Journal Article

The Vienna Circle's ‘Anti-Foundationalism’

Thomas Oberdan

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 49, issue 2, pages 297-308
Published in print June 1998 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 1998 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
The Vienna Circle's ‘Anti-Foundationalism’

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Thomas E. Uebel has recently claimed that, contrary to popular opinion, none of the philosophers of the Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists were proponents of epistemological foundationalism. According to the considerations of the current discussion, however, Uebel's conclusion is erroneous, especially with respect to the work of Moritz Schlick. The chief reason Uebel offers to support his conclusion is that current attempts to portray Schlick's epistemology as foundationalist fail to overcome its ‘ultimate incoherence’. In contrast, it is argued that current interpretations, based on the unpublished as well as the published record, provide understandings of Schlick's foundationalist epistemology as not only coherent, but plausible. In closing, Uebel's own treatment of Schlick's work, which purports to show that the most feasible candidates for foundational statements are ‘meaning-theoretic’ clarifications of the content of expressions, itself fails to accurately represent Schlick's own characterizations, and pictures Schlick's epistemology as a confused mix of epistemic and semantic insights.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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