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German term for truth.

Waismann, Friedrich (1896-1959)

Austrian philosopher. One of the original members of the Vienna Circle gathering of logical positivists, Waismann defended a conventionalist logic in Einführung in das mathematische Denken (An Introduction to Mathematical Thinking) (1936). Sprachspiele und Vagheit der Sprache and his later lectures, published posthumously as The Principles of Linguistic Philosophy (1965), contributed to the development of analytic philosophy by encouraging serious analysis of ordinary language. Waismann held that even precisely-defined terms have an "open texture," since novel circumstances might always render their appication uncertain.

Recommended Reading: Friedrich Waismann, Lectures on the Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. by Wolfgang Grassl (Rodopi, 1982).

Also see Austria-Forum.

Watson, John Broadus (1878-1958)

American psychologist whose Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist (1913) and Behavior: an Introduction to Comparative Psychology (1914) founded modern behaviorism by requiring that the science of psychology study only public, external stimuli and responses, rather than appealing to the introspection of putatively private, internal experiences.

Recommended Reading: John B. Watson, Behaviorism (Transaction, 1998) and Modern Perspectives on John B. Watson and Classical Behaviorism, ed. by James T. Todd and Edward K. Morris (Greenwood, 1991).

Also see DPM and EB.

weakness of will {Gk. ακρασια [akrásia]}

Inability to carry out an action in accordance with reason or virtue. Socrates held that agents never knowingly do wrong, but Aristotle maintained that the influence of the passions often results in incontinence.

Recommended Reading: Justin C. B. Gosling, Weakness of the Will (Routledge, 1990); George Ainslie, Breakdown of Will (Cambridge, 2001); Robert Dunn, The Possibility of Weakness of Will (Hackett, 1987); and Alfred R. Mele, Irrationality: An Essay on Akrasia, Self-Deception, and Self-Control (Oxford, 1992).

Also see SEP, Deborah Kerdeman, and David Carr.

Weber, Max (1864-1920)

German social theorist who developed many of the principles of the modern discipline of sociology; author of Sociology as Science (1897) and Methodology of the Social Sciences (1907). Weber argued for a strict separation between scientific objectivity and all judgments of value in Die "Objectivität" sozialwissenschaftlicher und sozialpolitischer Erkentniss (The "Objectivity" of Knowledge in Social Science and Social Policy) (1904). Ultimately, Weber supposed, ethical and political commitments are properly embraced without any effort to supply their rational foundations. In Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) (1905) Weber warned against the loss of individual freedom to the efficient but over-rationalized bureaucracy that arises in service of economic investment.

Recommended Reading: Max Weber, Essays in Sociology, ed. by C. Wright Mills and Hans H. Gerth (Oxford, 1958); Dirk Kasler, Max Weber: An Introduction to His Life and Work, tr. by Philippa Hurd (Chicago, 1989); Reinhard Bendix, Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait (California, 1978); The Cambridge Companion to Weber, ed. by Stephen Turner (Cambridge, 2000); Stephen Kalberg, Max Weber's Comparative-Historical Sociology (Chicago, 1994); and Martin Albrow, Max Weber's Construction of Social Theory (Palgrave, 1990).

Also see Andy Blunden, SEP, EB, and ELC.

Weil, Simone (1909-1943)

French philosopher and mystic; author of Waiting for God, Gravity and Grace, and Leçons de Philosophie (Lectures on Philosophy. Following her conversion to Christianity in 1938, Weil argued in Intimations of Christianity Among the Ancient Greeks that its central theological themes could be discerned by a careful reader in the philosophical works of Plato and other Greek sages. In Oppression et liberté (Oppression and Liberty) (1955) Weil argued that individuals can overcome the alienation characteristic of modern society only through their engagement in meaningful work.

Recommended Reading: Simone Weil: An Anthology, ed. by Sian Miles (Grove Press, 2000); The Simone Weil Reader, ed. by George A. Panichas (Moyer Bell, 1985); Francine Du Plessix Gray, Simone Weil: A Penguin Life (Viking, 2001); Stephen Plant and Peter Vardy, Simone Weil (Liguori, 1997); Miklos Veto, The Religious Metaphysics of Simone Weil, tr. by Joan Dargan (SUNY, 1994); and Diogenes Allen and Eric O. Springsted, Spirit, Nature, and Community: Issues in the Thought of Simone Weil (SUNY, 1994).

Also see riverText, EB, and ELC.

well-formed formula

Any expression that satisfies the recursive formation rules for the introduction of compound statements in a formal system for symbolic logic.


German term for "World-view," a general outlook on human life and its place in the greater order of the universe.


German term for value. Max Weber held that all social science is properly Wertfrei ("value-free").

West, Cornel (1953- )

American theologian and social philosopher whose The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism (1989) traces the origins of American thought in the work of Emerson and Thoreau. In The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought (1991) and Race Matters (1993), West addresses the significance of racial concerns in contemporary American culture.

Recommended Reading: Cornel West, Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America (Routledge, 1994); The Cornel West Reader (Basic, 2000); Cornel West: A Critical Reader, ed. by George Yancy (Blackwell, 2001); and bell hooks and Cornel West, Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life (South End, 1991).

Also see Jeffrey Ayala Milligan.


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