Neurath, Otto

Neurath, Otto,

1882–1945, Austrian philosopher, social scientist, and design theorist, b. Vienna. During the 1920s and 30s he was both a Marxist and a member of the Vienna Circle, an exponent of logical positivismlogical positivism,
also known as logical or scientific empiricism, modern school of philosophy that attempted to introduce the methodology and precision of mathematics and the natural sciences into the field of philosophy. The movement, which began in the early 20th cent.
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, particularly as it related to economic and social theory and practice. Many of his philosphical essays were published in the group's journal Erkenntnis. Neurath was the founder (1924) and until a decade later the director of Vienna's Social and Economic Museum. In 1934, when a fascist state was established in Austria, he immigrated to the Netherlands. A member of the unity of science movement, Neurath founded (1936) an institute devoted to the idea and edited the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science (1937). He also was the director of the International Foundation for Visual Education. In an effort to create an international graphic language to make pictorial statistics accessible to a mass audience, he developed Isotype, a system of symbols outlined in his International Picture Language (1936) and used in his Modern Man in the Making (1939). In 1940 he fled the advancing Nazi armies to settle in England, where he taught at Oxford. A prolific polymath, he was the author of some 400 books and essays.


See his philosophical papers, ed. by M. Neurath and R. S. Cohen (1983), and his economic writings, ed. by R. S. Cohen and T. Uebel (2004); his visual autobiography, From Hieroglyphics to Isotype (1943–45, pub. 2010 and ed. by M. Eve and C. Burke); studies by D. Zolo (1989), T. Uebel, ed. (1991, repr. 2007), N. Cartwright et al., ed. (1996, repr. 2008), E. Nemeth and F. Stadler, ed. (1996, repr. 2011), H. Kraeutler (2008), and N. Vossoughian (2008).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Neurath, Otto


Born Dec. 10, 1882, in Vienna; died Dec. 22, 1945, in Oxford. Austrian philosopher, sociologist, and economist. One of the founders and leaders of the Vienna circle.

Neurath lived in Holland from 1934 to 1940. In 1941 he settled in Great Britain, where he taught at Oxford University. Neurath’s philosophical and sociological views eclectically combined the materialism inherent in natural sciences with logical positivism. Neurath believed that the criterion of truth applying to protocol (basic) propositions of science—selected by scientists through agreement—was in the final analysis these propositions’ noncontradiction of other assertions of a given science.

Regarding the unification of knowledge as the most important task of the philosophy of science, Neurath assumed that this could be attained by means of a “unified language of science,” which would be based on the languages of physics and mathematics (this point of view was referred to as radical physicalism). Neurath himself was primarily concerned with the translation of statements of psychology and sociology into such a language. With R. Carnap, he was a contributor to and the editor in chief of the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science (1938–40).

In his sociopolitical views, Neurath was an Austro-Marxist. He took part in the revolutionary fighting of 1918–23 in Austria and Germany and in the struggle against fascism.


Vollsozialisierung und Arbeiterorganisation. Reichenberg [1920].
Anti-Spengler. Munich, 1921.
Antike Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 3rd ed. Leipzig-Berlin, 1926.
Lebensgestaltung und Klassenkampf. Berlin, 1928.
Empirische Soziologie. Vienna, 1931.
Le Développement du cercle de Vienne et I’avenir de I’empirisme logique. Paris, 1935.
International Picture Language. London, 1936.
Modern Man in the Making. [New York]–London, 1939.
Foundations of the Social Sciences. Chicago, 1954.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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