Vaihinger, Hans

Vaihinger, Hans

Vaihinger, Hans (häns fīˈhĭng-ər), 1852–1933, German philosopher. Educated at Tübingen, Leipzig, and Berlin, he served at Strasbourg first as tutor and then as professor of philosophy. One of the great Kant scholars, in 1884 he went to Halle, where he became full professor in 1892. His studies of Kant culminated in Kant—ein Metaphysiker? (1899). His own system was set forth in 1911 and was translated into English as The Philosophy of “As If” (1924). He argued that since reality cannot be truly known, human beings construct systems of thought to satisfy their needs and then assume that actuality agrees with their constructions; i.e., people act “as if” the real were what they assume it to be.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vaihinger, Hans


Born Sept. 25, 1852, in Nehren, near Tübingen; died Dec. 18, 1933, in Halle. German idealist philosopher.

Vaihinger became a professor of philosophy at the University of Strasbourg in 1883 and at the University of Halle in 1906. He was the author of Commentary to Kant’s “Critique of PureReason” (vols. 1–2, 1881–82). He founded the journal Kant-Studien in 1897 and the Kant Society in 1904. Vaihinger’s main work, The Philosophy of “As If” (1911), was written under the influence of Kant, who had proposed using the fundamental philosophical ideas (spirit, world, god) “as if” (als ob) their objects were real (see Soch., vol. 3, Moscow, 1964, pp. 571–72). In his book Vaihinger developed the subjective idealist concept of fictionalism, or “critical positivism.” He considered scientific and philosophical concepts (“atom,” “infinitesimal,” “absolute,” “god,” and others) to be fictions that have no theoretical value but are important in practice. Thus Vaihinger came to agnostic conclusions about the impossibility of knowing reality as it is “in fact” and admitted that sensations are the ultimate evidence accessible to knowing.


Hartmann, Dühring und Lange. Iserlohn, 1876.
Pessimismus und Optimismus. Berlin, 1924.
In Russian translation:
Nitsshe kakfi losof. St. Petersburg, 1913.


Bakradze, K. S. Ocherki po istorii noveishei i sovremennoi burzhuaznoi filosofii. Tbilisi, 1960.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Rollo Handy, "Vaihinger, Hans," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, volumes 7 and 8, edited by Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1967), p.