Schlick Killed 70 Years Ago Today

On June 22, 1936, Moritz Schlick, influential philosopher and center of the Vienna Circle of logical empiricists, was gunned down on the steps of the University of Vienna. The Institute Vienna Circle is holding a small memorial event at the University of Vienna today, which will include the presentation of the first two volumes of Schlick’s Collected Works.

9 thoughts on “Schlick Killed 70 Years Ago Today

  1. I read the wikipedia article but I am still confused – was Schilck shot for his criticisms of Nazi Germany, or did the student have some other motive? Or does no one know? Posted by Nicole Wyatt

  2. If I remember the story correctly, Nelböck shot Schlick because he thought that Schlick had an affair with his (Nelböck’s) ex-girlfriend. Posted by Richard Zach

  3. Tom Oberdan once told me that he (with someone else) looked up the actual police records in Vienna. I don’t know that he has or was able to make copies or the records, but they would be interesting to see. Everything I’ve heard has indicated that Nelböck was in fact deluded, if not deranged. Posted by Gary Hardcastle

  4. I think it’s all detailed in Fritz Stadler’s book The Vienna Circle . Police records and all. He was deluded about Schlick having an affair, and I guess if you gun down your philosophy teacher that’s pretty good evidence that you’re deranged! Posted by Richard Zach

  5. I remembered the story as Richard tells it, but I’ve had a quick look at Ray Monk’s Wittgenstein biography, and he notes that Schlick had rejected Nelbock’s doctoral dissertation (p356). He doesn’t mention the suggestion that Nelbock through Schlick was having an affair, though I clearly remember that from a longer version of the story.Not that I mean to suggest it’s not still deranged to gun down your philosophy professor even if they failed your thesis. Posted by Aidan McGlynn

  6. I don’t actually have the trial records; what I saw was sort of an abbreviated trasncript that I got from the Museen der Oesterreicheischen Widerstand (Museum of the Austrian Resistance) in Vienna. The documentation indicated that the gun was purchased by Sylvia Borowicka (a student of Schlick’s) who Nelbocks was in love with. Apparently, she gave it to Nelbocks well before he actually used it, and there is evidence that he was once on the way to shoot Schlick when he stopped himself, unloaded it, and threw the bullets in the Danube canal. Later, he found a substitute job in a Technische Hochschule, run by Viktor Matejka. Nelbocks put in an acceptable performance and was either hired permanently, or about to be. Then Matejka, who was an admirer of Schlick, heard about Nelbocks history with Schlick (threats, incarceration in a sanitorium). So he fired Nelbocks. Nelbocks thought Schlick had intervened directly, and went and shot him. I don’t know where I got this idea but I also came to believe that Borowicka had encouraged Nelbocks to murder Schlick, gave him the gun for that purpose and continued to encourage him. (I once submitted this idea to Carl Hempel who said he thought Borowicka had been forgotten until I brought her up.) This is all info I’ve gleaned from the transcripts, an article in a popular Viennese magazine entitled, “Mit den Browning philosophiert”, and an article by Eckehart Koehler (to appear in English in vol. 1 of Schlick Studien, edited by Fritz Stadler). I believe I still have many of these documents (somewhere).The reason I think Nelbocks might not have been as crazy as he’s usually made out to be is that, with the exception of the Schlick murder, he led a quiet, productive life. Released from jail by the Nazis in 1938, he taught school in a small town until his retirement. (Henk Mulder told me this.) There were, undeniably, extenuating circumstances surrounding the murder: Nelbocks’ infatuation with Borowicka, Borowicka’s encouragement (was she a jilted lover of Schlick’s?), Nelbocks’ (false) belief that Schlick had caused his termination from the Hochschule, etc. Admittedly, the murder was an extreme aberration from normal, but I’m not sure you’re crazy just because you act crazy once.  Posted by tom oberdan

  7. Greetings AllMany moons ago I attended the philosophy seminars of Prof. Peter Herbst at ANU [Canberra, Aust.] & was intrigued by his apparent insider knowledge of how Moritz Schlick met his untimely end. Herbst was however, quite cagey as to the sordid details of Schlick’s philanderings.I wonder if there is a German speaker amongst us who could translate the ‘Johann Nelböck und Sylvia Borowicka’ chapter of the following book & perhaps publish it somewhere on the Net:Liebe in Wien. (6938 248). Eine amouröse Porträtgalerie. (Broschiert) von Dietmar Grieser (Autor)Broschiert: 231 Seiten Verlag: DTV Deutscher Taschenbuch (1991) ISBN-10: 3423114843 ISBN-13: 978-3423114844 cf:, Joe De Lede.

  8. Anyone interested in further research on this topic please contact Joe De, Joe.

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