Vienna circle

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Vienna circle

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vienna Circle


a philosophical circle in which the foundations of logical positivism were developed. It formed (in 1922) around the Austrian physicist M. Schlick (the successor of E. Mach in the chair of philosophy at the University of Vienna). The circle included O. Neurath, H. Hahn, F. Waismann, K. Gödel, F. Kaufmann, V. Kraft, and H. Feigl; it was frequently visited by P. Frank, C. Hempel, and later, A. Ayer. In 1926, R. Carnap was invited into the circle. The principles of the positivist orientation of the Vienna circle, which denied the cognitive meaning of all previous philosophy, were supplemented by the specifically Machist assertion of the “neutrality” of the empirical material of science. Fundamental to the ideas of the Vienna circle was the desire to reduce philosophical problems to problems of formal logic and to concentrate on the logical analysis of the language of science, using the apparatus of mathematical logic as the means of analysis. Thus, the Vienna circle was merging positivism with various trends in the philosophy of mathematics (logicism, mathematical formalism, and so on); the members of the Vienna circle made an attempt to combine the method of verifiability with the “method of logical analysis” and create, on this basis, a single, unified science embracing both knowledge in the natural sciences and knowledge in the humanities. In 1929 the Vienna circle published its program document, The Scientific World View: The Vienna Circle. By 1930 (at the seventh International Congress of Philosophy in Oxford) the Vienna circle had taken official shape and had established organizational and ideological ties with other schools, groups, and trends such as the Berlin Society for Empirical Philosophy, the Lvov-Warsaw school, the Cambridge analysts (England), the Uppsala school (Sweden), and the Münster school of logic, as well as individual philosophers. The circle published the specialized journal Erkenntnis (1930-39) and held a number of congresses (the first in 1929 in Prague; the second, 1930 in Königsberg; the third, 1934 in Prague; the fourth, 1935 in Paris; the fifth, 1936 in Copenhagen; the sixth, 1937 in Paris; the seventh, 1938 in Cambridge, Great Britain; the eighth, 1939 in Cambridge, USA) and conferences; its members participated actively in all international symposia. The International Encyclopedia of Unified Science and the Library of the Unified Science Series were published from 1938. The Vienna circle ceased to exist at the start of World War II. Its leading representatives—by this time, in exile—began to establish individual schools of philosophy in various countries, particularly in the USA and Great Britain.


Narskii, I. S. Ocherki po istorii pozitivizma. [Moscow,] 1960.
Neurath, O. Le Développement du cercle de Vienna et l’avenir de l’empirisme logique. Paris, 1935.
Kraft, V. Der Wiener Kreis. Vienna, 1950.
Kraft, V. Vienna circle. New York, 1953.


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