Kurt Grelling

Kurt Grelling

Infobox Philosopher
region = Western Philosophy
era = 20th-century philosophy
color = #B0C4DE

name = Otto Neurath
birth = birth date|1886|03|02
death = death date|1942|09|
school_tradition = Analytic
main_interests = Philosophy of science, Logic
notable_ideas =
influences =
influenced = Berlin Circle, Vienna Circle

Kurt Grelling (March 2, 1886 – September, 1942) was a logician, philosopher and member of the Berlin Circle.

Life and work

Shortly after his arrival in 1905 at University of Göttingen, Grelling began a collaboration with philosopher Leonard Nelson, with whom he tried to solve Russell's paradox, which had shaken the foundations of mathematics when it was announced in 1903. Their 1908 paper included new paradoxes, including a semantic paradox that was named the Grelling-Nelson paradox.

He received his doctorate in mathematics from the same university in 1910 with a dissertation on the development of arithmetics in axiomatic set theory, advised by David Hilbert. In a recorded interview with Herbert Enderton, Alfred Tarski mentions a meeting he had with Grelling in 1938, and says that Grelling was the author of the earliest textbook in set theory, probably but wrongly referring to this dissertation, since William Henry Young and Grace Chisholm Young's "Set Theory" was published in 1906.

As a skilled linguist, Grelling translated philosophical works from French, Italian and English to German, including four of Bertrand Russell's works. He became a strong proponent of Russell's writings thereafter.

From 1911 to 1922 Grelling published exclusively journalistic articles in publications connected with the Social Democratic Party of Germany, but from 1924 onwards his publications were exclusively in the field of positivist philosophy.

Unable to find a university position in Göttingen or Berlin, Grelling had to teach mathematics, philosophy and physics in secondary schools. Nevertheless, he worked with Hans Reichenbach in planning the meetings of the Berlin Circle, which was closely associated with the Vienna Circle. In 1933, Reichenbach emigrated to Turkey and the Nazis forced Grelling to retire. But he struggled to keep the Berlin Circle active by organizing small seminars and colloquia.

Grelling collaborated with Kurt Gödel and in 1936 he published an article in which he defended Gödel's incompleteness theorem against an erroneous interpretation, according to which Gödel's theorem is a paradox as Russell's paradox (see "References").

Although many of his relatives and friends had fled Germany, he did not think seriously about leaving until 1937, in which year he went to Brussels to work with Paul Oppenheim, this time writing several papers on the analysis of scientific explanation and on Gestalt psychology.

On May 10th, 1940, the first day of the German invasion in Belgium, Grelling was arrested. He was deported to southern France, where he was interned for over two years under the Vichy regime. Oppenheim and Hempel tried to help Grelling by securing an appointment for him at the New School for Social Research in New York City. News of the position and a visa to the USA reached the camp where Grelling had been joined by his wife Greta, who had refused to divorce him for safety reasons. But immigration officials were perplexed by Grelling's alleged propensity towards Communism, so there was a delay that was fatal to Grelling. He and his wife are supposed to have been shipped to Auschwitz, arriving there on September 18th, 1942 and perishing in the gas chambers that day or soon thereafter, although it has been also reported that Grelling was killed in 1941 at the border between France and Spain.

Selected publications

"Gibt es eine Gödelsche Antinomie?". In: Theoria, 3, 1936.


*C. G. Hempel, "Autobiografia intellettuale" in "Oltre il positivismo logico". Armando: Rome, 1988. (Text of an interview Hempel gave to Richard Noland in 1982, published for the first time in Italian translation in 1988).

External links

* [http://enabling.org/ia/gestalt/kgbio.html Kurt Grelling: Steadfast scholar in a time of madness]
* [http://www.emis.de/cgi-bin/jfmen/MATH/JFM/quick.html Query at the Electronic Research Archive for Mathematics]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Kurt Grelling — (* 2. März 1886; † vermutlich September 1942 im KZ Auschwitz) war ein deutscher Mathematiker, Logiker und Philosoph. Er war Mitglied des Berliner Gesellschaft für empirische Philosophie. Leben Kurt Grelling studierte ab 1905 an der Universität… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Grelling — Kurt Grelling (* 2. März 1886; † September 1942) war ein Mathematiker, Logiker und Philosoph. Er war Mitglied des Berliner Gesellschaft für empirische Philosophie. Grelling studierte ab 1905 an der Universität Göttingen und arbeitete zusammen mit …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Grelling-Nelson-Antinomie — Die Grelling Nelson Antinomie ist ein semantisches Paradoxon, das 1908 von Kurt Grelling und Leonard Nelson als Variante der Russellschen Antinomie formuliert wurde. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Charakterisierung und Problematik 2 Lösungen 3 Literatur …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Paradoxe de grelling-nelson — Le paradoxe de Grelling Nelson est un paradoxe sémantique formulé en 1908 par Kurt Grelling et Leonard Nelson, et parfois attribué par erreur au philosophe et mathematicien allemand Hermann Weyl. Il est alors appelé paradoxe de Weyl, mais aussi… …   Wikipédia en Français

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