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Boltzmann and Epistemology

John Blackmore
Synthese
Vol. 119, No. 1/2, Ludwig Boltzmann "Troubled Genius as Philosopher" (1999), pp. 157-189
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20118167
Page Count: 33
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Boltzmann and Epistemology
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Abstract

This paper is an attempt to clarify why Ludwig Boltzmann from about 1895 to 1905 seemed to adopt a series of extreme epistemological positions, ranging from phenomenalism to pragmatism, while emphatically rejecting what he called 'metaphysics' (by which he meant all traditional philosophy). He concluded that all philosophical differences were merely linguistic and most were ultimately meaningless. But at about the time that young Ludwig Wittgenstein began absorbing these desperate ideas (1905), Boltzmann himself under the influence of Franz Brentano seemed to assume a type of representationalism about the external physical world, while in his own mind adopting it for pragmatic reasons. Why? Because "it worked". He seems to have defended his non-representationalist "Bildtheorie" on similar grounds, but his suicide followed shortly (1906).

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