Moritz Schlick

(1882—1936) German philosopher and physicist

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German philosopher and physicist, founder of the famous school of logical positivists known as the Vienna Circle.

Schlick was born in Berlin and educated at the university there, where he studied physics under Max Planck, gaining his PhD in 1904. He taught physics at the University of Rostock from 1911 to 1922, when he moved to Vienna as professor of philosophy. Influenced by Ernst Mach (1838–1916) and Wittgenstein, Schlick sought to develop a positivist account of science.

In this he was fortunate to reside in Vienna, which at that time commanded a large number of young, talented, and industrious mathematicians, philosophers, and scientists who were as interested in the problem as Schlick. Consequently such figures as Carnap, Gödel, Waismann, Neurath, and many others began to meet with Schlick in the late 1920s once a week to discuss their common problems. The meetings continued until 1936, when Schlick was murdered by one of his graduate students. In some accounts the student is described as mad, but others speak of jealousy, revenge for a failed doctoral thesis, and even political motives. In any case the great days of the Circle were already over. Many of its members were Jews or had left-wing sympathies and, with the rise of Hitler and the impending Anschluss, had begun to leave Vienna for saner and safer institutions in Britain and the USA.

Schlick's own philosophical output was relatively modest. He published a work on ethics, Fragen der Ethik (1930), one on epistemology, Allgemeine Erkenntnislehre (1919; translated as General Theory of Knowledge, 1974), and his collected papers were published posthumously in 1938 as Gesammelte Aufsätze.

Subjects: Philosophy — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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