Critique of the Notion of Immanence

  • Moritz Schlick
Part of the LEP Library of Exact Philosophy book series (LEP, volume 11)


There is no question but that in everyday judgments as in scientific ones we constantly talk of objects not given to any consciousness. I speak of the manuscripts now in my desk even though they are not being perceived at this moment by me or by anyone else; I cannot perceive them through the desk. True, the elements, of which (according to Mach) they are complexes, have often been given to me, and I can bring them to “givenness” at any time. All I need do is open the drawer and turn my gaze in a certain direction or let my hands carry out certain movements of touching. The situation is similar with all objects of everyday life. The man in the street is interested only in things that are, have been, or can be perceived by him or his fellow man. But science goes beyond this to things that, in virtue of its own principles, cannot be given to man. It makes judgments about the interior of the sun, about electrons, about magnetic field strengths (for which we do not possess any sense organs) and so forth. What meaning is there in these statements?


Central Term Counter Term Absolute Identity World Picture Metaphysical System 
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  1. 26.
    Die Philosophie des Ais-Ob, 2nd edition, p. 89.Google Scholar
  2. 27.
    Das Weltproblem, 3rd edition, p. 184.Google Scholar
  3. 28.
    In the third edition of his Das Weltproblem (pp. 188 ff., footnote), Petzoldt answered my objections to his viewpoint, unfortunately without going into the rigorous formulation of my argument as given above. I reproduce the essentials of his exposition here so that the reader can decide for himself whether Petzoldt has succeeded in avoiding the contraction: ... Schlick holds the view that there is a contradiction here: I have shown only that different individuals may think one and the same thing differently [i. e., represent it intuitively differently — Schlick], but what I was required to show was that, for different beings, the same thing could be something opposite — ‘red and not-red, hard and not-hard, and this independently of its being perceived’. But this is precisely what I have shown; Schlick here simply ignores the words ‘for different beings’ even though he writes them down; and he ignores them because what he really demands of me is obviously an entirely different proof from the one he himself actually enunciated: the proof that one and the same absolute thing or thing-in-itself must be able to possess these opposite qualities at the same time — failing which I cannot maintain my claim that existence does not consist merely in being perceived. According to his view, the claim that things exist independently is not compatible with the doctrine that, for the perceiver, things consist only in perceived qualities.Google Scholar
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    H. Cornelius, Einleitung in die Philosophie, 2nd printing, p. 271.Google Scholar
  5. *.
    This was written in 1925. [Translator’s note.]Google Scholar
  6. 31.
    Using essentially the same argument, B. Bavink very nicely demonstrates the untenability of the distinction rejected by us. See his Allgemeine Ergebnisse und Probleme der Naturwissenschaft, 3rd edition, pp. 25 ff.Google Scholar
  7. 33.
    The understanding that a consistent doctrine of immanence leads to a monadology was expressed earlier by Victor Kraft in his noteworthy book, Weltbegriff und Erkenntnisbegriff, 1912, p. 165. Bertrand Russell strongly emphasizes the kinship of his own theory with the Leibnizian picture of the world and consciously follows him.Google Scholar

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© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Moritz Schlick

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