Otto NeurathOtto Neurath was a founding member of the Vienna Circle, along with Hans Hahn and Philip Frank, with the purpose of studying the work of Ernst Mach, and Pierre Duhem.. Later members included Moritz Schlick, who held Mach's old chair at the University of Vienna, Rudolf Carnap, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Karl Popper, and the mathematician Kurt Gödel. Neurath was a philosopher of science and a social economist. With Carnap, Neurath debated the proper use of language in their "anti-metaphysical" holistic foundations of knowledge. In The Logical Syntax of Language (1934), Carnap declared the distinction between analytic and synthetic (protocol-based) statements arbitrary, echoed later by Willard van Orman Quine in his famous 1951essay "Two Dogmas of Empiricism."
Unlike Carnap's ideal of basic statement, whether protocol or physicalist, Neurath's protocols were not ‘clean’, precise or pure in their terms. For Neurath physicalist language, and hence science in turn, is inseparable from ordinary language of any time and place. In particular, it is muddled with imprecise, unanalyzed, cluster-like terms (Ballungen) that appear especially in the protocols: the name of the protocolist, ‘seeing’, ‘microscope’, etc. They were often to be further analyzed into more precise terms or mathematical co-ordinations, but they often would not be eliminated. Even the empirical character of protocol statements could not be pure and primitive, as physicalism allowed the introduction of theoretical—non-perception—terms. Carnap himself, in The Logical Syntax of Language (1934), declared the distinction between analytic and synthetic (protocol-based) statements arbitrary. Physicalism, and thus unified science, were based on a universal ‘jargon’.Neurath's view is similar in many ways to Niels Bohr's demand that quantum mechanics be describable in classical mechanics terminology. Neurath's image of knowledge (our SUM) as a ship that must be built while at sea is his most lasting metaphor.
There is no way to establish fully secured, neat protocol statements as starting points of the sciences. There is no tabula rasa. We are like sailors who have to rebuild their ship on the open sea, without ever being able to dismantle it in dry-dock and reconstruct it from its best components. Only metaphysics can disappear without a trace. Imprecise ‘verbal clusters’ [Ballungen] are somehow always part of the ship. If imprecision is diminished at one place, it may well re-appear at another place to a stronger degree.
IsotypeIn the socialist part of Vienna ("Red Vienna") Neurath developed a method for teaching statistics with iconic pictures rather than tables of numbers. To “represent social facts pictorially” was to bring “dead statistics” to life." Visually attractive, easily remembered icons meant that “To remember simplified pictures is better than to forget accurate figures.” While Neurath was an active member of the Vienna Circle, starting in the 1920's, he developed his icons as what he called the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics (Wiener Methode der Bildstatistik). After emigrating from Nazi Germany, he renamed the method Isotype (International System Of TYpographic Picture Education) while working in London The idea of communicating ideas with pictures is a part of the early Ludwig Wittgenstein's work with Bertrand Russell inspired by logical positivism. And it is the foundation of information philosophy, which analyzes the physical arrangement of material particles in any information structure. Normal | Teacher | Scholar