Schlick and Wittgenstein: The Theory of Affirmations Revisited

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Viewed from the perspective of the epistemology of science, Schlick’s theory of affirmations was an obvious failure. Most interpreters either reject his conception wholesale or save only parts of it at the cost of discarding others. This paper investigates whether it is possible to provide a more favorable reading by placing Schlick’s affirmations in a broader interpretive framework than the Vienna Circle’s protocol sentence debate, namely, his longstanding concern with skepticism. I argue that reading Schlick’s affirmations as an attempt to improve his old, pre-Vienna Circle response to skepticism by the new means that his discussions with Wittgenstein and familiarity with his unpublished writings made available does possess plausibility as an interpretation of authorial intentions. Yet, while this reading makes better sense of Schlick’s theory of affirmations than common attributions of foundationalist ambitions, I show that it ultimately does not “save” his theory either.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 141-166
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the History of Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2020


  • Affirmations
  • Deflationism
  • Foundationalism
  • Schlick
  • Skepticism
  • Wittgenstein


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