An investigation into Moritz Schlick's foundationalist epistemology
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Moritz Schlick is an influential figure in the history of philosophy, but his place in the narrative is often confined to having been the man who brought great thinkers together, rather than having been a great thinker himself. In this thesis I argue that Schlick’s ideas deserve greater philosophical recognition, and to this end I focus on his work on the foundations of scientific enquiry. I trace Schlick’s thought from Allgemeine Erkenntnislehre through the prism of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico Philosophicus and into his later work on the form and content of statements. I then look at the Vienna Circle’s so-called “protocol sentences debate” and explain why Schlick felt the need to introduce his controversial account of Konstatierungen, his objective being to find epistemically-guaranteed foundations for our scientific beliefs. The problem with Schlick’s account appears to be that any statement that is epistemically secure cannot be connected appropriately to our network of scientific beliefs, which itself is never immune to revision. I argue that Schlick may have been attempting to bridge this gap with the middle-Wittgensteinian notion of the criteria for the acceptance of a statement as separate from its truth conditions, but I argue that this approach leaves the link between Konstatierungen and science underexplained. Finally, I consider some of the advances made in philosophy since Schlick’s death – Donald Davidson’s arguments against the need for individually-infallible judgements to form the foundations of knowledge, and David Chalmers’ scrutability framework which helps us explicate the connection needed between foundational statements and the system of science. I conclude that there is a viable position within the scrutability framework – “weak phenomenal structuralism” – that allows us to retain Schlick’s emphasis on the role of experience in science and implies that science, as a whole, is well-founded, but individually-guaranteed Konstatierungen must stand wholly outside this system.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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