Rihard Avenarius

Rihard Avenarius

Swiss idealist philosopher, one of the founders of empirio-criticism
Date of Birth: 19.11.1843
Country: Switzerland

  1. Biography of Richard Avenarius
  2. Philosophical Approach
  3. Principle of Empiriocriticism
  4. Perception and Adaptation
  5. Legacy and Criticism

Biography of Richard Avenarius

Richard Avenarius was a Swiss philosopher and one of the founders of empiriocriticism. He co-founded the journal "Quarterly of Scientific Philosophy" in Germany in 1876, along with Wilhelm Wundt. From 1877 to 1896, he taught "inductive philosophy" at the University of Zurich. Avenarius believed that philosophy should be developed as a rigorous science, similar to the positivist natural sciences.

Philosophical Approach

Avenarius named his own philosophical position "empiriocriticism," which critically examines all supposedly verified truths. He aimed to develop a philosophy that would strictly adhere to scientific principles. According to Avenarius, any area of our environment is subjected to verification, and if it is confirmed, it is considered as part of our experience. He criticized the concept of "pure experience" and advocated a return to the "natural concept of the world," which includes the existence of individuals, elements of the environment, and multiple actual relationships between them. Avenarius believed that the content of the "natural concept of the world" includes what is given from within oneself, from the corresponding environment, and from the dependencies between these experiential fragments.

Principle of Empiriocriticism

Avenarius developed the doctrine of "empiriocritical coordination," which aimed to provide philosophical justification for new scientific images of reality, theoretical explanations, ideals, and norms. His intention was to overcome the dualism between the physical and the mental, and to bridge the gap between the natural sciences and the humanities. Avenarius viewed the individual and the environment as separate entities, but both belong to the same experience. He described the interaction or interplay between the environment and the nervous system of the individual as the essence of the critic's description. He proposed the concept of "kinovar" to denote a quantitative unity of a certain constituent part of the surrounding environment for both the starting point and the close proximity of an individual.

Perception and Adaptation

According to Avenarius, the distinction between the physical and the mental is not fundamental. He interpreted cognition as an adaptive biological process, a procedure for "restoring equilibrium," and a subjective coloring of elements of the environment. He believed that our "self" is not endowed with categorical structures, unlike Kant's view. Instead, it is the result of a successful adaptation to the environment. Avenarius considered the principle of "economy of thought" as the foundation for adequate theoretical explanations. This principle is determined by the nature of thinking as a product of progressive adaptation to the environment and the function of philosophy as the "critique of pure experience" to eliminate unnecessary fragments like materialism or spiritualism.

Legacy and Criticism

Avenarius' doctrine of "empiriocritical coordination" failed to establish itself as the theoretical foundation of natural sciences of that time. It did not recognize the independent existence of objective reality and was presented in an excessively heavy and convoluted language, similar to his overall philosophical style. Ernst Mach even suggested the creation of a special glossary of Avenarius' philosophy. Despite its shortcomings, Avenarius' ideas and contributions to empiriocriticism have had a lasting impact on philosophical thought and continue to be studied and debated.