Otto Neurath (German: [ˈnɔʏʀaːt]; 10 December 1882 – 22 December 1945) was an Austrian philosopher, philosopher of science, sociologist, and political economist. Before he fled his native country in 1934, Neurath was one of the leading figures of the Vienna Circle.
Otto Karl Wilhelm Neurath
|Born||10 December 1882|
|Died||22 December 1945 (aged 63)|
|Alma mater||University of Berlin|
|Philosophy of science|
Protokollsatz (protocol statement)
Neurath was born in Vienna, the son of Wilhelm Neurath (1840–1901), a well-known political economist at the time. Helene Migerka was his cousin. He studied mathematics in Vienna and gained his Ph.D. in the department of Political Science and Statistics at the University of Berlin.
He married Anna Schapire in 1907, who died in 1911 while bearing their son, Paul, and then married a close friend, the mathematician and philosopher Olga Hahn. Perhaps because of his first wife's blindness and then because of the outbreak of war, Paul was sent to a children's home outside Vienna, where Neurath's mother lived, and returned to live with both of his parents when he was nine years old.
Neurath taught political economy at the Neue Wiener Handelsakademie (New College of Commerce, Vienna) until war broke out. Subsequently, he directed the Department of War Economy in the War Ministry. In 1917 or 1918, he became director of the Deutsches Kriegswirtschaftsmuseum (German Museum of War Economy, later the Deutsches Wirtschaftsmuseum) at Leipzig. Here he worked with Wolfgang Schumann, known from the Dürerbund for which Neurath had written many articles. During the political crisis which led to the armistice, Schumann urged him to work out a plan for socialization in Saxony. Along with Schumann and Hermann Kranold developed the Programm Kranold-Neurath-Schumann. Neurath then joined the German Social Democratic Party in 1918-19 and ran an office for central economic planning in Munich. When the Bavarian Soviet Republic was defeated, Neurath was imprisoned but returned to Austria after intervention from the Austrian government. While in prison he wrote "Anti-Spengler", a critical attack on Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West".
In Red Vienna, he joined the Social Democrats and became secretary of the Austrian Association for Settlements and Small Gardens (Verband für Siedlungs-und Kleingartenwesen), a collection of self-help groups that set out to provide housing and garden plots to its members. In 1923, he founded a new museum for housing and city planning called Siedlungsmuseum. In 1925 he renamed it Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum in Wien (Museum of Society and Economy in Vienna) and founded an own association for it, in which the Vienna city administration, the trade unions, the Chamber of Workers and the Bank of Workers became members, then mayor Karl Seitz having acted as first proponent of the association. Julius Tandler, city councillor for welfare and health, served at the first board of the museum together with other prominent social democratic politicians. The museum was provided with exhibition rooms at buildings of the city administration, the most prominent being the People's Hall at the Vienna City Hall. To make the museum understandable for everybody, Neurath worked on graphic design and visual education. In the late 1920s, graphic designer and communications theorist Rudolf Modley served as an assistant to Neurath, contributing to a new means of communication: a visual "language." With the illustrator Gerd Arntz and with Marie Reidemeister (who he would marry in 1941), Neurath created Isotype, a symbolic way of representing quantitative information via easily interpretable icons. At international conventions of city planners, Neurath presented and promoted his communication tools.
In the 1920s, Neurath also became an ardent logical positivist, and was the main author of the Vienna Circle manifesto. He was the driving force behind the Unity of Science movement and the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. During the 1930s, he also began promoting Isotype as an International Picture Language, connecting it both with the adult education movement and with the Internationalist passion for new and artificial languages, although he stressed in talks and correspondence that Isotype was not intended to be a stand-alone language, and was limited in what it could communicate.
During the Austrian Civil War in 1934, Neurath had been working in Moscow. Anticipating problems, he had asked to get a coded message in case it would be dangerous for him to return to Austria. As Marie Reidemeister reported later, after receiving the telegram "Carnap is waiting for you," Neurath chose to travel to The Hague, the Netherlands, instead of Vienna, to be able to continue his international work. He was joined by Arntz after affairs in Vienna had been sorted out as best they could. His wife also fled to the Netherlands, where she died in 1937.
After the Luftwaffe had bombed Rotterdam, he and Marie Reidemeister fled to England, crossing the Channel with other refugees in an open boat. He and Reidemeister married in 1941 after a period of being interned on the Isle of Man (Neurath was in Onchan Camp). In England, he and his wife set up the Isotype Institute in Oxford and he was asked to advise on, and design Isotype charts for, the intended redevelopment of the slums of Bilston, near Wolverhampton.
Neurath died, suddenly and unexpectedly, in December 1945. After his death, Marie Neurath continued the work of the Isotype Institute, publishing Neurath's writings posthumously, completing projects he had started and writing many children's books using the Isotype system, until her death in the 1980s.
Most work by and about Neurath is still available only in German. However he also wrote in English, using Ogden's Basic English. His scientific papers are held at the Noord-Hollands Archief in Haarlem; the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection is held in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading in England.
Neurath's work on protocol sentences tried to reconcile an empiricist concern for the grounding of knowledge in experience with the essential publicity of science. Neurath suggested that reports of experience should be understood to have a third-person and hence public and impersonal character, rather than as being first person subjective pronouncements. Bertrand Russell took issue with Neurath's account of protocol sentences in his book An Inquiry Into Meaning and Truth (p. 139ff), on the grounds that it severed the connection to experience that is essential to an empiricist account of truth, facts and knowledge.
One of Neurath's later and most important works, Physicalism, completely transformed the nature of the logical positivist discussion of the program of unifying the sciences. Neurath delineates and explains his points of agreement with the general principles of the positivist program and its conceptual bases:
He then rejects the positivist treatment of language in general and, in particular, some of Wittgenstein's early fundamental ideas.
First, Neurath rejects isomorphism between language and reality as useless metaphysical speculation, which would call for explaining how words and sentences could represent things in the external world. Instead, Neurath proposed that language and reality coincide—that reality consists in simply the totality of previously verified sentences in the language, and "truth" of a sentence is about its relationship to the totality of already verified sentences. If a sentence fails to "concord" (or cohere) with the totality of already verified sentences, then either it should be considered false, or some of that totality's propositions must be modified somehow. He thus views truth as internal coherence of linguistic assertions, rather than anything to do with facts or other entities in the world. Moreover, the criterion of verification is to be applied to the system as a whole (see semantic holism) and not to single sentences. Such ideas profoundly shaped the holistic verificationism of Willard Van Orman Quine. Quine's book Word and Object (p. 3f) made famous Neurath's analogy which compares the holistic nature of language and consequently scientific verification with the construction of a boat which is already at sea:
We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction.
Neurath also rejected the notion that science should be reconstructed in terms of sense data, because perceptual experiences are too subjective to constitute a valid foundation for the formal reconstruction of science. Thus, the phenomenological language that most positivists were still emphasizing was to be replaced by the language of mathematical physics. This would allow for the required objective formulations because it is based on spatio-temporal coordinates. Such a physicalistic approach to the sciences would facilitate the elimination of every residual element of metaphysics because it would permit them to be reduced to a system of assertions relative to physical facts.
"Finally, Neurath suggested that since language itself is a physical system, because it is made up of an ordered succession of sounds or symbols, it is capable of describing its own structure without contradiction."
In economics, Neurath was notable for his advocacy of ideas like "in-kind" economic accounting in place of monetary accounting. In the 1920s, he also advocated Vollsozialisierung, that is "complete" rather than merely partial "socialization". Thus, he advocated changes to the economic system that were more radical than those of the mainstream Social-Democratic parties of Germany and Austria. In the 1920s, Neurath debated these matters with leading Social Democratic theoreticians (such as Karl Kautsky, who insisted that money is necessary in a socialist economy). While serving as a government economist during the war, Neurath had observed that "As a result of the war, in-kind calculus was applied more often and more systematically than before.... war was fought with ammunition and with the supply of food, not with money" i.e. that goods were incommensurable. This convinced Neurath of the feasibility of economic planning in terms of amounts of goods and services, without use of money. In response to these ideas, Ludwig von Mises wrote his famous essay of 1920, "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth".
For Neurath, war economies showed advantages in speed of decision and execution, optimal distribution of means relative to (military) goals, and no-nonsense evaluation and utilization of inventiveness. Two disadvantages which he perceived as resulting from centralized decision-making were a reduction in productivity and a loss of the benefits of simple economic exchanges; but he thought that the reduction in productivity could be mitigated by means of "scientific" techniques based on analysis of work-flows etc. as advocated by Frederick Winslow Taylor. Neurath believed that socio-economic theory and scientific methods could be applied together in contemporary practice.
Neurath's view on socioeconomic development was similar to the materialist conception of history first elaborated in classical Marxism, in which technology and the state of epistemology come into conflict with social organization. In particular, Neurath, influenced also by James George Frazer, associated the rise of scientific thinking and empiricism / positivism with the rise of socialism, both of which were coming into conflict with older modes of epistemology such as theology (which was allied with idealist philosophy), the latter of which served reactionary purposes. However, Neurath followed Frazer in claiming that primitive magic closely resembled modern technology, implying an instrumentalist interpretation of both. Neurath claimed that magic was unfalsifiable and therefore disenchantment could never be complete in a scientific age. Adherents of the scientific view of the world recognize no authority other than science and reject all forms of metaphysics. Under the socialist phase of history, Neurath predicted that the scientific worldview would become the dominant mode of thought.
Otto Neurath wrote several books and articles. Books, a selection:
Articles, a selection:
The Austrian Settlement and Allotment Garden Association (Österreichische Verband für Siedlungs-und Kleingartenwesen OVSK) was an organisation established following the First World War to support people in need of housing and the allotment movement principally in and around Vienna.The organisation was founded by Otto Neurath in 1921.OVSK was the basis for the Museum für Siedlung und Städtebau (Museum for Settlement and Town Planning). Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky described her experiences working for the OVSK in her book Warum ich Architektin wurde (Why I Became an Architect).Calculation in kind
Calculation in kind or calculation in-natura is a way of valuating resources and a system of accounting that uses disaggregated physical magnitudes as opposed to a common unit of calculation. As the basis for a socialist economy it was proposed to replace money and financial calculation. Calculation in kind would value each commodity based only on its use value, for purposes of economic accounting. By contrast, in money-based economies, a commodity's value includes an exchange value.
Calculation in kind would quantify the utility of an object directly without recourse to a general unit of calculation. This differs from other proposed methods of socialist calculation, such as simultaneous equations, Taylor-Lange accounting prices, and the use of labor time as a measure of cost.Calculation in kind was strongly advocated by the positivist philosopher and political economist Otto Neurath when employed by the Bavarian Soviet Republic. This led to a discussion in the early 1920s, in which much of the discussion about socialism centered on whether economic planning should be based on physical quantities or monetary accounting. Neurath was the most forceful advocate of physical planning (economic planning using calculation-in-kind) in contrast to market socialist neoclassical economists who advocated use of notional prices computed by solving simultaneous equations. Austrian school critics of socialism, particularly Ludwig von Mises, based his critique of socialism on the calculation problem.Proponents of in-kind calculation argue that the use of a common medium like money distorts information about the utility of an object. Socialists in favor of calculation in kind argued that, in a system of in-kind calculation, waste associated with the monetary system would be eliminated, and in particular objects would no longer be desired for functionally useless purposes like resale and speculation - they would only be desired for their use-value.Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth
"Economic Calculation In The Socialist Commonwealth" is an article by Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises. Its critique against economic calculation in a planned economy triggered the decades-long economic calculation debate.The article was first published 1920 in German under the title Die Wirtschaftsrechnung im sozialistischen Gemeinwesen and based on a lecture Mises gave in 1919 as a response to a book by Otto Neurath, arguing for the feasibility of central planning. Mises argued that no prices for capital goods could be obtained in a socialist economy if the government owned the means of production since all exchanges would be internal transfers, rather than "objects of exchange", setting the price mechanism out of order.
Two years later, the essay was incorporated into Mises's Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis.Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum
Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum (Museum for Social and Economic Affairs) is a museum located in Margareten, Vienna.Hans Kampffmeyer (1876–1932)
Hans Kampffmeyer (30 January 1876 in Naumburg – 28 May 1932 in Frankfurt am Main) was German activist in and founder of the Garden city movement.
Hans Kampffmeyer was head of the Austrian Association for Settlements and Small Gardens from 1919 to 1920. He was then appointed as a consultant to the Vienna city authorities working at the municipal Siedlungsamt together with Adolf Loos. In 1920 he launched the journal Der Siedler with Otto Neurath. This journal had a circulation of 40,000 and between 1920 and 1922 it played a key role in coordinating the settlers movement.In 1925 Kampffmeyer worked with VOKS, the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries of the Soviet Union to set up the Österreichischen Gesellschaft zur Förderung der geistigen und wirstschafftlichen Beziehenungen mit der UdSSR.Helene Migerka
Helene Migerka (September 13, 1867, Brno – March 26, 1928, Graz) was an Austrian poet, novelist, was a daughter of the Austrian feminist and writer Katharina Kämpffat (1844, Tilsit - 1922) and Franz Migerka (1828-1915).Her cousin was Otto Neurath.She committed suicide in 1928.IZOSTAT
IZOSTAT (ИЗОСТАТ) (Russian: Всесоюзный институт изобразительной статистики советского строительства и хозяйства) was the 'All-union institute of pictorial statistics of Soviet construction and economy'.
Otto Neurath was invited to Moscow to set up the institute in 1931. The institute was located in 9 Bol'shoi Komsomol'sky pereulok. Neurath's collegus Gerd Arntz and Peter Alma also spent time working at IZOSTAT between 1931 and 1934.They used statistics from data on Five Year Plans to create infographics. In 1932 they published Pictorial statistics and the Vienna Method (Изобразительная статистика и венский метод) by Ivan Petrovich Ivanitskii who applied the Vienna Method. The organisation was shut down in 1940International Encyclopedia of Unified Science
The International Encyclopedia of Unified Science (IEUS) was a series of publications devoted to unified science. The IEUS was conceived at the Mundaneum Institute in The Hague in the 1930s, and published in the United States beginning in 1938. It was an ambitious project that was never completed.
The IEUS was an output of the Vienna Circle to address the "growing concern throughout the world for the logic, the history, and the sociology of science..." Only the first section Foundations of the Unity of Science (FUS) was published; it contains two volumes for a total of nineteen monographs published from 1938 to 1969.Isotype (picture language)
Isotype (International System of Typographic Picture Education) is a method of showing social, technological, biological, and historical connections in pictorial form. It consists of a set of standardized and abstracted pictorial symbols to represent social-scientific data with specific guidelines on how to combine the identical figures using serial repetition. It was first known as the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics (Wiener Methode der Bildstatistik), due to its having been developed at the Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum in Wien (Social and Economic Museum of Vienna) between 1925 and 1934. The founding director of this museum, Otto Neurath, was the initiator and chief theorist of the Vienna Method. Gerd Arntz was the artist responsible for realising the graphics. The term Isotype was applied to the method around 1935, after its key practitioners were forced to leave Vienna by the rise of Austrian fascism.Marie Neurath
Marie Neurath, born Marie Reidemeister (27 May 1898 – 10 October 1986), was a member of the team that developed the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics (Wiener Methode der Bildstatistik), which she later renamed Isotype. She was also a prolific author and designer of educational books for younger readers. Her brother was mathematician Kurt Reidemeister. She was born in Braunschweig.Neurath
Neurath is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:
Carolina Neurath (born 1985), Swedish journalist and writer
Eva Neurath (1908-1999), British publisher
Hans Neurath (1909–2002), founding chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle
Konstantin von Neurath (1873–1956), German diplomat, foreign minister of Germany between 1932 and 1938
Marie Neurath (1898–1986), member of the team that developed the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics, later renamed Isotype
Olga Hahn-Neurath (1882–1937), Austrian mathematician and philosopher
Otto Neurath (1882–1945), Austrian philosopher of science, sociologist, and political economist
Paul Neurath, creator of computer games
Walter Neurath, British publisher
Wilhelm Neurath, (1840-1901), Austrian political economistNeurathian bootstrap
Neurath's boat is a simile used in anti-foundational accounts of knowledge, especially in the philosophy of science, which was first formulated by Otto Neurath. It is based in part on the Ship of Theseus which, however, is standardly used to illustrate other philosophical questions, to do with problems of identity. It was popularised by Willard Van Orman Quine in Word and Object (1960).Olga Hahn-Neurath
Olga Hahn-Neurath (German: [haːn ˈnɔʏʀaːt]; Hebrew: אולגה האן-נוירת; July 20, 1882 – July 20, 1937) was an Austrian mathematician and philosopher. She is best known for being a member of the Vienna Circle. She was sister of the mathematician Hans Hahn.
Born in Vienna, Hahn enrolled as a student for math and philosophy studies at the University of Vienna in 1902. She became blind in 1904, when she was 22. In 1911, she became the third ever female graduate in philosophy at Vienna University. Her doctoral thesis, published at 1911, received great compliments from her instructor, Adolf Stöhr, the successor to the chair of Ludwig Boltzmann. Her main interest in math was in the field of Boolean algebra.
In 1912 she married Otto Neurath whom she met during her studies. Olga became a regular participant in the Vienna Circle discussions. Following the defeat of Red Vienna in the Austrian Civil War (February 1934), she fled, through Poland and Denmark to the Netherlands, where she joined her husband. She died on her birthday three years later in The Hague, following an operation.Peter Alma
Peter Alma (18 January, 1886 Medan – 23 May 1969 Amsterdam) was a Dutch artist. Alma was born in Medan, Indonesia and attended the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague in 1904. On the recommendation of Franz Seiwert he was employed by the Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum working with Gerd Arntz and Augustin Tschinkel on the development of Isotypes. He travelled to Moscow with Arntz and Otto Neurath to work at IZOSTAT to help them draw up pictorial images for statistics of the Five Year Plans.Pseudorationalism
Pseudorationalism was the label given by economist and philosopher Otto Neurath to a school of thought that he was heavily critical of, throughout many of his writings but primarily in his 1913 paper "The lost wanderers of Descartes and the auxiliary motive" and later to a lesser extent in his 1935 "Pseudorationalismus der Falsifikation", a review of and attack on Popper's first book, Logik der Forschung (The Logic of Scientific Discovery), contrasting this approach with his own view of what rationalism should properly be. Neurath aimed his criticism at a Cartesian belief that all actions can be subject to rational analysis, saying that
Once reason has gained a certain influence, people generally show a tendency to regard all their actions as reasonable. Ways of action which depend on dark instincts receive reinterpretation or obfuscation.
Neurath considered that "pseudo-rationalists", be they philosophers or scientists, made the mistake of assuming that a complete rational system could be devised for the laws of nature. He argued rather that no system could be complete, being based upon a picture of reality that could only ever be incomplete and imperfect. Pseudo-rationalism, in Neurath's view, was a refusal or simple inability to face up to the limits of rationality and reason. "Rationalism", he wrote (Neurath 1913, p. 8), "sees its chief triumph in the clear recognition of the limits of actual insight.". Whereas a pseudorationalist acknowledges no such limits, but rather contents that all decisions can be subject to the rules of insight. Scientific method is, according to Neurath, pseudorationalist where it contends that the rules for the scientific method will always lead ever closer to the truth.Neurath further challenged Cartesian "pseudorationalism" by asserting that operating upon incomplete data was in fact the norm, where Cartesian thinking would have it be the rare exception. Rather than there being one, final, rational answer to any given problem, Neurath asserted that scientific endeavour required a continuing and never-ending series of choices, made so in part because of the ambiguity of language.Rudolf Brunngraber
Rudolf Brunngraber (1901, Vienna - 1960) was an Austrian writer, journalist and painter who worked with Otto Neurath. His novels were translated into eighteen languages, with more than a million books sold.Brunngraber's novel Radium was adapted for radio by Günter Eich in 1937.Rudolf Modley
Rudolf Modley (November 3, 1906 - September 28, 1976) was an Austrian-American research executive, graphic designer, management consultant and author, who founded Pictorial Statistics Inc. in 1934. He illustrated and wrote a series of books on pictorial statistics and pictorial symbolism.
Modley is known for introducing and populizing the Isotype picture language in the United States, whereby he developed an own version of pictorial statistics. He also designed many pictorial symbols in the 1930s and 1940s, and worked on standardization of pictorial symbols.Vienna Circle
The Vienna Circle (German: Wiener Kreis) of Logical Empiricism was a group of philosophers and scientists drawn from the natural and social sciences, logic and mathematics who met regularly from 1924 to 1936 at the University of Vienna, chaired by Moritz Schlick.Wolfgang Schumann (1887–1964)
Wolfgang Schumann (22 August 1887 in Dresden – 22 April 1964 in Freital) was a German writer and journalist.
Wolfgang was the son of Paul Schumann and the stepson of Ferdinand Avenarius. Both of these father figures had played a role in setting up the Dürerbund, a leading cultural organisation in Germany. His grandfather, Rudolf Doehn was a veteran Forty-Eighter who had fought in the American Civil War.
Schumann worked closely with Otto Neurath at the Deutsches Kriegswirtschaftsmuseum (German Museum of War Economy) in Leipzig. In December 1918 they both joined Hermann Kranold to produce the Programm Kranold-Neurath-Schumann whilst in Saxony. All three subsequently went to Bavaria, where Neurath was appointed President of the Central Economic Administration for the Bavarian Soviet Republic. However Schumann soon left with the other Social Democrats.
Visualization of technical information