AVENARIUS Richard—philosopher, representative of epistemological positivism, to which he gave its original shape and called empiriocriticism, b. November 19, 1843 in Paris, d. August 18, 1896 in Zurich.
He studied in Leipzig where he earned a doctorate and the title of docent. He lived and worked in Zurich and from 1876 was a professor there. To propagate his views, in 1877 he founded the periodical “Vierteljahrschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie und Soziologie”.
Avenarius’ works: Philosophie als Denken der Welt gemäss dem Prinzip des kleinsten Kraftmasses (L 1876, B 1903); Kritik der reinen Erfahrung (I–II, L 1888–1907, 19082); the synthesis Der menschliche Weltbegriff (L 1891, 19274; Ludzkie pojęcie Ŷwiata [Human concept of the world], Wwa 1969).
Avenarius opposed all idealism. He saw the error of his predecessors in introjection, that is, the imposition of the perceived world upon one’s own interior. In keeping with the principles of empiriocriticism, he rejected the dualism of subjective perception and the external world; the whole of knowledge, according to him, is limited to pure experience. Avenarius thought that there are no physical phenomena and psychic phenomena separate from them. There are only phenomena, which man may grasp in a twofold manner. In cognition we should rely only on “pure” experience. Avenarius described other factors as metaphysical and thought that they should therefore be rejected. According to Avenarius, the task of philosophy is to strive for a scientific approach to the world. Science has the task of freeing itself from factors outside of experience such as aesthetic judgments, ethical judgments, meanings given to things, and properties ascribed to things that we ourselves possess. He subjected science itself to critical evaluation in order to remove metaphysical concepts from science. According to Avenarius, the task of science is “economical” description.
K. Ajdukiewicz, Język i poznanie [Language and Cognition], Wwa 1960, 19852, I 250–251; L. Kolakowski, Filozofia pozytywistyczna. Od Hume’a do Kola Wiedeńskiego [Positivistic philosophy. From Hume to the Vienna Circle], Wwa 1966, 115–128; A. Riska, REPh I 592–595.