Feigl, Herbert

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FEIGL, HERBERT (1902–1988), U.S. philosopher and one of the founders of the Vienna Circle discussion group, which espoused the doctrine of logical positivism. He was born in Reichenberg, Bohemia. In 1922, antisemitism in German universities led Feigl to the University of Vienna, where he received his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1927. At the university Feigl, influenced by Moritz Schlick, became interested in philosophical problems in the foundations of physics. In 1924, with Schlick and Friedrich Waissman, he assembled a discussion group that was later called the "Vienna Circle."

Feigl emigrated to the United States late in 1930 on an International Rockefeller Fellowship and spent nine months at Harvard University, whose faculty he regarded as the American equivalent of the Vienna Circle. He taught at the University of Iowa (1931–40), and in 1940 became professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, where he remained until he retired in 1971. He was appointed regents professor of the University of Minnesota in 1967.

In 1949 he and his colleague Wilfrid Sellars edited Readings in Philosophical Analysis, which became a standard text of analytic philosophy and logical empiricism. That year they and several other colleagues founded the Philosophical Studies journal. In 1953 he and May Brodbeck edited Readings in the Philosophy of Science, which became the standard anthology in the field.

In 1953 Feigl obtained a grant to establish the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science. The first such institution ofits kind in the country, if not the world, it drew philosophers of science from around the globe to participate in workshops and collaborative research.

Feigl served on the governing board of the Philosophy of Science Association and was a founding member (1934) of the editorial board of Philosophy of Science, which later became the official journal of the Association. He was president of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association (1961–62). His first book, Theorie und Erfahrung in der Physik ("Theory and Experience in Physics"), was published in 1929. In his writings, Feigl attempted to formulate and defend the principles of the doctrine of logical positivism (also called "consistent empiricism" and "logical empiricism" – the latter name by Feigl). The main tenet of this theory is that meaningful statements must be empirically verified. Feigl gradually moved away from a strict interpretation of this principle to a position that allows for different categories of meaningfulness.

Other books by Feigl include The "Mental" and the "Physical": The Essay and a Postscript (1967) and The Foundations of Science and the Concepts of Psychology and Psychoanalysis (with M. Scriven, 1976). He also edited Concepts, Theories & the Mind-Body Problem (1972).


H. Feigl and W. Sellars (eds.), Readings in Philosophical Analysis (1949); P. Feyerabend and G. Maxwell (eds.), Mind, Matter, and Method; Essays in Philosophy and Science in Honor of Herbert Feigl (1966), contains a bibliography of his work. add. bibliography: R. Cohen (ed.), Herbert Feigl: Inquiries & Provocations, Selected Writings 1929 to 1974 (2001).

[Avrum Stroll /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]