Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Talk: Martin Kusch (Vienna)

Location: Ludwigstr. 31, ground floor, room 021.

16.11.2022 16:00  – 18:00 


Sociology of Knowledge and Relativism in Logical Empiricism: The Cases of Frank and Neurath


I attempt a revision of our received view of the position of relativism in logical empiricism. I shall concentrate on Philipp Frank and Otto Neurath. I focus on Frank and Neurath for two reasons: On the one hand, both repeatedly positioned themselves as opponents of various kinds of absolutism. On the other hand, both were interested in the sociology of knowledge. This is noteworthy since the latter is one the main areas where relativistic ideas have flourished since the 19th century. Frank, Neurath, relativism and the sociology of knowledge have featured in an important clash of interpretations between the anti-relativist Thomas Uebel and the self-proclaimed relativist and sociologist of knowledge, David Bloor. Uebel and Bloor differ on the connection between the logical-empiricist version of the strong programme and relativism. Uebel insists that Neurath and Frank denied any such connection; Bloor is adamant that at least Frank clearly committed himself to relativism. I shall try to determine who is right, and right on what rendering of relativism.