Carnap's Aufbau in the Weimar Context

Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 18:115-136 (2016)
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Abstract

Quine’s classical classic interpretation succinctly characterized characterizes Carnap’s Aufbau as an attempt “to account for the external world as a logical construct of sense-data....” Consequently, “Russell” was characterized as the most important influence on the Aufbau. Those times have passed. Formulating a comprehensive and balanced interpretation of the Aufbau has turned out to be a difficult task and one that must take into account several disjointed sources. My thesis is that the core of the Aufbau rested on a problem that had haunted German philosophy since the end of the 19th century. In terms fashionable at the time, this problem may be expressed as the polarity between Leben and Geist that characterized German philosophy during the years of the Weimar Republic. At that time, many philosophers, including Cassirer, Rickert and Vaihinger, were engaged in overcoming this polarity. As I will show, Carnap’s Aufbau joined the ranks of these projects. This suggests that Lebensphilosophie and Rickert’s System der Philosophie exerted a strong influence on Carnap’s projects, an influence that is particularly conspicuous in his unpublished manuscript Vom Chaos zur Wirklichkeit. Carnap himself asserted that this manuscript could be considered “the germ of the constitution theory” of the Aufbau. Reading Chaos also reveals another strong but neglected influence on the Aufbau, namely a specific version of neutral monism put forward by the philosopher and psychologist Theodor Ziehen before World War I. Ziehen’s work contributed much to the invention of the constitutional method of quasi-analysis. -/-

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Thomas Mormann
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München (PhD)

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