There are three sentimental centres of 20th-century philosophical geography: Todtnauberg, Frankfurt and Vienna. Their exceptional status results not only from having given rise to decisive philosophical movements but also from the weight of stories about victimization and exile lacking with regard to Paris, Berkeley and Cambridge. Each of these centres is compromised in its own way: the Schwarzwald cottage from which Heidegger emerged to take over the Rektorat of Freiburg University and to which he returned after this disastrous intermezzo, the ,,Institut für Sozialforschung'' which on its part returned to claim moral authority at a location that increasingly turned into the most important bridgehead of transatlantic logistics, finally the former imperial city where traces of the origins of analytic philosophy were only conserved beneath the enormous sedimentation of a massive counter-reformation. Provincialism, NATO and tourism turned out to be perfectly compatible with remembrance of an heroic epoch at these sites while exiting philosophical work was being done at different locations.
How much weight is carried by impressions like these? Not too much as long as well defined philosophical schools promote progress as defined within their own realm. Some doctrin, established all over the world does not depend on the place at which it is further refined. It is, however, in doubt whether philosophy counts among the disciplines so easily internationalized; Heidegger and Adorno being among those who would insist on the inseparability of a theory's fate and its place of origin. Be this as it may, my subject being the precarious relationship between the city and the Circle of Vienna I have to start from the assumption of obvious incomparability between the roots and the extension of the branches of the movement. Only a decade ago this would have presented itself as a fairly easy task. Historians were coming to this city to save the remnants of the beginnings of the movement whereas Anglo-American philosophers were busy refining the orthodoxy and hardly interested in historical matters. Much has changed since. Firstly the analytic enterprise is in certain ways approaching what can be called closure from within. Secondly Austrian universities have (with sometimes considerable delay) taken an interest in what is felt to be a lost opportunity. Both of these developments coincided with a more general renaissance of fin de siecle and modernist Vienna. Since the imminent conclusion of any movement reactualizes the circumstances of its beginning, renewed attention was drawn to what was happening within and to the Vienna Circle.
Two different perspectives have established themselves and both of them will influence my considerations. Evidently the Vienna Circle had fallen victim to a political tragedy and the suppression of its philosophical consequences still in operation in certain quarters is certainly due to an inability to face the implications of those tragic mistakes. Only philosophical reparation in this view can lead up to attainment of international standards. But there also is a second attitude not resulting from historical reflection but rather from inside the philosophical persuasion that has been dominant for most of the post-war area. In some inexplicable way the suppressed gnawed at what had been established in its place. In spite of their similar concerns both perspectives do not mix well. The main reason for this will be a recurrent theme of this paper and has to do with differences in assessing the overall development of analytical philosophy. Those who deplore its expulsion tend to still regard it as a measure of enlightened thinking whereas the others tend to view its paradigmatic function with some scepticism, particularly since their experience with their own brand of ,,school philosophy'' tells them to be careful in subscribing to any orthodoxy organized in Circles or movements. From their point of view the recent enthusiasts of analytic philosophy may very well be jumping on a train that slowly approaches its final destination.
This conflict seems to me to be one of the most interesting issues in current philosophical debate and I will try to expound it starting by describing the strategies and shortcomings of the Viennese counter-reformation that finally led those educated under its influence to question the validity of what they were told. The late sixties were the time when the compendia of the philosophical reaction I am concerned with were published; since it was also the time when my generation entered the universities this is a good place to start the exposition. Two lines will be followed from there, one reaching back towards the impulse that started it all, the other one reaching forward and taking account of the present debacle of the kind of philosophy advocated by Viennese professors in the sixties. In sketching the outlines of the ,,antipositivistic'' arguments used by those traditionalists I will at the same time draw attention to how they contained the origin of their own demise. If it were just for that the matter would, however, be only of local interest. But it can be regarded as a case-study pointing to a more general issue. In reacting against the Vienna Circle the traditionalists were voicing concerns that nowadays, with the zenith of analytical philosophy (at least) approaching, do not seem entirely out of place even for its own adherents. Traditional philosophy as it was practized in Vienna after the war has not turned out to be a great success, nevertheless there are some things to be learned from it.