www.siegetsleitner.net provides information on Anne Siegetsleitner´s work in philosophy.

Logical Empiricism, Morality and Law

22 May 2007

Logical Empiricism, Morality and Law: A Difficult Relationship Reconsidered

The project finished in 2011. It was funded by the Austrian Research Fund FWF (Elise Richter Programme).

Main Publications

NEW: Ethik und Moral im Wiener Kreis. Zur Geschichte eines engagierten Humanismus. Böhlau 2014. (Ethics and Morality in the Vienna Circle. On the History of an Engaged Humanism)

This monograph undertakes a long-overdue revision of the prevailing view on the role and conception of ethics and morality in the Vienna Circle.

(Open access also here)


On Friedrich Jodl’s “Morals in History”. In: Ethics 125, 2014, 211-213.

Logischer Empirismus, Werte und Moral. Eine Neubewertung. Veröffentlichungen des Instituts Wiener Kreis, Band 15. Springer 2010.


Article on Siegetsleitner in Der Standard:

Geistesblitz: Philosophie mit Engagement. Die Philosophin Anne Siegetsleitner arbeitet an einer Neubewertung des Wiener Kreises.


Logischer Empirismus, Werte und Moral. July 4-5, 2008. University of Salzburg, Austria.


“Vertritt der junge Moritz Schlick in Lebensweisheit eine evolutionistische Ethik?”
8th congress of the Austrian Society of Philosophy. June 7-9, 2007, Graz, Austria.

Mengers Logik für die Ethik
At the conference Logischer Empirismus, Werte und Moral. July 4-5, 2008. University of Salzburg, Austria.

Die Ethik Moritz Schlicks und die gängige Sicht logisch-empiristischer Ethik
At the conference Logischer Empirismus, Werte und Moral. July 4-5, 2008. University of Salzburg, Austria.

Moderne Ethik im Wien der Zwischenkriegszeit – Moral und Ethik im Wiener Kreis
Kulturhof Amstetten (www.kulturhof.at). December 1, 2008. Amstetten, Austria.

Ethik und Politik im Wiener Kreis – Ethik und Politik des Wiener Kreises.
November 20-21, 2009. Vienna Circle Institute, Vienna, Austria.

Award-giving Ceremony for the Elise Richter Position

The award was conferred by the Austrian Minister for Science and Research, Johannes Hahn, and the President of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), Christoph Kratky. Vienna, 15 May 2007.

Copyright: FWF Wolfgang Simlinger

Aims and Questions

From the Vienna Circle and other European philosophical groups (especially the Berlin Group) emerged a philosophical movement which is today known as Logical Empiricism, Logical Positivism or Neopositivism. The relation of this movement to ethics is not without reason considered difficult. Nevertheless, the questions that arose in this context are worth being reconsidered as they are still of high relevance, both from a historical point of view and from a systematic one, especially with respect to the growing social and political influence of applied ethics. Was Logical Empiricism indeed so hostile to morality, ethics, law and philosophy of law as is commonly held? To insiders the answer in some respect must be no, but, nevertheless, even to insiders, the original contributions to these topics are not well known. A more sophisticated analysis is much needed.

The questions this project wants to raise and it is crucial in order to answer can be subsumed in four thematic fields. At this point and in the following a distinction will be made between morality as a phenomenon of daily life and the philosophical discussion of morality, namely ethics. Furthermore, a respective distinction will be drawn between law and philosophy of law.

What did the Logical Empiricists of the Vienna Circle and the Berlin Group contribute to the debate on morality and law? A systematic overview and critical evaluation of the contributions of the Logical Empiricists concerning morality, ethics, law and philosophy of law will show which positions and approaches were held, where these did differ, and which were agreed upon based on their common philosophy. In order to give a historically balanced overview not only radical and typical Logical Empiricists such as Rudolf Carnap will be looked at. Neither will the focus only be on metaethics nor merely on emotivist positions. The relevant literature will be examined synchronically as well as diachronically with the expectation that the contributions are more complex and go far beyond the standard view.

Does Logical Empiricism destroy ethics and philosophy of law? What can a logical-empiricist philosophy offer in ethics and philosophy of law? Which positions did the Logical Empiricists represent? Which other positions or views would have also been plausible based on legitimate claims and attitudes of Logical Empiricism?

Does Logical Empiricism destroy morality and law? Can, for example, the social, political, humanitarian and therewith the moral commitment of the Logical Empiricists be reconciled with their theoretical conception?

What can we learn from legitimate attitudes and claims of Logical Empiricism for contemporary ethics, especially applied ethics? What can philosophy from the point of view of logical-empiricist ethics provide for contemporary moral questions? The assumption is that the examination of Logical Empiricism sheds new light on the self-conception of ethics, especially of applied ethics and its role in society. Despite questions of applied ethics being currently at the centre of public attention its basic principles still need to be explored. Also applied ethics can do only as much as ethics can.

This project intends to achieve a clarification that neither remains in mere antiquarian work nor shifts all too quickly to the present debate. In general, the intention is to complete and correct the common notion of Logical Empiricism as has been done in several examinations for the past twenty years. This also means leaving the well worn paths in order to (1) do justice to this historical philosophical movement and (2) to satisfy a systematic interest concerning the possibilities and limitations of applied ethics. The examination consists of a reconstructive part which serves especially the historical interest, and a constructive part which serves the systematic interest in respect to what the moral of the matter for our own time could be.

Applied ethics is methodically still working inconsiderately and goes beyond that which is justifiable from a scientific view. In this respect, the ethics and philosophy of law of Logical Empiricism works as a correcting force. Logical Empiricists did, in contrast to the standard view, show interest in morality and law but they wanted to show science its place in order to achieve integrity in their work in the field of science, morality and law.