Andreas Vrahimis
University of Cyprus
During the 1930s, while both movements were fleeing from persecution by the Nazis, the Vienna Circle and the Frankfurt School planned to collaborate. The plan failed, and in its stead Horkheimer published a critique of the Vienna Circle in “The Latest Attack on Metaphysics” (written in collaboration with Adorno, though he is not credited as an author). This paper will analyse Horkheimer’s (and Adorno’s) article, and the ensuing dialogue with Neurath. The Frankfurt School’s critical stance towards the Vienna Circle can be traced back to Adorno’s earlier objections to the ‘positivist’ myth of the given. In response to Carnap’s attack on Heidegger, Horkheimer (and Adorno) criticized both metaphysics and its ‘scientistic’ overcoming. Their critique employs a number of overgeneralisations about ‘logical positivism’. Neurath’s unpublished reply proposes corrections to the Frankfurt School’s portrayal of ‘positivism’, pointing towards a partly conciliatory direction within the framework of Unified Science. The attempted collaboration between the Vienna Circle and the Frankfurt School ended when Horkheimer refused to publish Neurath's reply to his article in the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung. Horkheimer subsequently made anti-positivism a central concern for critical theory, setting the tone of subsequent polemics in the Positivismusstreit of the 1960s.
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Reprint years 2020
DOI 10.1086/710184
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