Prof. Sorin Ioan Bangu PhD

November 14, - December 14, 2022


Affiliation: Full Professor, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Bergen, Norway

Research for a study about:

Description of activity: Research in the course of a Fellowship at the Institute Vienna Circle: Wittgenstein and (Anti-)Scientism

The project is to research the notion of scientism in relation with (later) Wittgenstein’s thinking. The aims are i) to reconstruct and ii) evaluate Wittgenstein’s views on this topic. First, I ask what is scientism, exactly? The term is used frequently in the contemporary literature, by authors as different as John McDowell and Susan Hack. It is typically a pejorative, referring, seemingly, to some sort of overconfidence in the power and scope of the scientific method, and ultimately to a confusion: the use of scientific methods to solve problems which, by their very nature, are not scientific-empirical. Second, I propose to reflect on the assumption that one can identify precisely the nature of a problem, and classify it as either scientific or philosophical. Wittgenstein himself seems to assume this, so it will be important to discuss how he characterizes the two kinds of problems. Since such a sharp separation may not exist after all, the question about point ii) above - the evaluative question - is what should we make of the validity of Wittgenstein's views on this topic.


 "There is nothing to explain": Wittgenstein on scientism and mathematics


This talk is going to be a hybrid event and in-person

The Philosophy Department of the Central European University, the Institute Vienna Circle and the Unit for Applied Philosophy of Science and Epistemology (of the Department of Philosophy of the University of Vienna) are jointly organizing a series of talks this term.

Date: 2022 November, 24

Time: 3.45-5.45 PM

Venue: NIG, Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien, SR 3A and ONLINE


This talk will sketch Wittgenstein's view on the relation between philosophy (as he understood it) and empirical science (as he understood it). I will focus on what he takes to be the main difference between the methods of these two disciplines: 'grammatical' investigation, and the construction of explanatory theories, respectively. Special attention will be paid to avoiding the confusion between science and scientism; while Wittgenstein had a rather neutral attitude towards the former, his target is the latter. I shall argue that for him the very point of doing philosophy is precisely to avoid engaging in an activity similar to that of the scientists, namely theory-construction. This is a 'therapeutic' approach -- there is no need to worry about providing explanations, since "there is nothing to explain" (PI 126) -- and can be illustrated in various ways; however, in this talk I can only discuss how it works on mathematics.




The main aim of my research stay was to make progress on understanding and evaluating later Wittgenstein’s views on scientism. He is usually understood as denouncing scientism, but not science per se. I discussed these issues in a talk I gave on 24 November. In this presentation I raised, among other things, the question whether this way of parsing his philosophical outlook is correct. More specifically, I broached the issue that maybe we have to take seriously the idea that he, especially in his later period, was in fact as much against science – and its spirit –  just as he was against scientism. The qualification ‘its spirit’ may be crucial though, since what (I suspect) was worrisome for Wittgenstein was the kind of human being that this unconditional worshiping of science - which he, rightly or wrongly, associated with soulless efficiency and expediency - produces in the end. Another issue I discussed in my talk was his normativist conception of mathematics. Scientism has prima facie nothing to do with mathematics, but the connection is of major relevance for my overall understanding of his thinking in the latter period, because i) the anti-scientist frame of mind constitutes the medium within which his highly original thinking about the nature of mathematics (and logic) has emerged, and ii) the fact that (what he calls) the method of science is an illustration of the inclination toward assimilation, which he finds to be the source of philosophical puzzlement (and the main target of his philosophical therapy.) Before the talk, during the Q&A period of the talk, and after the talk I have had productive interactions with some of the people involved in the Institut Wiener Kreis: Georg Schiemer, Iulian Toader, Martin Kusch, Damian Aleksiev, Aditya Jha, Bianca Crewe and Joel Katzav.