of statements and questions about living conditions knows to point out facts and wishes more clearly than those.
The great turn of philosophy also means a definitive turning away from certain wrong paths that had been taken since the second half of the 19th century and which had to lead to a completely wrong assessment and appreciation of philosophy: I mean the attempts to indicate an inductive character to it and hence to believe that it consists of nothing but propositions of hypothetical validity.The thought of claiming only probability for their propositions was alien to earlier thinkers; they would have rejected it as incompatible with the dignity of philosophy. This expressed a healthy instinct for philosophy to give up the very last hold of knowledge. Now we must of course see in its opposite dogma that philosophy necessarily presents true a priori principles, a most unfortunate expression of this instinct, especially since it does not consist of sentences at all; but we, too, believe in the dignity of philosophy and consider the character of the uncertain and the merely probable to be incompatible with it, and we are pleased that the great twist makes it impossible to ascribe such a character to it. Because the concept of probability or uncertainty is not applicable to the meaningful acts that make up philosophy. It is a matter of postulations that give all statements their meaning as absolutely ultimate. Either we have this sense, then we know what is meant by the statements; or we don't have it, then there are only meaningless words in front of us and no statements at all; there is no third, and there can be no question of a probability of validity. Thus, after the great turning point, philosophy shows its character of finality more clearly than before.
Only by virtue of this character can the dispute between the systems be ended. I repeat that, as a result of the insights I have indicated, we can already consider it to have ended in principle today, and I hope that this will also become more and more clearly visible on the pages of this magazine in the new phase of her life.
Certainly there will still be many a rearguard battle, certainly many will continue to walk in the usual ways for centuries; philosophical writers will long discuss old bogus questions, but eventually they will no longer be listened to and will resemble actors who continue acting for a while before they notice that the audience has gradually slipped away. Then it will no longer be necessary to talk about “philosophical questions”, because one will talk about all questions philosophically, that is: meaningful and clear.

If you would like to take a closer look at the program of logical positivism, you should read the extremely influential essay by Rudolf Carnap, Overcoming metaphysics through logical analysis of language (Knowledge, Vol. 2, 1931, pp. 219-241) to be recommended.

For the transfer of the findings of the Vienna Circle to our understanding of law, writings that deal with ethics or moral philosophy are particularly relevant. The problems that arise with a theoretical justification of ethics are very similar to those with regard to jurisprudence: in both cases it is a question of the foundation of normative propositions. For this reason, both ethics and legal philosophy are also sub-disciplines of practical philosophy, which is the branch of philosophy that deals with the question of how one should act.

The text by Moritz Schlick is instructive here, What does ethics want? (from: M. Schlick, Questions of Ethics, Vienna 1930, Chapter 1). Online Schlick comes to the conclusion that ethics can only exist as a science as a purely empirical science of the causal emergence of moral judgments (“The method of ethics is psychological”). Think for yourself what this would mean when applied to jurisprudence!

If the questions of practical philosophy (ethics and legal philosophy) cannot be answered “scientifically” in the view of the logical positivists - what status do the answers to these questions then have?
The following excerpt from Rudolf Carnap's essay published in 1934 deals with this Theoretical questions and practical decisions (Natur und Geist 2, 1934, pp. 257-260). As you read it, think about which position, which we have already got to know in this script, this reminds you!

The struggle against metaphysics and theology is usually carried out up to the present day in such a way that one tries to counter the claims of these doctrines with counter-claims and to refute the reasons put forward by counter-reasons. But the logical analysis of metaphysical propositions with the aid of modern logic has taught us that these are merely pseudo-propositions, have no meaning, say nothing. (Under "metaphysics" are not meant here assumptions that anticipate science: These are, however uncertain, nevertheless meaningful; rather, those speculations are meant here in which non-concepts appear such as the "non-existing", the "non-existent nothing" , the “absolute”, the “primordial reason of the world”, the “possible impossibility of existence” and the like) On the basis of this insight, a different, sharper rejection of metaphysics is possible. We will no longer refute a sentence like “The world is the self-realization of God” by trying to prove, for example: “The world is not the self-realization of God.” With that we would, where the metaphysicians milk the goat, maintain the sieve. Rather, we shall show that that sentence is meaningless, not perhaps wrong; the counter-thesis is therefore also pointless. That metaphysical sentence says nothing more than the children's verse "ene mene mink mank"; the only difference is that all kinds of sublime feelings are connected to the metaphysical proposition.
Our assessment of metaphysics - all the metaphysical components of philosophy, theology and, unfortunately, sometimes also in specialist science - is sometimes interpreted as if our refusal to refute a theoretical refutation issued a license for the dissemination of such doctrines. But that is a misinterpretation. The expulsion from the field of the theoretical decision does not relieve us of the possibility, indeed the duty of a practical statement. However, there is a fundamental difference between the two; we have to be clear about this.
What is confusing here is the ambiguous usage of the language, according to which one speaks of "questions" where in reality there are no questions, i.e. requests to decide between true and false, but situations in which a decision has to be made. If I want to be clear about whether or not to eat the apple lying in front of me, it is a matter of decision, of practical decision, not of theoretical one. The uncertainty of decision is often expressed in the same linguistic form as the uncertainty of knowledge, namely by the form of a question: "Should I eat this apple?" This form of language simulates a question where there is no question. Neither my own thinking nor all the teachings of science are able to answer that apparent question; not as if there is a limit to the human mind here, but simply because there is no question at all. Theoretically - through everyday or scientific knowledge - it can only be said: “If you eat the apple, your hunger will disappear” (or: “This is how you will poison yourself”, “This is how you will go to prison” or the like). These theoretical statements about the consequences to be expected can certainly be very important to me; but through them the decision cannot be taken from me. It is a matter of practical decision whether I want to satiate myself or stay hungry; whether I want to poison myself or stay healthy; the terms “true” or “false” cannot be used here.
What applies to eating apples also applies to the big decisions in life, e.g. choice of career or the like. Theoretical clarification is very important here in preparation for the decision, but it does not make the decision itself. You can prove to someone that this and that profession has extremely poor prospects or that he himself is ill-suited for this profession. But one cannot prove that he should not take up this profession. There is no evidence here, only influence, education; Theoretical proof can, of course, be of great help here.
From what has been said there are certain consequences for the forms of struggle that we wage against superstition, theology, metaphysics, traditional morality, capitalist exploitation of the workers, and so on. Superstitions are theoretical questions; the assumption that prayers and amulets can prevent hailstorms or railroad accidents can be scientifically refuted. On the other hand, whether someone is for or against cremation, for or against democracy, for or against socialism, is a matter of practical opinion, not of theoretical proof. Theoretically, it can only be stated here that the and the facility has the and the hygienic, economic, cultural consequences. This is a very important preparation for our opinion; but this does not spare us this opinion. We have to decide whether we want the theoretical consequences (e.g. overcoming economic crises and unemployment) or not; our actions then depend on this based on theoretical insight. Scientific considerations do not determine the goal, but always only the path to the agreed goal. [...]