The Philosophy of 'As If'  book cover
2nd Edition

The Philosophy of 'As If'

ISBN 9780367549947
Published May 31, 2021 by Routledge
400 Pages

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Book Description

Hans Vaihinger (1852–1933) was an important and fascinating figure in German philosophy in the early twentieth century, founding the well-known journal Kant-Studien. Yet he was overshadowed by the burgeoning movements of phenomenology and analytical philosophy, as well as hostility towards his work because of his defense of Jewish scholars in a Germany controlled by Nazism.

However, it is widely acknowledged today that The Philosophy of ‘As If’ is a philosophical masterwork. Vaihinger argues that in the face of an overwhelmingly complex world, we produce a simpler set of ideas, or idealizations, that help us negotiate it. When cast as fictions, such ideas provide an easier and more useful way to think about certain subjects, from mathematics and physics to law and morality, than would the truth in all its complexity. Even in science, he wrote, we must proceed "as if " a material world exists independently of perceiving subjects; in behaviour, we must act "as if " ethical certainty were possible; in religion, we must believe "as if" there were a God. He also explores the role of fictions in the history of philosophy, going back to the ancient Greeks and the work of Leibniz, Adam Smith and Bentham.

The Philosophy of ‘As If’ was a powerful influence on the emerging philosophical movement of pragmatism and was groundbreaking in its anticipation of the central role that model-building and simulation would come to play in the human sciences.

This Routledge Classics edition includes a new foreword by Michael A. Rosenthal, which provides a fascinating and important background to Vaihinger’s life and the legacy of The Philosophy of ‘As If’.

Table of Contents

Foreword to the Routledge Classics Edition Michael Rosenthal

General Introduction

Part 1: Basic Principles

General Introductory Remarks on Fictional Constructs

A. The Enumeration and Division of Scientific Fictions

B. The Logical Theory of Scientific Fictions

C. Contributions to the History and Theory of Fictions

D. Consequences for the Theory of Knowledge

Part 2: Amplified Study of Special Problems

1. Artificial Classification

2. Further Artificial Classifications

3. Adam Smith's Method in Political Economy

4. Bentham's Method in Political Science

5. Abstractive Fictional Methods in Physics and Psychology

6. Condillac's Imaginary Statue

7. Lotze's 'Hypothetical Animal'

8. Other Examples of Fictitious Isolation

9. The Fiction of Force

10. Matter and Materialism as Mental Accessories

11. Abstract Concepts as Fictions

12. General Ideas as Fictions

13. Summational, Nominal, and Substitutive Fictions

14. Natural Forces and Natural Laws as Fictions

15. Schematic Fictions

16. Illustrative Fictions

17. The Atomic Theory as a Fiction

18. Fictions in Mathematical Physics

19. The Fiction of Pure Absolute Space

20. Surface, Line, Point, etc., as Fictions

21. The Fiction of the Infinitely Small

22. The History of the Infinitesimal Fiction.

23. The Meaning of the' As If' Approach

24. The Fictive Judgment

25. The Fiction contrasted with the Hypothesis

Part 3: Historical Confirmations

A. Kant’s Use of the ‘As If’ Method

B. Forberg, The Originator of the Fichtean Atheism-Controversy, and his Religion of As-If

C. Lange's 'Standpoint of the Ideal'

D. Nietzsche and his Doctrine of Conscious Illusion.



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Hans Vaihinger (1852–1933) was born near Tübingen in Germany. He made important contributions to epistemology, the philosophy of science and mathematics, and to the historiography of philosophy. Vaihinger produced groundbreaking work on Kant’s philosophy, as well as one of the first serious philosophical commentaries on Nietzsche. He is best known as the father of the philosophical theory of fictionalism, which he sets out in his most famous book, The Philosophy of ‘As If’, and his work also influenced the philosophical movement of pragmatism.