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(2010) The Vienna circle in the Nordic countries, Dordrecht, Springer.

The earliest extensive receptions of Mach in the north

Marja Jalava

pp. 105-123

The 1880s marked a fundamental change in Finnish academic philosophy as well as in Finnish intellectual life as a whole, for German Idealism, which had dominated the scholarly community, had to give way to a critical-empirical approach. The younger generation took the natural sciences as a model for the humanities, insisting on quantitative methods, repeated experiments and statistically proven laws. At the same time, they took part in a more general ideological discussion, raised by Darwinism, about the possibility of explaining everything in nature and in the human being scientifically. As the Finnish botanist Fredrik Elfving (1854–1942) stated in his polemical article in 1884, he and his contemporaries were witnessing an intellectual upheaval, comparable to the breakthrough of the Copernican system. This would finally put an end to all fallacies originating in the naïve childhood of humankind.2 In this program aimed at the elimination of all superfluous and metaphysical assumptions, the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach (1838–1916) was used as an authority.3 In Finland, Mach's ideas were favorably received in 1889 at the latest by Hjalmar Neiglick (1860–1889), the Finnish pioneer of experimental psychology and psychophysical research, who had made his doctoral dissertation in 1887 in Leipzig at Wilhelm Wundt's first psychological laboratory in the world. In Finnish academic philosophy, Neiglick was the leading advocate of "eine Psychologie ohne Seele."4 In this profoundly anti-metaphysical approach, he used Mach's Bei-träge zur Analyse der Empfindungen (1886) to defend his thesis that all abstract concepts as well as concrete ideas and recollections had to have a certain sensual correlate (in most cases, an audio feature, spoken words, or an optical picture, writing) to occur and to be reproduced.5 His early death from typhoid in 1889, however, tragically broke off his promising career, and his reference to Mach was left without further explication.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-3683-4_6

Full citation:

Jalava, M. (2010)., The earliest extensive receptions of Mach in the north, in J. Manninen & F. Stadler (eds.), The Vienna circle in the Nordic countries, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 105-123.

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