He shows how each of these thinkers contributes to the emergence of "the philosophy of as-if," which is a mode of philosophizing that seeks to face squarely the epistemic implications that emerge from the pervasiveness of illusion in human life. In this view, the fullest lucidity we can have access to as embodied existents is the lucidity Vaihinger provides here, I think, the clearest exposition of the thread that runs from the medieval nominalists, through Hume, Kant, and ultimately, Nietzsche. In this view, the fullest lucidity we can have access to as embodied existents is the lucidity to be found when we peer through the pervasive veneer of illusion that shrouds our lives, and gain thereby a liberating detachment from these by seeing them for the first time for what they really are, i. He argues, via a comparative historical analysis that is focused through the prism of his own synoptic interpretation, that these thinkers taken together show us how knowledge itself is best understood as an edifice of fictional constructs built atop the "optical illusions" and "aesthetic anthropomorpshisms" as Nietzsche called them, in Beyond Good and Evil created by our organismic embodiment in the world. In this view, the clearest view we can attain of the real is the negative, self-reflexive view afforded us when we see our organismic illusions for what they are. Reading back from Nietzsche, Vaihinger casts a new light on the true epistemic function, for organismic existents, of the laws of nature, of causality, of the lines, points, and of axioms of the mathematician, of the independent substances inevitably postulated by the logician, and of the very principle of parsimony posited by Occam as the regulative principle of science.
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Related Entries 1. In , Vaihinger completed his dissertation under the supervision of the logician Christoph von Sigwart with a prize-winning essay, entitled Recent Theories of Consciousness according to their Metaphysical Foundation and their Significance for Psychology.
Later in the same year, he reported to Leipzig for compulsory military service, but was excused due to his poor eyesight.
Free of his military duties, Vaihinger had the opportunity to attend lectures at the University from, among others, the founder of empirical psychology Wilhelm Wundt. It was during this time that Vaihinger first encountered the work of a figure who, next to Kant, would be his most important and lasting philosophical influence, the Neo-Kantian Friedrich Lange. I found a master, a guide, an ideal teacher…. All that I had striven for and aimed at stood before my eyes as a finished masterpiece.
From this time onwards I called myself a disciple of F. It was here that the views which would form the basis of the PAO first began to take shape. In autumn of the same year, Vaihinger again relocated—this time to the University of Strassburg—and by early he had habilitated with a work entitled Logical Studies on Fictions. The extremely long gestation period of the PAO seems to have been the product of a variety of factors.
First and foremost, monetary considerations compelled Vaihinger to find permanent academic employment. The first volume of the Commentary was released in , and helped Vaihinger secure a permanent position at the University of Halle. The second volume followed in Moreover, a number of personal and professional engagements occupied Vaihinger in the last decade of the century. In he married Elisabeth Schweigger, the daughter of a Berlin bookseller.
In they had a son, Richard, and in a daughter, Erna. In , he founded the journal Kant-Studien, and in the Kant Gesellschaft. Finally, in , Vaihinger published the first edition of PAO. The work made him something like a philosophical celebrity virtually overnight. It proved so popular that it had gone through no fewer than 10 editions by the time of his death in , attracting the attention of luminaries from a wide variety of academic fields including Einstein, Ostwald, and Freud. In , Carnap and Reichenbach took over editorship of the Annalen and renamed it Erkenntnis.
In , suffering badly from cataracts, Vaihinger was forced to discontinue his lecturing. Eventually, he was completely blinded. With anti-Semitism already on the rise in Germany, Vaihinger felt compelled to defend his reputation in court, and sued the publication for defamation. His son Richard also began suffering from neuropathy brought on by the war, and by he was completely incapacitated. Vaihinger died in , on the eve of the rise of the Third Reich. A long-time liberal and pacifist, Vaihinger and his work were treated with hostile silence throughout the Nazi period.
Though contemporary philosophical literature reveals a renewed interest in his ideas, it is fair to say that his reputation has never fully recovered. Vaihinger himself discusses his intellectual development at length in his autobiographical b also included as the introduction to C. Early Views and Intellectual Context With the hegemony of absolute idealism broken, Germany was awash with competing philosophical systems by the time Vaihinger habilitated in Three important movements are worth emphasizing for detailed studies of the late nineteenth-century context, see Beiser [; ; ; ].
First, under the influence of Lange and others, Neo-Kantianism had become a major force on the intellectual scene. Finally, traditional materialism and empiricism, though very much on the defensive, had nevertheless gained back considerable ground since their nadir in early decades of the century.
And if Hartmann claims to know the nature of things in themselves, he can do so only by flagrantly ignoring the results of those sciences. So, according to the Lange-Vaihinger view, the objects of our experience are the joint product of affection by things in themselves and the operations of our physiological organization. This is supposed to have the conclusion that things in themselves are entirely unknowable, a fortiori not knowable through the methods of the empirical sciences.
If it refers to a thing in itself the cognitive apparatus in itself , then the empirical sciences could establish nothing about it.
In this case, the Langean argument is entirely impotent. If it refers to an appearance, then there is evidently a circle in the argument: the existence of appearances is supposed to be explained by the causal collaboration of things in themselves and the perceptual apparatus, but the perceptual apparatus is itself an appearance. Finally, if the physiological organization is both an appearance and a thing in itself, then the empirical sciences can in fact yield knowledge of at least some things in themselves.
This, of course, is precisely what the argument is meant to forestall. Vaihinger does little to assuage these problems in In other words, Vaihinger seeks to view the issue of things in themselves along the lines of a Kantian antinomy—a conflict which arises necessarily from the nature of our reason, but which can at least be recognized as such.
This, however, is of little help. For one, it is questionable whether the basic epistemological standpoint of can even be coherently stated without commitment to things in themselves.
If the critical philosophy itself were to generate insoluble contradictions, that would be reason to reject, not accept, it. Vaihinger would continue to struggle with these issues in the PAO, which still aims to advance the broadly Langean project of naturalizing Kantianism.
The rise of Neo-Kantianism in the second half of the nineteenth century brought with it a renewed interest in the historical study of the critical philosophy.
The extent to which Vaihinger resists allowing his own philosophical commitments to influence his interpretation is indeed impressive. There are other important, and more substantive, respects in which the Commentary was at the vanguard of Kant scholarship.
The first to break decisively with this tradition was probably Hermann Cohen. Accordingly, Cohen interpreted the a priori as referring to the logical, rather than psychological, conditions of knowledge , According to this criticism, Kant overlooked the possibility that space and time might be both subjective forms of intuition and objective properties of things in themselves the classic statement of this criticism is [Trendelenburg ].
Vaihinger, by contrast, does not hesitate to admit that the above objections are genuine problems for Kant. In the case of the Deduction, Vaihinger even claims to have been able to trace precisely each portion of the text to a particular series of notes from the decade between the Dissertation and the KrV From — Kant is a dogmatic rationalist after the Leibnizian-Wolffian model.
Then, under the influence of Locke and Hume, he endorses empiricism from — With the publication of Dreams of a Spirit Seer, he begins to adopt the standpoint of the critical philosophy, but by the time of the Inaugural Dissertation, the influence of Leibniz particularly of the Nouveaux Essais reasserts itself.
This reversion to dogmatism lasts until when he becomes a skeptic, again under the influence of Hume. Finally, he arrives at the mature critical standpoint with the publication of the Critique of Pure Reason in —92, — These objects are surely not representations of things as they are in themselves, and as the pure understanding would cognize them, rather, they are sensory intuitions, i.
However, the thesis that the Deduction, regardless of its precise method of composition, at least contains multiple inconsistent lines of argument, rather than a single unified argument, has found able defenders since Vaihinger see e. For a recent challenge to this revised patchwork reading see Allison It will therefore be worth briefly examining before turning to the main argument of the PAO.
In the Dialectic, Kant claims that certain concepts e. Practical reason, however, may provide justification for the belief in say the existence of God, even if not of a sort sufficient to yield knowledge of him.
Vaihinger disputes this reading. Instead, he interprets the Ideas as self-conscious fictions, which are nevertheless licensed by their theoretical and practical utility. Both the distinction between fictions and hypotheses, and the idea of treating reality as if certain concepts appropriately applied to it are major themes that find extensive development in the PAO. Adickes accuses Vaihinger of ignoring countless passages that flatly contradict his fictionalist reading, and of misleadingly paraphrasing or eliding passages he does cite.
In one way, at least, this criticism is unfair. Adickes nevertheless makes a compelling case that even those passages on which Vaihinger does rely do not speak decisively in favor of his interpretation. Most contemporary Kant scholars follow Adickes in rejecting the fictionalist interpretation of the Ideas, though it continues to find some supporters see e. Rauscher Confusion here may be forestalled by attending to something Vaihinger himself says about the aim of the work: There were two possible ways of working out the Neo-Kantianism of F.
Vaihinger will use this idea to motivate his own fictionalism, and to provide a radical reinterpretation of Kantianism. These various influences are drawn together in the introductory chapters of PAO. Like bodily organs, the psyche is designed or rather, selected to perform a particular role within the total economy of the organism. Though broadly in the spirit of Schopenhauer and Darwin, this instrumentalist conception of the mind is, as Ceynowa has argued , 35— , also more specifically indebted to the nineteenth century psychologist Adolf Horwicz.
For the bare purposes of carrying out those actions necessary for survival, Vaihinger is claiming, the intellect would not have to be a reliable guide to the way the world really is. On the contrary, fictions may have an indispensable role to play here. What are we to make of this sort of argument?
One might suggest that the fact that our cognitive apparatus is a product of natural selection supports, rather than undermines, the idea that it is a reliable guide to the way the world is. Vaihinger would likely respond that this only shows that we have to get the right things about the world right. It does not mean that our total image of the world is, or even could be, a copy of reality, accurate in all its details.
After all, the theorizing in fundamental physics is a rather different matter than determining how to find a meal, and even if such theories turn out to be useful down the line, it seems that life would and does manage just fine without them. For example, the repeated co-occurrence of sensations of a branching shape and sensations of green leads the psyche to postulate a relation of substantial inherence between a thing or substance the tree and its attribute green PAO — However, he argues in a manner evocative of Berkeley, the notion of a substance is incoherent since it implies the existence of a bare substrate with no properties whatsoever PAO — The fiction is nevertheless justified, he suggests, because it facilitates the recognition of regularities in the occurrences of our sensations, and the communication of these regularities to others PAO Given that our most immediate relation to the world is thus mediated by the categories which also include the relations of part-whole, cause-effect, inter alia , it is natural to suppose that these fictions will resurface in our more sophisticated theories, e.
Vaihinger is not suggesting that genuine knowledge that serves no particular practical aim is impossible; but he is suggesting that our total theoretic image of the world is ultimately limited by those fictions that have been preserved as most adaptive for our basic practical aims PAO Ceynowa Others have disputed this connection Bouriau In other words, semi-fictions are statements or propositions that happen not to correspond to the world; genuine fictions are those that claim something impossible about the world.
See the article on Models in Science. Vaihinger does not clearly distinguish these. A standard example is the model of the planetary system given in classical mechanics: In physics we find such a fiction in the fact that masses of undeniable extension, e.
Such a neglect of elements is especially resorted to where a very small factor is assumed to be zero.
Hans Vaihinger Explained
Related Entries 1. In , Vaihinger completed his dissertation under the supervision of the logician Christoph von Sigwart with a prize-winning essay, entitled Recent Theories of Consciousness according to their Metaphysical Foundation and their Significance for Psychology. Later in the same year, he reported to Leipzig for compulsory military service, but was excused due to his poor eyesight. Free of his military duties, Vaihinger had the opportunity to attend lectures at the University from, among others, the founder of empirical psychology Wilhelm Wundt. It was during this time that Vaihinger first encountered the work of a figure who, next to Kant, would be his most important and lasting philosophical influence, the Neo-Kantian Friedrich Lange. I found a master, a guide, an ideal teacher….
Philosophy of as if
He then became a tutor and later a philosophy professor at the University of Strasbourg , before moving in to the University of Halle , where from he was a full professor. In particular, he used examples from the physical sciences, such as proton s, electron s, and electromagnetic wave s. None of these phenomena has been observed directly, but science pretends that they exist, and uses observations made on these assumptions to create new and better constructs. Ogden, at the very end of his life. Thought begins with slight initial deviations from reality half-fictions , and, becoming bolder and bolder, ends by operating with constructs that are not only opposed to the facts but are self-contradictory.