Unified science as political philosophy: Positivism, pluralism and liberalism


Authors
John O’Neill
University of Manchester
Abstract
Logical positivism is widely associated with an illiberal technocratic view of politics. This view is a caricature. Some members of the left Vienna circle were explicit in their criticism of this conception of politics. In particular, Neurath's work attempted to link the internal epistemological pluralism and tolerance of logical empiricism with political pluralism and the rejection of a technocratic politics. This paper examines the role that unified science played in Neurath's defence of political and social pluralism. Neurath's project of unified science addressed problems that lie at the centre of recent debates around liberalism concerning the possibility of social co-operation in conditions of pluralism. His response is distinctive in calling upon an empiricist tradition that differs from Kantian proceduralist approaches that have predominated in recent liberalism. While Neurath's position has problems, it deserves reconsideration, especially in so far as it questions the Kantian assumption that a thin language of abstract rights provides the best basis for the cosmopolital lingua franca required by conditions of social pluralism. An investigation of the role that unified science plays in Neurath's politics also gives reasons for revising common misconceptions about the nature of the unity of science programme itself.
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DOI 10.1016/s0039-3681(03)00048-7
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References found in this work BETA

Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis.Paul Oppenheim & Hilary Putnam - 1958 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 2:3-36.
The Poverty of Historicism.Karl R. Popper - 1957 - London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
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Citations of this work BETA

The Vienna Circle’s “Scientific World-Conception”: Philosophy of Science in the Political Arena.Donata Romizi - 2012 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 2 (2):205-242.
What’s Right About Carnap, Neurath and the Left Vienna Circle Thesis: A Refutation.Thomas Uebel - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (2):214-221.

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