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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Locating Otto Neurath in twentieth-century philosophy of science Steed, Sheldon John Paul


This thesis attempts to locate the work of Otto Neurath (1872-1945) in the history of twentieth-century philosophy of science. Neurath is perhaps best recognized from his role in the Vienna Circle of the 1930s where he contributed to the development of logical empiricist philosophy of science. The roots-of his ideas, as expressed within the Vienna Circle, provide insight into Neurath's conception of the development of science. Thus, the present essay attempts to identify his developing ideas in the 1910s, and situate that development historically. Chapter One considers his biography as a means of eliciting some of his defining philosophical assumptions. For Neurath, inquiries into the foundations of science carry broader social and political implications and we see him exhibiting this view throughout his life. Chapter Two examines three papers in the 1910s to show what his view of the development of science actually was. Neurath rejected notions of absolute foundations on which to base scientific theory and stood opposed to metaphysics as a meaningful framework by which to ground scientific claims. Chapter Three attempts to identify Neurath's driving assumptions with those articulated in postpositivist thinkers like W.V.O. Quine and Thomas Kuhn. Neurath's connections to logical empiricism and post-positivism make him an important figure whose contributions to the history of twentieth-century philosophy of science can enrich our understanding of the development of science and its role in society.

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