My paper today is a revised edition of one published 16 years ago.2 Many things have changed in the meantime. Its central thesis, however, has essentially remained the same: Logico-empiricist philosophy of biology is not exactly a success story. In my earlier paper, I called it a case of “wrongful life”. “Wrongful life” is one of the peculiarities of the American legal system that are digestible with difficulties for somebody who grew up in Europe. Here is what Wiki tells us: “Wrongful life is the name given to a legal action in which someone is sued by a severely disabled child (through the child's legal guardian) for failing to prevent the child's birth.”3
Notwithstanding my great sympathies I do not regard myself as the legal guardian of logical empiricism. I would rather like to stick to philosophical and historical analysis. My thesis is that early logical empiricism – as it presented itself at the conferences at Prague (1934), Paris (1935), and Copenhagen (1936) - failed to develop a healthy philosophy of biology, understood as philosophical analysis of the presuppositions, structure, and consequences of biological science. There is, however, a proviso with respect to this negative assessment. Logical empiricists showed plenty of goodwill, and one notices even in the course of these three years between “Prague” and “Copenhagen” important improvements. In my view the major congenital defects of logical empiricism's philosophy of biology are:
(3) prevented actual problems of biological sciene.
At this point, I would like to insert into my argument the first of a few intermezzos, in order to digress a bit from the sad topic of “wrongful life”. The Paris congress of 1935 was in my view the greatest congress ever in philosophy of science. Two factors make “Paris” stick out: The first is that it took a whole preliminary conference to prepare, the “Vorkonferenz des Ersten Internationalen Kongresses für die Einheit der Wissenschaft”4 in Prague from August 31 to September 2, 1934. The second factor that makes “Paris” stick out is the extraordinary scientific quality of the participants. It somehow reminds me of the Solvey Conferences in theoretical physics.5 A quick look at the program of the Vorkonferenz already is awesome.6 I guess that quite a few people here at Cerisy know those people on the program at Prague: Ajdukiewicz, Carnap, Frank, Jörgensen, Morris, Neurath, Reichenbach, Łukasiewicz, Tarski, Zilsel. We, furthermore, know that there were others around, but not on the program, among them Maria Kokoszyńska, Janina Hosiasson-Lindenbaum, Ernest Nagel, Moritz Schlick, and Karl Popper.7 In addition to preparing “Paris” there was a second motive for organizing the Prague Vorkonferenz, namely, as (probably) Neurath put it: “to acquaint the representatives of the various tendencies” of what he called “anti-metaphysical empiricism”.8 This seems to have worked out nicely: Carnap, who taught at Prague University at that time, notes in his diary with a great sigh of relief at the end of the International Philosophy Congress, which followed the Vorkonferenz:
“Petzäll and his wife, Menger, Neider, Ms Fraenkel, Hertz, Nagel, Dürr, Morris (but he was invited earlier), Smith, Zilsel, Popper (met him for lunch), Strauß, Hollitscher (met him before briefly in an afternoon), Meiner, Naess)”.9 –
Unfortunately, Carnap does not tell what his invitation criteria were. - We meet almost all of the Prague people and many more a year later in Paris. Have a look at the participant list (in alphabetic order):10
(The papers of Brunswik and Schlick were read, but the authors “were unable to appear personally”11).
Have you heard of any big conference in the philosophy of science with some 80 speakers, and so many first-rate people among them? Or, to put it differently, can you imagine that 80 years from now, in 2095, there would be a meeting commemorating our congress here at Cerisy, and people then would know from their own work one quarter to half of us here? - This is the end of Intermezzo I. - Back to wrongful life and the first congenital defect of logico-empiricism’s philosophy of biology:
Checking the programs of the Prague, Paris and Copenhagen conferences confirms the impression of readers of the 1929 Manifesto
of the Vienna Circle. The leading figures of early logical empiricism had their scientific background in mathematics or physics, or – in the case of Neurath - in economics. Nobody had studied, or seems to have been particularly interested in biology. Nobody of the inner circle of logical empiricism12
was to any extent aware of the epistemological and methodological problems that had arisen e.g. in the context of genetics or evolutionary theory. While logical empiricists in physics and mathematics were the philosophical avant-garde, they knew next to nothing about biology. What they actually talked about in a sort of biological context (vitalism, and reductionism) was rather irrelevant for understanding actual biological research.
I would like to emphasize, however, that early logical empiricists were aware of their shortcomings with respect to biology and soon started to search for help outside their circle. At the Prague Vorkonferenz, philosophy of biology is practically still inexistent. Not even one of the 12 or so talks deals with it.13 For the main event in Paris, however, the Vorkonferenz gives the programmatic promise that there “the logical foundations of the Wissenschaften in their entirety (emphasis mine) should be treated, and not only those of mathematics and physics”.14 This promise seems to have been taken seriously, indeed. First of all, hard core empiricists of the mathematical-physical persuasion started dealing with the topic of biology: In the summer semester 1935, Carnap, together with Frank, launched at the University of Prague a Colloquium on “Philosophical Foundations of Natural Science” (Grundlagenfragen der Naturwissenschaften), the first part of which should deal with "Physics and Biology". –
Second, Carnap and Neurath, and others tried to involve biologists for “Paris”. Here are a few quotes:
Neurath to the organizing committee for “Paris” (“The Five”15) on March 6, 1935: “It would be important to get biologists and so on, Woodger and so on.”16 Carnap to Neurath on May 10, 1935: “Please, get into contact with Dr. J. H. Woodger […] because of his talk on biology. He has declared his readiness.”17 Neurath to “The Five” on May 28, 1935: “Morris thinks that more biologists and sociologists would be desirable on the big committee. He proposes J.H. Woodger (he will give a talk!!!), J.B.S. Haldane, Joseph Needham.”18 Finally, Neurath to Carnap on July 15, 1935: “On the whole we must strive to give priority to concrete problems. Frank complains much that there is so little about special sciences. Not even physics. Therefore, Woodger should be at the very front and give a plenary talk. If Woodger is good, this is, finally, something new. Biology in logistic packaging. That must not be sunk in a special session.”19 – Neurath’s program mentions also a talk by the Swiss physicist Charles-Eugène Guye (1866-1942), one of Einstein’s teachers at the Swiss Polytechnic Institute at Zurich, entitled “On the transition of physico-chemistry to biology”. However, most probably this talk was never given.
A look at the actual program20 shows that of the about 80 talks and comments of the congress exactly three deal with biology. It is Philipp Frank’s „The Divide between physical and biological sciences, seen in the light of modern physical theories.”21 Pierre Lecomte du Noüy (1883-1947), a mathematician and biophysicist, talks
on “On the Unity of Method in the Comparison of Physical and Biological Sciences”22 , and, finally Joseph Henri Woodger’s “An Axiom System for Biology”. As is well known, Philipp Frank had become professor of physics at Prague in 1912 on the recommendation of Einstein as his successor. To the best of my knowledge, this is Frank’s first dealing with biology.
Off to Copenhagen! Between June 21 and 26, 1936, there took place “The Second International Congress for the Unity of Science”. Its topic was “The Problem of Causality – With Special Consideration of Physics and Biology”.23 That “biology” appears in the title of the congress is a step forward, of course. In addition, the personnel has clearly improved. The first speaker was the most colorful English biologist J. B. S. Haldane (1892-1964), who is inter alia one of the pioneers of the mathematical theory of evolution and of population genetics. Second, the Russian-American scholar Nicolas Rashevsky (1899-1972), one of the founders of mathematical biology, and third Georges Matisse (1874-1961), a more encyclopedic mind with a background in physics, who in Paris had still given a talk on philosophical pseudo-problems,24 and whom we will encounter shortly.
Intermezzo II – Philosophers at War
In 1915, twenty years before “Paris”, several participants lay in the trenches of World War I and tried to kill each other. Carnap, for example, enlisted already in the first days of the Great War and proudly notes in his diary on August 10, 1914: “medical examination […] accepted with the artillery”.25 A year later and 100 years ago, In September 1915, we find Carnap on drill in the Riesengebirge, a mountainous area, now part of the Czech Republic. On September 1, he notes: “I strongly feel like joining a machine gun course”.26 His enthusiasm, however, is marred by the fact that he had messed up a course for becoming a lieutenant, and had still to serve as a sergeant (Oberjäger): “In the evening in the “Brown Stag” again all lieutenants; feel very well among them, cordially grant them their good fortune, are nice to me. But I cannot get rid of the secondary object that I, too, could be where they are.”27 A few days later he writes: “The ill feeling about the other lieutenants has gone, but I feel very unsatisfied. […] It’s high time that I get to the battlefield.”28
A year later, in September 1916, Carnap, finally lieutenant, has got to the trenches of Verdun, and might have shot at French philosophers.29 At latest in early 1918, however, Carnap had become a pacifist. He was ordered by his commander30 not to send any more circulars to his friends like the one entitled “German Defeat – Senseless Fate or Guilt”. There one reads among other things:
“That state of mind in Europe, which rendered the Great War inevitable and until now its termination impossible had its principle breeding ground in Germany. […] I can here only briefly point to Germany’s position at the Hague Conventions [of 1899 and 1907] and the hatred of the other peoples as a consequence of this attitude; to the indifference and the ridicule, compared to other peoples, of our public opinion with respect to what happened at the Hague; to the weeks prior to the outbreak of the war; to the beginning of the year 1917, when the submarine war foiled the initial approaches to peace; to January 1918 with Wilson’s peace program and the military rule in Berlin. At latest now, in the context of constitutional reforms in these days, everyone must recognize how much in our country martial points of view were superior to political ones.”31
For Carnap it took a war to make him an anti-militarist. Reichenbach, in contrast, was an anti-militarist already prior to the war. In March 1914, the 23 year old student publishes a remarkable article, entitled “Militarism and Youth”:
“What people with a healthy sense puts off with respect to the effects of this educational system, is the inner untruthfulness that it nurses in young people, the dishonesty of the judgment about the problems of modern politics and the social life, the self-conceit of true national feeling that does not consist in crying hurrahs and in the glorification of militarism. Rather it tries to express itself in going to the bottom and in deepening the culture that is characteristic of one’s own people. […] Poor youth that throws away for playing soldier the most beautiful right of young people, i.e. having the possibility to live in a completely human way!” 32
It would be very interesting to have reports about philosophers of science particularly on the French and British fronts. Unfortunately, I do not know any.
Overall, I have found that the young philosophers of science in Germany showed little enthusiasm for the Great War.33 During the war, we find no war propagandist among them. Twenty years later, in Paris, one notorious German propagandist was among the speakers, a convert to scientific philosophy. In 1915, however, when the later logician Heinrich Scholz published three propaganda brochures, he was still a protestant theologian. Moreover, in 1917, when a fourth such pamphlet followed, he received a chair in systematic theology at Breslau, now the Polish Wrocław. – Incidentally, I found that also at least one of the French participants at Copenhagen, Georges Matisse, given the titles of his brochures seems to be a propagandist – but only at first glance. In 1915, he published Les Allemands – destructeurs des cathédrales et des trésors du passé, a title that invites comparisons to the Islamic State these days. The other brochure was explicitly addressed to the Germans: Aux Allemands : pourquoi n'êtes-vous pas aimés dans le monde? – To the Germans: Why the World does not like you? Unfortunately, both brochures remained untranslated and, thus, reached only few of its addressees.34 This is the more regrettable because truthful Allied reports about German, Islamic-State like, activities in Belgium and Northern France were denounced in Germany as enemy propaganda. The other brochure is an analysis of the self-confessed Germanophile Matisse35 of the rise of a feeling of superiority among German elites that sounds fitting for somebody like me, who has read dozens of war talks and manifestos of German professors. Matisse qualifies this unrealistic German feeling of superiority those papers exhibit correctly as a prejudice (préjugé) and rightly summarizes “Nothing deforms judgment more than patriotism. Patriotism is a religion. As every religion, it makes unsympathetic, intolerant and excludes people.”36 – These days we see, by the way, a similar disproportion between hyperbolic self-assessments and sad reality, for example, in large parts of the Islamic world or in Russia.
I know only two confessing pacifists among European philosophers. Both were close to scientific philosophy: Bertrand Russell and Louis Couturat. Russell, who at Paris was arguably the most prominent participant, went to jail for his fight against compulsory military service, while Couturat was on August 3, 1914 among the first civilian victims of war. The French Wikipedia notes: « his vehicle was hit, indeed, by a vehicle that carried the mobilazation orders of the French army”.37 Russell, by the way, already in 1915 gave a short evaluation of the Great War that I find the best I have ever seen: „This war is trivial, for all its vastness. No great principle is at stake, no great human purpose is involved on either side.“38
Wrong (“Ideological”) Framework
There is an interesting terminological insecurity with logical empiricists as to a generally accepted label for what they were doing. This insecurity, which I am going to document here from the Prague Vorkonferenz
, is an indication of divergent ideas of what the whole movement was about. Neurath, the tireless organizer of unity, regards “anti-metaphysical empiricism
” the mantra that should keep together the “various tendencies”. Charles Morris speaks of “scientific empiricism” and later of “scientific philosophy”, which Hempel, in his German summary, translates as “wissenschaftliche Philosophie” (p. 149). Neurath, is happy to adopt “scientism” (Szientismus
), and two lines later uses “logicizing empiricism” (logisierender Emprismus
). Ajdukiewicz speaks of “scientific world perspective” (wissenschaftliche Weltperspektive
) and in another paper of “logistic anti-irrationalism”; Carnap distinguishes the wider Wissenschaftslehre
something like present day science studies, from the narrower
, discipline-related logical analysis of science (Wissenschaftslogik
– In the correspondence, however, that Neurath conducts in preparing “Paris”, “Unity of Science” seems to become the concept that ought to unite the movement. In fact, the German title of “Paris” is “Erster Internationaler Kongress für Einheit der Wissenschaft”, while the addition to that title in French is “Congrès International de Philosophie Scientifique”.40
In Copenhagen, Erkenntnis
gives only the German “Einheit der Wissenschaft”.41
At later congresses, the English „Unity of Science“ becomes the label.
Unfortunately, Morris and Carnap could not establish their terminological ideas. It seems fair to regard in the thirties “antimetaphysics” and “unified science” as the key labels for most logical empiricists. For the Berlin branch, however, and as it seems in Poland, too, antimetaphysics was not of primary concern, while it was a philosophical cornerstone for many in “Vienna”. In “Berlin”, antimetaphysics resulted, as it were, from well-conducted philosophy science, while in Vienna things worked the other way round.42 However, the difference in rank and emphasis that the battle against metaphysics took in “Berlin” and “Vienna”, respectively, does not seem to have been discussed explicitly between the two centers. “Berlin” had nothing to object to antimetaphysics, and “Vienna” was not disappointed about that, as long as Berlin delivered intellectual arms and contributed with its infrastructure in the dissemination of the scientific world-conception as an antidote to metaphysics. Antimetaphysics in the context of biology meant excluding from living nature every possibility of teleology or action of non-mechanical, and therefore possibly divine forces. This means, antimetaphysics in the context of philosophy of biology, relates to nothing else than the good old mechanism vs. vitalism controversy.
Unified science, in turn, meant nothing else than reduction of biology to physics. Physics is the model of empirical science. I think that this backward looking job description of philosophy of biology, i.e. antimetaphysics and reduction, is responsible for more than three decades of stagnation in this important philosophical field. In other words, problems alien to biological science, determined the agenda for philosophy of biology. One notices, nonetheless, in the three years between “Prague” and “Copenhagen” a growing dissatisfaction among the protagonists and the demand to approach biology in a different way.
Intermezzo III: Cruel Fates
“Paris 1935” was not only a congress that united people of unusual excellence. Unusual was also the cruel fate that expected a large number of the participants. To talk only about those, whose biographies I sufficiently know, 10 years after “Paris”, in 1945 at the end of World War II, the following people had fled the occupied parts of Europe: Brunswik, Carnap, Chwistek, Frank, Heinemann, Hollitscher, Lecomte du Noüy, Oppenheim, Popper, Tarski, Zilsel
or had to hide as Enriques. Heinemann, Hempel, Neurath and Reichenbach in 1935 were already refugees from Germany and Austria, respectively.
The first to be murdered was Schlick, who in 1936 was shot by a psychologically disturbed student, whose crime was certainly favored by the Viennese clerico-fascist environment, hostile to the enlightenment-oriented logical empiricism.43 Grelling, Lautman, Janina Hossiasson-Lindenbaum and her husband Adolf Lindenbaum were murdered in German concentration camps or directly by the Gestapo.
Imagine again ten years from now about 20% of us emigrants and quite a few of us murdered.
No Actual Problems of Biological Science
I mentioned earlier that the “Paris” organizers had identified biology as a field to be specifically considered. The first step in this direction was the colloquium “Physics and Biology”, organized by Carnap and Frank at Prague University in the summer semester 1935. It started on March 18, 1935 with Frank, who talked about “What do the new theories of physics mean for boundary questions between physics and biology?”44
Unfortunately, we do not know anything about the content of the talk. Probably, it did not differ very much, from what Frank said in Paris a few months later.
On May 27, 1935 Carnap himself gave a talk on “The relations between biology and physics: from the point of view of the logic of science” (“Die Beziehungen zwischen Biologie und Physik, vom Standpunkt der Wissenschaftslogik”) in the context of his lecture series “System der Wissenschaft”. According to Carnap’s notes for this lecture, it is the “task of biology: explanation of processes in living bodies through compilation of biological laws […] that have to be added to the physical laws in order to explain the processes in living bodies.”45 The relationship between the entire disciplines of physics and biology is hence reduced to the “relationship between biological and physical laws”.46 He sees two possibilities to formulate this thesis: First, “all biological concepts are via definition reducible to physical concepts […] Thus: all concrete statements and all laws of biology can be formulated in a physicalist language.”47 Second, “Possibility of deduction”. Whether biology may be deduced from physics, is for Carnap an “open question”. In any case, he is convinced: “Today not possible: particular biological laws. Whether possible later we do not know.”48 After some polemics against Driesch’s neo-vitalism, Carnap takes a clearly physicalist position: “I do not attach importance to the terminological question (“biology is branch of physics”) […] My thesis is simply: the relationship of biology to physics of the non-living analogous to the relationship of the theory of electricity to the physics of the non-electrical.”49 In short, Carnap’s talk gives less a philosophical analysis of biological science; he rather presents the usual anti-vitalism and reductionism business that characterizes early logical empiricism, as we have seen already. Carnap and the others could simply not do better, because they did not know sufficiently what contemporary biology was about. – Perhaps Carnap did not even understand what his biology colleagues said. In his diary Carnap writes: „Mo, 27.05.1935. dentist – 5 lecture. 71/4-91/2 colloquium. My talk „The relations between biology and physics, from the point of view of the logic of science”. [the plant physiologist Ernst] Pringsheim and [the botanist Adolf Alois] Pascher agree on the whole. [The plant physiologist and historian of science Josef] Gicklhorn has reservations against “too much physics”, but formulates them very unclear.”50 – I have once checked the entire volumes of Erkenntnis, in order to see, whether evolution is dealt with. I have only found one article by the botanist Walter Zimmermann (1892-1980), who writes about evolution on a couple of pages, contrasting it with idealist morphology.51
In the biology section in “Paris” there were talks by Philipp Frank (1884-1966), Pierre Lecomte du Noüy (1883-1947), a biophysicist who acted at the time of the conference as head of biophysics division of the Institut Pasteur52 and J. H. Woodger (1894-1981).
It would be exaggerated to say that the three talks were contributions to the philosophy of biology on a par with those to the philosophy of physics or mathematics. Frank rejects positions, which invoke Bohr’s interpretation of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, in order to claim “that there exist in biological science laws of a spiritualist, holist or organizist sort instead of the laws that are used in physical science to determine observed phenomena.”53 Rather, the task is “to explain life in a mechanistic way”.54 Lecomte du Noüy’s talk “On the Unity of Method in Physical and Biological Sciences Compared to Each Other” is in my view the most interesting. Different from Frank, he warns against adopting physicalism in biology, and hints at what was later called “supervenience”. He summarizes:
“I hope to have shown […] one of the essential differences between problems posed by living matter, by organized beings and by raw matter. The ultimate elements are identical. One might imagine that the analytical method pushed to the extreme would be necessary and sufficient to deliver answers to all our questions. […] It seems, to the contrary, however, that the biological problems superposes itself [supervenes?, G.W.] at a certain level of complexity on the physical and chemical problem. It seems that the analysis is incapable to connect the teachings obtained beyond a certain threshold with those the biological methods disclose on this side.“55
Woodger, the great hope of the organizers, turns out to be a failure. He presents his unworldly idea of axiomatizing biology. Carnap, who promoted his invitation, notes disappointedly in his diary: “far too difficult, he speaks without the slightest empathy for the poor audience”.56 Poor Woodger’s talk was, by the way, for whatever reason not published, and not even summarized in the proceedings of the Paris Congress.57
Overall, in Paris was the promise to deal with “the logical foundations” also of biology, given in Prague, far from being fully kept
Off to Copenhagen again! Were things there better for philosophy of biology? The short answer is, yes a bit. As mentioned already, there were three talks in the biology section at Copenhagen: J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964), Nicolas Rashevsky (1899-1972) and George Matisse (1874-1961). Let us start with Matisse. He could not come to the congress, but his talk was read. It aimed at rejecting finalistic approaches in biology by pointing to the fact that in inorganic systems we find already what Matisse calls “structures orientées”. Here is one of his examples: “When an electric current passes through a solution, all metallic ions of a mineral salt in solution direct themselves towards the cathode, and the radicals toward the anode.”58 Similarly, living systems should be seen in the context of a theory of structurally ordered systems that display regular order of their material components, often combined with a special direction of their elementary processes.59
Haldane’s and Rashevski’s talks are just reports of what is going on in their respective fields. In the case of Haldane this is population genetics, while Rashevski explores the possibility of using physic-mathematical methods in biology, in particular on the level of single cells and functional groups of cells. While Haldane hardly mentions any philosophical problem, Rashevsky makes at least clear that the use of mathematical methods in Biology requires idealization.60 In my view, Frank gives in his closing remarks to “Copenhagen” a fair résumé: “At the congress, Haldane has talked about genetics and Rashevski about the application of mathematico-physical methods in biology. We have invited those two researchers, in order to receive new suggestions for the search for the logical structure of science that can be found in every purely scientific theory that is free of metaphysics.”61 In Frank’s view the talks, thus, were rather biological raw material for philosophical analysis.
Briefly, from “Prague”, via “Paris” to “Copenhagen” we see a sort of positive gradient as to special problems in the philosophy of biology: It goes from zero in Prague via old questions in Paris to information about actual biological science, inviting philosophical analysis in Copenhagen. In a sense, the ground is now prepared to start philosophy of biology. It might well be due to political developments that one had to wait another twenty to thirty years for this.
Intermezzo IV – Languages
About “Paris” we read in the report in Erkenntnis, probably written by Neurath:
“Congress languages were German, English, and French. Single speakers used here one congress language, there another. Others appeared as translators of their own talks. Bertrand Russell gave his warm obituary on Frege in German. For the rest, the talks were translated in excerpt as necessary, only occasionally also parts of the discussion.”62
Eighty years later, at our commemorative event here at Cerisy, two of the “Paris” languages have remained, while German has gone. At most other international conferences nowadays, English is the only language. This is certainly a positive development. Having a lingua franca is a great asset, and there can be no doubt that English is the chosen language. In 1935, things were different. On the European continent, at least in Germany, more people had a certain knowledge of French than of English. After “Prague”, in late September/early October, 1934 Carnap made his first trip to England. His short notes in the diary often relate to language: September 27, 1934: “Things go very well, linguistically, I speak quite slowly, however”: - October 2, 1934 about a lunch with the Woodgers and Russell: “Russell, occasionally, speaks very good German. He proposes that I speak German and he English.” A bit later: “Partially very vivid conversation [of Russell] with Ms Woodger, too fast, so that I cannot quite follow.” – October 8, 1934: “My first talk 5:15 to 6:15. […] In the beginning I read very slowly, look in between at the audience. Only at the blackboard, I speak briefly without notes. I make an effort to pronounce distinctly; but it was possibly too slow.”63 – People at “Paris”, “Prague”, and “Copenhagen” were almost certainly in Carnap’s linguistic position with respect to one or two of the congress languages.
The problems Carnap describes here, are just one of the disadvantages that English as lingua franca carries with it for most people that do not have English as mother tongue. My talk here is just another proof of this. Many more asymmetries result from the fact that, different from Latin in the Middle Ages, the academic lingua franca of our days is the first language in a series of countries.64 I would like to make a counterfactual hypothesis: if a philosophical movement like logical empiricism would arise today outside the Anglophone world, it would not surface on the international level, because Anglophone, particularly American colleagues determine the topics of the international agenda. Thanks to the tireless international organizational efforts of Neurath, and thanks, sadly, to the emigration of the leading minds to the U.S., logical empiricism could flourish internationally, and not the least in the U.S.
“Prague”, “Paris” and “Copenhagen” show the achievement or better non-achievement of logico-empiricist philosophy of biology. In Erkenntnis
, for example,
one finds a great number of outstanding and by now classical papers. The only outstanding contribution to the philosophy of biology, however, is in my view Kurt Lewin's classic "The Transition of the Aristotelian to the Galilean Mode of Thinking in Biology and Psychology" (Der Übergang von der aristotelischen zur galileischen Denkweise in Biologie und Psychologie
). Ironically, this paper right at the outset takes exception to one of the pillars of logico-empiricist philosophy of biology:
"I do not have the intention, to infer deductively from the history of physics, in which way biology 'should' proceed. For, I am not of the opinion that there, finally, is only one empirical science, namely physics, to which all others are reduced".65
In a footnote Lewin talks about "a thesis with respect to 'unified science'", put forward by Carnap, twhich Lewin attests "an absolutely speculative character similar to older conceptions. It satisfies as little the requirements of considering the factual development of science as it does the requirements of mathematics".
To sum up: logical empiricists themselves in Erkenntnis did not contribute any remarkable work to the philosophy of biology. In addition, there does not seem to be any positive influence on the work related to philosophy of biology of those biologists, physicians, and philosophers to whom logical empiricism provided a platform. The only exception, Lewin, dissociates himself from a central logico-empiricist tenet. So, it took two to three decades after “Paris”, before the great ideas about logical analysis of science that logical empiricism had inaugurated could become fruitful for biology.
Actes (1936): Actes du Congrès International de Philosophie Scientifique. Sorbonne, Paris 1935, 8 vols., Paris (Hermann)
Frank, Philipp (1936): “Allocution Inaugurale”, in: Actes du Congrès Internationale de Philosophie Scientifiques : Sorbonne, Paris 1935, Vol 1 (Philosophie Scientifique et Empirisme Logique), Paris (Hermann & Cie), 13-15
Frank, Philipp (1936b) : « L’abîme entre les sciences physiques et biologiques vu à la lumière des théories physiques modernes », in: Actes du Congrès Internationale de Philosophie Scientifiques : Sorbonne, Paris 1935, Vol. 2 (Unité de la science), Paris (Hermann & Cie), 1-3
Frank, Philipp (1936c) : „Schlusswort“, in: Erkenntnis 6 (1936), 443-450
Haldane, John Burdon Sanderson (1936) : “Some Principles of Causal Analysis in Genetics”, Erkenntnis 6 (1936), 346-356
Lecomte du Noüy, Pierre (1936) : « Sur l’unité de la méthode dans les Sciences physiques e biologiques comparées »,in : Actes du Congrès Internationale de Philosophie Scientifiques : Sorbonne, Paris 1935, Vol. 2 (Unité de la science), Paris (Hermann & Cie), 4-14
Lewin, Kurt (1930/31): "Der Übergang von der aristotelischen zur galileischen Denkweise in Biologie und Psychologie", Erkenntnis 1 (1930/31), 421-466
Matisse, Georges (1915): Aux Allemands : pourquoi n'êtes-vous pas aimés dans le monde?, Lausanne (Ruedi)
Matisse, George (1915a): Les Allemands – destructeurs des cathédrales et des trésors du passé, nouvelle édition, Paris (Hachette)
Matisse, Georges (1936): « Les systèmes orientés et les êtres vivants », in : Erkenntnis 6 (1936), 367-373
Popper, Karl R. (1992): Unended Quest: an Intellectual Autobiography, London (Routledge)
Rashevsky, Nicolas (1936): „Physico-Mathematical Methods in Biological and Social Sciences“, in: Erkenntnis 6 (1936), 357-365
Reichenbach, Hans (1914): „Militarismus und Jugend“, in: Die Tat, Bd. 5, 1234-1238
Rougier, Louis (1936): “Allocution d’ouverture du congrès”, in: Actes du Congrès Internationale de Philosophie Scientifiques : Sorbonne, Paris 1935, Vol 1 (Philosophie Scientifique et Empirisme Logique), Paris (Hermann & Cie), 7-9
Stadler (2015): The Vienna Circle: Studies in the Origins, Development, and Influence of Logical Empiricism, Cham (CH) (Springer), 2nd rev. ed. (= Vienna Circle Institute Library, Vol. 4) (German original: Studien zum Wiener Kreis. Ursprung, Entwicklung und Wirkung des Logischen Empirismus im Kontext, Frankfurt (Suhrkamp) 1997)
Wolters, Gereon (1999): ”Wrongful Life: Logico-Empiricism´s Philosophy of Biology”, in: Maria Carla Galavotti/Alessandro Pagnini (eds.), Experience, Reality, and Scientific Explanation. Essays in Honor of Merrilee and Wesley Salmon, Dordrecht (Kluwer), 187-208
Wolters, Gereon (2013): „European Humanities in Times of Globalized Parochialism”, Bollettino della Società Filosofica Italiana No. 208 (2013), 3-18
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