Don Howard
University of Notre Dame
What is Albert Einstein’s place in the history of twentieth-century philosophy of science? Were one to consult the histories produced at mid-century from within the Vienna Circle and allied movements (e.g., von Mises 1938, 1939, Kraft 1950, Reichenbach 1951), then one would find, for the most part, two points of emphasis. First, Einstein was rightly remembered as the developer of the special and general theories of relativity, theories which, through their challenge to both scientific and philosophical orthodoxy made vivid the need for a new kind of empiricism (Schlick 1921) whereby one could defend the empirical integrity of the theory of relativity against challenges 1 coming mainly from the defenders of Kant. Second, the special and general theories of relativity were wrongly cited as straightforwardly validating central tenets of the logical empiricist program, such as verificationism, and Einstein was wrongly represented as having, himself, explicitly endorsed those same philosophical principles. As we now know, logical empiricism was not the monolithic philosophical movement it was once taken to have been. Those associated with the movement disagreed deeply about fundamental issues concerning the structure and interpretation of scientific theories, as in the protocol sentence debate, and about the overall aims of the movement, as in the debate between the left and right wings 2 of the Vienna Circle over the role of politics in science and philosophy. Along with such differences went subtle differences in the assessment of Einstein’s legacy to logical empiricism. Philipp Frank–himself a dissenter from central points of right-wing Vienna Circle doctrine–deserves..
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