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Knowing Who Your Friends Are: Aspects of the Politics of Logical Empiricism

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This paper comments on Reisch’s book How the Cold War Transformed Philosophy of Science. Overall supportive of Reisch’s project and perspective, it raises certain points where the data appear inconclusive and either provides additional support or briefly explores some interpretative alternatives.

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  1. I will not quibble with particular aspects of Reisch’s characterization of the philosophical stances of his protagonists. Even though I am quite ready to attempt heroic defenses of Neurath on more than one issue I would not do so on all of them. For instance, I shrink from Neurath’s stance on truth whereas Reisch seems unbothered by its apparent incoherence.

  2. Compare Howard (2003) and Uebel (2005).

  3. See Frank (1932) and (1957).

  4. To be sure, Hook attacked Carnap for what the latter thought had nothing to do with philosophy, but I invite readers to imagine how Hook would have reacted if Carnap (1963a, p. 83) had published the socialist credo of his “Autobiography” in 1949. In any case, Kallen’s association of the concept of the unity of science—a strictly philosophical topic—with totalitarianism is just so bizarre that it calls for explanation.

  5. For an account of Bernal’s conception of science and his politics, see Werskey (1978, chs. 5–6) and Brown (2005).

  6. Reisch notes Bernal’s involvement on (2005, p. 60) but does not follow this line further. See, e.g., Bernal (1937).

  7. For details see Richardson (2007) and Douglas (2006).

  8. Feigl had form as an internal opponent of the view of the left Vienna Circle. His and Blumberg’s “Logical Positivism. A New Movement in European Philosophy” of can be viewed as an anti-manifesto, describing Vienna Circle philosophy from Schlick’s perspective, not mentioning the unity of science once, let alone carrying overtly political overtones as the Carnap–Hahn–Neurath (1929) manifesto of did.

  9. Five symposia from this meeting, including this one, were published as Academic Freedom, Logic and Religion, edited by White (1953) “for the Program Committee”, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.


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Uebel, T. Knowing Who Your Friends Are: Aspects of the Politics of Logical Empiricism. Sci & Educ 18, 161–168 (2009).

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