The Vienna Circle is now best remembered for its illustrious tangent, Ludwig Wittgenstein. In its prime, between the wars, the unofficial fraternity was presided over by Moritz Schlick, who began his academic career as a physicist. Inspired by Ernst Mach, Schlick and his associates presumed science to be a “social practice,” devoted to the solution of “usually practical” problems. Philosophy, traditionally crowned “the Queen of Sciences,” was dethroned, as Europe’s pre-war emperors had been in 1918, and relegated to dusting and polishing propositional paraphernalia. The fraternity soon to be known as “Logical Positivists”—Rudolf Carnap the most rigorous; the elephantine trumpeter Otto Neurath the loudest—regarded metaphysics as the “beguiling nonsense” of what A. J. “Freddie” Ayer came to stigmatize as “pundits.”


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