Boltzmann and epistemology

Synthese 119 (1-2):157-189 (1999)
Abstract
This paper is an attempt to clarify why Ludwig Boltzmann from about 1895 to 1905 seemed to adopt a series of extreme epistemological positions, ranging from phenomenalism to pragmatism, while emphatically rejecting what he called ‘metaphysics’ (by which he meant all traditional philosophy). He concluded that all philosophical differences were merely linguistic and most were ultimately meaningless. But at about the time that young Ludwig Wittgenstein began absorbing these desperate ideas (1905), Boltzmann himself under the influence of Franz Brentano seemed to assume a type of representationalism about the external physical world, while in his own mind adopting it for pragmatic reasons. Why? Because “it worked”. He seems to have defended his non-representationalist Bildtheorie on similar grounds, but his suicide followed shortly (1906).
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