by Herbert Hochberg
Oct. 2000

Gustav Bergmann's remarkable intellectual journey, beginning as one of the youngest members of the Vienna Circle, and ending, in Hector Castaņeda's judgment, as "the foremost ontologist of the decade," focused on three metaphysical issues that he continuously discussed for thirty years: the problems of individuation, of universals, and of intentionality. Bergmann's turn to metaphysics began with his 1947 paper "Russell on Particulars," though he had long insisted that his later concerns with the metaphysics of intentionality, expressed in a 1955 paper on intentionality, are already present in two criticisms of Carnap's semantics published in 1944 and 1945. But a careful reading of the earlier papers, which Carnap (in a letter to Bergmann in the Bergmann archives at the University of Iowa Library) found to be "mostly Chinese," show that Bergmann, in 1944 and 1945, is writing as an extreme early Carnapian positivist. In fact he is criticizing Carnap for moving away from positivism and towards a kind of metaphysical realism, by introducing a designation relation between linguistic items and non-linguistic reality. Such an "intentional" relation would later become a hallmark of Bergmann's ontology. Irrespective of when his turn to metaphysics and ontology took place, it was unique among the positivists that emigrated to the United States and England. He was the only one of the positivists of the Vienna Circle to recombine, in a most fruitful way, themes set forth by Russell and Moore, in what Russell had termed the "revolt against idealism," with fundamental ideas derived from the logical positivism of the Circle, influenced by Wittgenstein and Russell, and important ideas from the Brentano school--particularly Brentano's philosophy of the act, Meinong's theory of objects, and Husserl's phenomenology.

* Prof. Hochberg has a recent book on Bergmann: The Positivist and the
  Ontologist: Bergmann, Carnap and Logical Realism
available at Rudopi Press

Hist-Analytic would like to express its profound gratitude to the University of Wisconsin Press and the University of Wisconsin for allowing these documents online for open scholarly examination in keeping with its tradition of academic excellence and commitment to the free exchange of ideas.

Philosophy Pages (Kemerling) Link
William Heald's Discussion of Bergmann


Steve Bayne for Hist-Analytic