Philosophy (and Wissenschaft) without Politics? Schlick on Nietzsche, German Idealism, and Militarism

In Christian Damböck & Adam Tamas Tuboly (eds.), The Socio-Ethical Dimension of Knowledge: The Mission of Logical Empiricism. Springer. pp. 53-84 (2021)
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With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, there emerged two controversies related to the responsibility of philosophical ideas for the rise of German militarism. The first, mainly journalistic, controversy concerned the influence that Nietzsche’s ideas may have had on what British propagandists portrayed as the ruthlessly amoral German foreign policy. This soon gave way to a second controversy, waged primarily among academics, concerning the purportedly vicious political outcomes of German Idealism, from Kant through to Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. During the autumn of 1914, and at the cusp between the two controversies, Moritz Schlick was to deliver a lecture series on Nietzsche’s life and work at the University of Rostock. Responding to both debates, Schlick penned an introduction in which he sought to defend philosophy against all those who would embroil it in warfare. Schlick offers a series of arguments defending Nietzsche against his accusers. He also argues that, though their contributions to the History of Philosophy often amounted to no more than ‘beautiful nonsense’, the German Idealists’ philosophical views cannot be held responsible for the rise of German nationalism. Finally, Schlick mounts a general defense of the search for truth, both in philosophy and in Wissenschaft, as a type of activity which presupposes peace. Though Schlick’s metaphilosophical views change, as this paper shows, he remains constant both in his favourable appraisal of Nietzsche, as well as his separation between politics on the one hand, and both philosophy and Wissenschaft on the other hand.

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Andreas Vrahimis
University of Cyprus


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