The Vienna Circle’s “Scientific World-Conception”: Philosophy of Science in the Political Arena


This article is intended as a contribution to the current debates about the relationship between politics and the philosophy of science in the Vienna Circle. I reconsider this issue by shifting the focus from philosophy of science as theory to philosophy of science as practice. From this perspective I take as a starting point the Vienna Circle’s scientific world-conception and emphasize its practical nature: I reinterpret its tenets as a set of recommendations that express the particular epistemological attitude in which both the Vienna Circle’s (doing) philosophy of science and its political engagement were rooted.

Regarding politics, and referring to new primary sources, I reconstruct how the scientific world-conception placed the Vienna Circle within a neoliberal-socialist political network that pursued concrete political aims. In light of my reconstruction I shall argue that neither the Vienna Circle’s alleged ethical noncognitivism nor its alleged adhesion to the Weberian ideal of a value-free science rules out the possibility of ascribing to the Vienna Circle a politically engaged philosophy of science: the case of the Vienna Circle shows how philosophy of science, as a public activity, can itself become a form of political engagement, even without necessarily entailing a theory of objective values.