II General Part

Carnap’s Weltanschauung and the Jugendbewegung: The Story of an Omitted Chapter

Adam Tamas Tuboly


Richard Creath (2007, 332) claimed earlier that “Quine did arrive in Vienna in 1932, but intellectually, at least, he never left. [...] Vienna remained the city of Quine’s dreams; it was the home of his concerns, the source of his arguments, and the lodestar of his aspirations.” If Vienna was the city of Quine’s dreams, then it was indeed the city of Rudolf Carnap.

According to the usual story, after Carnap arrived in Vienna in 1926 (first in 1925 to present the Aufbau as his Habilitationsschrift), he found himself in a stimulating and cooperative atmosphere. For Carnap, originally a physicist, who tried to explicate the connections between physics, mathematics, logic, and philosophy while searching for a general and unified scientific framework, Vienna offered the required help both to finish his ongoing projects and to conceptualize the further scientific- philosophical works.

Even the Vienna Circle welcomed Carnap as the long-awaited system-builder who could synthesize their various efforts and philosophical insights into a general framework which would connect all the dots. As Philipp Frank (1949, 33) put it: “[In the Aufbau] the integration of Mach and Poincare was actually performed in a coherent system of conspicuous logical simplicity. Our Viennese group saw in Carnap’s work the synthesis that we had advocated for many years.” But even if we do not take at face value the retrospective - and as Thomas Uebel (2003) said - highly “programmatic” historiography of Frank, already in 1929 the authors of the Circle’s manifesto (Carnap, Neurath, and partly Hahn, Feigl and Waismann) claimed that (in the context of their method):

A.T. Tuboly (*)

Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

F. Stadler (ed.), Integrated History and Philosophy of Science, Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 20, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-53258-5_10

[i]f such an analysis were carried through for all concepts, they would thus be ordered into a reductive system, a ‘constitutive system’. Investigations towards such a constitutive system, the ‘constitutive theory’, thus form the framework within which logical analysis is applied by the scientific world-conception. (Carnap et al. 1929/1973, 309. Italics added.)

Thus before Neurath’s critique and Carnap’s physicalist turn, a part of the Circle maintained that Carnap’s general ideas about concept-building (in the Aufbau) provided the required framework to spell out their (scientific) conception of the world.

Vienna seemed to be, however, the city of Carnap’s dream from a broader cultural perspective too. The manifesto’s authors (among them Carnap) said that

[i]n the second half of the nineteenth century, liberalism was long the dominant political current. Its world of ideas stems from the enlightenment, from empiricism, utilitarianism and the free trade movement of England. In Vienna’s liberal movement, scholars of world renown occupied leading positions. Here an anti-metaphysical spirit was cultivated [...]. (Carnap et al. 1929/1973, 301.)

Besides the diverse scientific landscape, Vienna showed a colorful picture of political, social and cultural ideas. Even Carnap seems to confirm that Vienna was an ideal place for him after he visited the Circle for the very first time in 1925: “Besides[the philosophical atmosphere] Vienna is attractive too: a lot of cultures, a lot of international lives.”[1]

So far so good one could say, concerning, at least, the usual story. As a part of Carnap’s Nachlass, however, in his original and unpublished intellectual autobiography written in the late 1950s for the Schilpp volume, Carnap draws our attention to a quite different narrative of his “Wiener Projekt” [2]:

After the war [...] the same spirit was still alive [vivid] in the life of my newly founded family and in the relationships with friends. When I went to Vienna, however, the situation changed. I still preserved the same spirit in my personal attitude, but I missed it painfully in the social life with others. None of the members of the Vienna Circle had taken part in the Youth Movement, and I did not feel myself strong and productive enough to transform singlehandedly the group of friends into a living community, sharing the style of life which I wanted. Although I was able to play a leading role in the philosophical work of the group,

I was unable to fulfill the task of a missionary or a prophet. Thus I often felt as perhaps a man might feel who has lived in a religious[ly] inspired community and then suddenly finds himself isolated in the Diaspora and not strong enough to convert the heathen. The same feeling I had in a still greater measure later in America, where the power of traditional social conventions is much stronger than it was in Vienna and where also the number of those who have at least sensed some dissatisfaction with the traditional forms of life is smaller than anywhere on the European continent. (Carnap 1957, [UCLA] Box 2, CM3, folder M-A5, pp. B35-B36.)

This passage is purported to show that even though Vienna could have been the city of Carnap’s dreams from a theoretical (philosophical and scientific) point of view,[3]

Carnap to Reichenbach, March 10, 1925. ASP RC 102-64-11. All translations are mine.

from a broader cultural (social and political) perspective the Viennese people just missed something important and fundamental: none of them have taken part in the so-called German Youth Movement (GYM), the Jugendbewegung.

The role and lasting effect of GYM on Carnap’s thought and philosophy were emphasized recently, for example, by Gottfried Gabriel (2004), Andre Carus (2007a, b), Christian Dambock (2012) and Jacques Bouveresse (2012). The aim of this paper is to make some further comments on Carnap’s relation to the GYM, particularly on the question of why was it omitted from his published intellectual autobiography?

I will proceed as follows. In Sect. 10.2 the Jugendbewegung is going to be discussed, particularly its effect on Carnap’s Weltanschauung. Then in Sect. 10.3 I will present some reasons which led finally to the decision to cut from the autobiography those passages which concerned the Jugendbewegung.

One could naturally raise the question whether such a micro-story about an omitted chapter is important at all. Since I claim that (at least partly) the GYM’s effect could be detected both in the principle of tolerance and in Carnap’s general metaphilosophy, it indeed seems to be relevant to deal with the omitted passage and its context. On the other hand, since the GYM was not present in Carnap’s philosophy as a propositionally formulated piece of knowledge (he never refers to it as such), approaching the problem from the idea of worldviews gives us a proper framework. According to Wilhelm Dilthey (1968, 78), “the deepest root of Weltanschauung is in life itself’ thus we shall reveal those socio-cultural moments which made possible and framed Carnap’s views. GYM was just such a moment. Furthermore, as Karl Mannheim (1921-22/1959, 45) formulated it, the analyzes of worldviews and cultural objects “embraces not merely cultural products endowed with traditional prestige, such as Art or Religion, but also manifestations of everyday life which usually pass unnoticed [...]”, like participation in a movement.

  • [1] 2
  • [2] The term is from Carnap’s letter to his father-in-law. It is dated just after Carnap went back toWiesneck after his visit to Vienna, November 2, 1925. ASP RC 102-23-01.
  • [3] As many scholars argue, even from a philosophical point of view, Vienna could not cover thewhole interest of Carnap due to the anti-Kantian tendencies of Austrian philosophy. In 1933
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