In Adam Tamas Tuboly & Akos Sivado (eds.), The History of Understanding in Analytic Philosophy: Before and After Logical Empiricism. London: Bloomsbury (forthcoming)

Andreas Vrahimis
University of Cyprus
During the late 1930s, the failed attempt at collaboration between the Frankfurt School and the Vienna Circle culminated in Horkheimer’s 1937 paper ‘The Latest Attack on Metaphysics’. Horkheimer ([1937] 1972), relying on a caricature of positivism as espousing an uncritical myth of the given, drew far-reaching conclusions concerning positivism’s conservative prohibition of the radical questioning of appearances. Horkheimer (1940) later applied some of these criticisms to Dilthey’s conception of Verstehen, while presenting Logical Empiricism as dismissing Dilthey’s proposals nothing more than poetry. By examining Neurath’s unpublished reply to Horkheimer, and drawing on Uebel’s (2019) account of Logical Empiricism’s stance towards Verstehen, this chapter will attempt to dispel Horkheimer’s caricature. I will highlight a parallel between Neurath’s attitude towards (i) claims about Verstehen in social science and (ii) Horkheimer’s proposals for the use of Vernunft by a ‘supra-scientific’ Critical Theory. Neurath argues that once Horkheimer’s objections to ‘positivism’ are reformulated in non-metaphysical terms, they point towards a genuine problem concerning science’s relation to social praxis. For Neurath, the problem can be addressed from within (rather than, as Horkheimer would have it, from above) empirically-minded investigations in the history and sociology of science.
Keywords Otto Neurath  Max Horkheimer  Verstehen  Wilhelm Dilthey
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