15./16.10.2010, Tagung: Reconsidering Edgar Zilsel’s Philosophical and Historical Projects

16.Oct 2010

Veranstalter: Institut für Philosophie, Institut Wiener Kreis Edgar Zilsel (* 1891 Vienna, + 1944 Oakland, California) was a mathematician, physicist and philosopher, and may have been one of the most interesting intellectuals in the Vienna Circle around Moritz Schlick. He wrote his PH.D. with Heinrich Gomperz on “A Philosophical Trial on the Law of Big Numbers and its Relatives” which he delivered in 1915. He worked as an insurance mathematician and taught mathematics and physics at secondary schools. In 1923-24 his attempt to complete his Habilitation with a study on “Contributions to the History of the Notion of Genius” failed due to the reservations harboured by the representatives of traditional philosophy. From the beginning of the First Republic, Zilsel was active in the Vienna adult education and in Glöckel’s school reform movement. He was a regular member of the Vienna Circle from early 1924, while retaining a certain critical distance from the core of the Schlick Circle and with intensive external contacts as, for instance, a participant of the Heinrich Gomperz Circle. After the Nazis seized power, he was dismissed from teaching and forced to retire for political and ‘racial’ reasons. He emigrated to England with his wife and son and in 1939 to the U.S. There he continued to pursue his studies and projects on the emergence of modern science under extremely dire economic and psychosocial circumstances. Isolated and in poor health, Edgar Zilsel committed suicide in 1944.