Leipzig, Reisland, 1891. 8vo. Bound with the original front wrapper in a contemporaryhalf leather binding with gilding to spine. Spine with some wear and corners bumped. Internally fine. Bookplate to inside of front board. Inscription to front wrapper. XXIV, 133, (1) pp.
Scarce first edition, presentation-copy, of one of Avenarius' main works, his foundational "The Human Concept of the World", which constitutes one of the greatest expositions of the radical positivist doctrine of "Empiriocriticism" (or "empirical criticism") and which introduced the theory of 'Introjection' (a certain theory of a fundamental difference between the 'inner' and 'outer' experiences, with different consequences. The term has later become fundamental in psychoanalysis). The work was extremely influential and is considered one of the main works of empiriocriticism, which after WWI evolved into logical positivism. The work directly influenced thinkers such as Ernst Mach and Ber Borochov and had an immense impact upon positivist thought, both philosophical and scientific.
The book is inscribed to the famous Danish philosopher Harald Høffding: "Herr Professor H. Hoffding/ mit herzl. Gruss u. in dankbar Erinnerung/ an Skodsborg/ hochachtungsvoll/ d. Verf.", dated 1895.
Harald Høffding (1843-1931) was one of the leading Danish philosophers of the turn of the century. His philosophy is greatly inspired by positivism, which around 1900, mainly due to Avenarius and Mach, came to be synonymous with empiriocriticism.
Høffding had met Avenarius for the first time in Zürich and met him again in 1895 in Skodsborg (the time for which Avenarius thanks him in the presentation-inscription), a small city along the coast North of Copenhagen. Høffding describes this encounter in his "Contemporary Philosophers" from 1904. He describes how Avenarius sought ease in cities of water and writes how their meeting in Skodsborg constituted the first time that Avenarius made him acquainted with "pure experience", when walking around together in the garden of acclimatization. Avenarius died two years later. Høffding clearly admired the great thinker and describes Avenarius' character as "a rare energy of thought united with an artistic taste and an open and calm character". Avenarius' philosophy is further described by Høffding in his great work "The History of Newer Philosophy" (1894-95).
The German philosopher Richard Avenarius (1843-1896), most famous for his formulation "empirical criticism", was not only read and studied in France and Germany, but also greatly influenced Russian philosophy; his "The Human Concept of the World" was severely criticized by Lenin in his extremely influential "Materialism and Empirio-criticism" (1909), which became an obligatory subject of study in all institutions of higher education in the Soviet Union, as a seminal work of dialectical materialism. In the text Lenin argued against Avenarius' concept of "Introjection" and stated that human perceptions correctly and accurately reflect the objective external world.
Avenarius believed that scientific philosophy must be concerned with purely descriptive definitions of experience, which must be free of both metaphysics and materialism. In his "The Human Concept of the World", Avenarius formulates his first natural idea of the universe, which forms the basis of all of his thought.
"WHEN Richard Avenarius, Professor of Philosophy at the University, died at Zürich on 18th August, 1896, only a very small circle of philosophers and pupils knew what a powerful mind had been snatched from amongst them; for he was a man whose unique thought was unappreciated by his contemporaries solely because it was unique, and diverged too much from what was previously familiar." (Friedrich Carstanjen: Richard Avenarius and his General theory of Knowledge, Empiriocriticism. In: Mind, N.S., Vol. 6 (1897): pp. 449-475).
"An especially new point in this paper is the theory of 'Introjection,' by which Avenarius explains the growth and formation of the theory that a fundamental difference exists between the 'inner' and 'outer' experiences. Avenarius does not find in these two kinds of experience any 'incomparability' or any 'fundamental dualism'. The idea of their essential difference has been derived, according to his opinion, from a kind of false materialism, which believed in the enclosure of the soul in the body or in a part of it, and, later, in the enclosure of the faculties of the soul in the soul's substance. From this belief sprang the notion that the soul was something enclosed from the 'outer world,' into which enclosure every impression from without could come only through a putting-in, or 'introjection'. The whole modern psychology, psycho-physics and most of philosophical theories contain such opinions, and therefore serve to strengthen the artificial wall between the inner and outer experiences which makes the sciences of the 'inner world' always more inaccessible to exact methods of investigation, and consequently more sterile." (D. Josepha Kodis, in the Psychological Review, vol. iii., 6, p. 609).
"The Philosophy of Avenarius attracts more and more attention from thinkers who are striving for new views, and it gains ground steadily. England still holds aloof from it, and this is to some extent strange, since it is in England that we find the origin of the Association Psychology and of a Common-Sense Philosophy; it is true that taken as wholes neither of these has anything to do with Empiriocriticism, but in detail they would find many of their propositions in Empiriocriticism. It must not indeed be concealed that the difficulties of penetrating into Avenarius' works are very serious, chiefly because of the entirely new terminology introduced by him." (Friedrich Carstanjen: Richard Avenarius and his General theory of Knowledge, Empiriocriticism. In: Mind, N.S., Vol. 6 (1897): pp. 449-475).