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Hans Vaihinger

(1852—1933)


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Immanuel Kant (1724—1804) German philosopher

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788—1860) German philosopher

pragmatism

 

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(1852–1933)

German philosopher. Vaihinger was educated in theology at Tübingen, and became professor at Halle. He is remembered for his ‘fictionalism’ or philosophy of ‘as if’. Influenced by Kant's view that the mind sets itself problems that it cannot solve, and by the pessimism of Schopenhauer, Vaihinger denied that there is any prospect of achieving truth in many areas. Instead, thought proceeds by the use of fictions, or ideas known to be false. Ideas such as those of God, immortality, freedom, the social contract, or the virgin birth can be ‘beautiful, suggestive and useful’ although we know they have no application to reality. Theories are useful because they enable us to cope with what would otherwise be the unmanageable complexity of things. The doctrine bears some affinity to pragmatism, but differs in that Vaihinger thinks that our useful theories are nevertheless really false. Vaihinger's most influential work was Die Philosophie des Als Ob (1911, trs. as The Philosophy of ‘As If’, 1924).

Subjects: Philosophy.


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