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Vienna in the Age of UncertaintyScience, Liberalism, and Private Life$

Deborah R. Coen

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226111728

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226111780.001.0001

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Citizens of the Most Probable State

Citizens of the Most Probable State

The Politics of Learning, 1908

(p.227) Chapter Seven Citizens of the Most Probable State
Vienna in the Age of Uncertainty
University of Chicago Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the politics of learning in 1908. By 1907, three political groups had launched separate assaults on the education system that had flourished under liberal control since the days of the first Franz Exner. Against competing conceptions of childhood, the Exners waged a concerted defense of the pedagogical value of freedom. It is shown that the ethical status of uncertainty demarcated Austrian liberals from their domestic political opponents to the left and right. The cosmic theory that Serafin Exner treated so gingerly in this chapter was the nebular hypothesis, first proposed by Laplace at the end of the eighteenth century. The events of 1907–9 forced the Exners to be explicit about what they meant by “freedom.” In 1908, the Exners seized opportunities to apply the lessons of their utopian experiment at Brunnwinkl to the empire at large.

Keywords:   politics of learning, Franz Exner, Serafin Exner, Austrian liberals, cosmic theory, freedom, Brunnwinkl

IN 1906 the Exners celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of their summer colony. The children who had spent their first summers at Brunnwinkl were now starting families of their own. In fact, Brunnwinkl was also the site of a wedding that summer, the fruit of a local romance. Marie's son Otto married Jenny Richter, whose parents owned a summer villa nearby. On the traditional Brunnwinkl holiday of the twenty-eighth of August (the birthday of Goethe and of the first Franz Exner), family and friends surprised Brunnwinkl's founders Marie and Anton von Frisch with a cornucopia of gifts. Their son Karl had assembled a photo album, his brother Ernst had researched a historical “chronicle” of Brunnwinkl, and Emilie Exner had composed Brunnwinkl's “family history.”

It was a time for giving thanks and taking stock, and Emilie Exner used it in particular to reflect on the effects of a Brunnwinkl childhood. In her opinion, the colony had always been “paradise” for the young Exners. “Nowhere was there a barrier or obstacle; behind the house were the meadow and forest, before the house the lake.”1 A busier if no less contented picture of youthful summers on the Wolfgangsee appeared at about this time in letters from Emilie's nephew Karl von Frisch to a classmate. Accounting for his time, Karl explained that at Brunnwinkl, “If you aren't actually part of a game, you're usually watching someone somewhere doing something (p.228) or other, and the rest of the time I hide out in the museum.”2 The next summer, between working on his natural history “museum,” an upcoming conference in Salzburg, and the imminent visit of one of his teachers to Brunnwinkl, Karl swore to his friend that nothing less than “a Zeppelin ride to the North Pole” would lure him away from St. Gilgen.3 Brunnwinkl offered all a young biologist could want, from companions and games, to a lake full of plankton, to a stream of illustrious visitors. Karl's descriptions of the summer colony, like Emilie's, evoked a happy convergence of learning and play.

Emilie and Karl were not, of course, impartial observers. But local notable Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach was duly impressed with the young Exners. After a talent show staged by the children in 1893, Ebner-Eschenbach had remarked in her diary that while other parents fretted about their offspring's progress in school, the Exner and Frisch youngsters “wander effortlessly [spielend, literally “playfully”] through Gymnasium,” all the while honing their talents in the arts and athletics.4 So Ebner-Eschenbach was in a position to understand Emilie's concerns in the summer of 1907, as she sat at her desk in the lake house, thinking bitterly of the psychological damage wrought by the middle schools of the day. Outside, her six-year-old grandson Heinz scampered about, collecting specimens for Karl's museum. As Emilie explained in her letter to Ebner-Eschenbach, the little boy was the inspiration behind the essay she was at work on. “My little grandson Heinz is supposed to be sent to school already this fall and the thought that this little mind, a fountain of interests and thirst for knowledge, will now be stopped by a classroom grind often makes me quite gloomy.”5

Emilie's concern for young Heinz was aggravated by a recent spate of coming-of-age novels whose young protagonists were crippled with anxiety. Worse still were newspaper reports of suicides by Gymnasium students.6 At Brunnwinkl, on the other hand, Heinz seemed to be thriving. He spent half the day in Karl's museum and had begun his own collection with “a (p.229) few snail shells and tree fungi.” “The little guy goes his own way,” Emilie reported to Ebner-Eschenbach, “always has a question, and enjoys himself very much. The children have it really good here. This freedom and alongside so many adults who care for them with reason and love.”7 Emilie's reflection belongs to a late moment in the history of Austrian liberalism, a time when the educated middle classes could still speak, in a single breath, of freedom, reason, and love—political, intellectual, and domestic ideals—as the essential elements of a good home. In late July Emilie sent a draft of an essay on the state of Austria's middle schools to Ebner-Eschenbach, commenting, “An old account that has long weighed on my heart has now been settled. Of course one writes to free oneself; that's why sitting at one's writing desk is lovely.”8

In this article, which soon appeared in a popular weekly, Emilie contrasted the typical student at an urban Gymnasium—thin, pale, and nervous—with the natural state of children in “mountain villages.” In the country, the benefit of “contact with nature” overcame the debilitating effects of classroom drills. What children needed most of all was the chance to “play”—meaning crafts, sports, collections, the care of plants or animals, “all that brings children into contact with nature.”9 On the virtues of play, Emilie approvingly cited the Swiss psychologist Karl Groos, who pictured young children as born empiricists and described play as a form of “experimentation.”10 Emilie also insisted that children be given time and space for “dreaming,” “that is, for independent reflection on all manner of problems, which have nothing to do with school…” Like other Austrian liberals, Emilie argued that teachers could not hope to foster ethical characters by formulating absolute rules: “Rigid rules know no notion of the thousand contingencies of life…”11 Freedom was thus the essential condition for healthy development. Adults could encourage this process not by imposing strict rules but by allowing children to develop their own skills for managing contingency. As Groos argued, childhood play cultivated just these skills.

Similar proposals to integrate learning and play had been made in the 1890s and had met resistance from critics of the liberals' broader educational (p.230) goals. In 1891 a front-page article on the Austrian middle schools in the Catholic conservative paper Das Vaterland complained, “We now stand … under the banner of children's games, namely, of official, so to speak obligatory, children's games, as a pedagogical aid of the middle school … If this continues the Gymnasien will indeed be reduced to play-schools for older children.” As this protest suggests, children had become pawns in the political battles of the splintering empire.12

By 1907 three political groups had launched separate assaults on the education system that had flourished under liberal control since the days of the first Franz Exner. These challenges came to a head in that year. In the ensuing clashes, the significance of probabilistic reasoning to the liberals emerged with particular clarity. Against competing conceptions of childhood, the Exners waged a concerted defense of the pedagogical value of freedom.

The Politics of Childhood

Nothing proves the necessity of the Gymnasium so much as all the silly attacks launched by its critics.13

Critics of the liberals' program of learning on the far left, ranging from progressives to socialists, charged that the Gymnasium's classical curriculum was an obsolete and irrelevant prerequisite to a university education. Their leader was the journalist Robert Scheu, whose journal on school reform popularized the catchphrases of this movement. Scheu's supporters called for the “individualization” of the curriculum in order to make each student optimally “productive.” This position was a combination of progressive psychology and socialist ethics. In 1906 Scheu founded the Cultural-Political Society, which conducted an independent “Middle School Inquiry” from late 1906 to early 1907. Among the proposals this group considered was one to create middle schools that would entirely exclude the teaching of foreign languages, ancient and modern. Another proposal would have established a “minimal curriculum,” allowing students to choose their own courses according to taste and ability. The themes of individualization and efficiency (p.231) drew together the progressives' diverse concerns. They explicitly rejected the liberal goal of producing “universal” thinkers.14

The liberals' second group of opponents in the field of education were anti-Semitic pan-German nationalists, a growing force in Austrian politics during the 1880s and 1890s. Not surprisingly, these critics demanded a greater emphasis on German language and history at the expense of foreign and classical languages. Nationalists dismissed the liberals' claims that the value of science study was to be measured in terms of their contributions to students' characters, not by the substance of the knowledge acquired alone. The nationalists had no appreciation for the liberals' project of fostering “manysidedness,” aiming as they did to produce “German” rather than “universal” thinkers.15

As much as the progressives, nationalists, and liberals differed in their goals, they all had a political interest in keeping the Catholic church out of the Habsburg schools. Their common opponents were the Catholic conservatives of the Taaffe administration and then, in the late 1890s, the new Christian Social party. The Christian Socials were a conservative, clerical movement with their power base in the bourgeoisie, though their rhetoric was radical and populist.16 The education system was a prime target of their proposed reforms. The Christian Socials' charismatic, provocative, and virulently anti-Semitic leader Karl Lueger, mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910, is still memorialized in Vienna today for his support for the construction of schools. He called schools “shrines for children,” emphasizing their religious function. Lueger's anti-Semitism was far more than a pragmaticstance.17 He typically expressed his antipathy to Jews in attacks on science, medicine, and higher education—fields in which Jews, and liberals, dominated in Austria. While historians disagree about Lueger's actual intentions for Austrian education, there is no question that liberals perceived (p.232) the Christian Socials to be threatening the “clericalization” of the schools, implying a reversal of the liberal reforms that had followed 1848 and 1867.18 The Christian Socials won greater control of the public schools through new legislation in 1904, and in 1905 they made attendance at church mandatory for pupils. A modest liberal demonstration against these new laws was, to one sympathetic observer, the “death-throes of a drowning man—namely, of liberalism in Austria.”19

The Christian Social party envisioned education, on the model of military training, as a means of teaching respect for authority. The party sponsored military-style youth groups for the children of its elite members.20 Lueger's public addresses often invoked the rights of inheritance and stressed the importance of a son's loyalty to his father. This conservative conception of youth is essential to understanding the Christian Socials' academic politics. There was no room in their project for a moral education that would involve independent investigation and the critical questioning of received opinions.

The Christian Socials and the radical left shared the populist ambition of making education as public a responsibility as possible. Their youth groups were designed to place education in the broader sense of Erziehung in the hands of the community rather than the parents. In this sense, they drew the line between public and private differently than the liberals, who had long stressed that education was as much a domestic responsibility as a duty of the state. To the Exners, it still seemed that education must begin at home. “One can not say loudly enough that a Gymnasium education is not suited to everyone, that it unconditionally presupposes a certain education level of the families from which the students come, and that, if this foundation is missing, the results cannot live up to expectations.” Indeed, the Exners claimed authority in these matters based on their own family heritage—based, as Serafin Exner put it, on “the traditions of the author of the organizational proposal of 1849, which are still alive in me.”21 The Exners implied that the Gymnasium's lessons were somehow effective only in combination with the family life of the Bildungsbürgertum.

By 1907, then, liberal educators faced a tripartite challenge. Each group (p.233) of challengers—progressives, nationalists, and Christian Socials—had their own plan for the moral education of the empire's youth, none of which was compatible with the liberals' primary goal of promoting critical reasoning and the ability to speak from a universal viewpoint. For the liberals, the most important condition of learning was freedom, although implicit in their image of freedom was the counter-balancing force of self-discipline. Socialists deemed these goals elitist and inefficient; German nationalists judged them insufficiently German; and Christian Socials found them dangerously subversive. Sensing that liberal power was weakening, these critics intensified their attacks during the last few months of 1907.

The Middle School Inquiry

Faced with these various calls for reform, the liberal minister of education Gustav Marchet consented to hold a public hearing on the matter of the secondary schools. Following a model used by the German government in 1890, Marchet invited various authorities to contribute prepared comments. This structure was expected to give the government control over the proceedings. Sympathetic to liberal education as it stood in Austria, Marchet staged the inquiry to appease critics, not to launch reforms. He forbade references to politics, made no effort to represent the empire's minorities, and invited only three women. Thanks to her recently published article, Emilie Exner was one of them.

The hearings gave Emilie a chance to bring to the attention of state officials and pedagogical experts insights drawn from her domestic experience, especially at Brunnwinkl. She repeated her conviction that children thrived in freedom and learned from playing. Emilie's remarks were seconded by Marianne Hainisch, the advocate of women's education whose agitation had first prompted this public hearing. Hainisch approved particularly of Emilie's emphasis on the vital role of the family in a young person's education.22 A critical note came from a parliamentary representative named Petelenz, who accepted Emilie's expertise on the state of the Gymnasien but insisted that she knew nothing of the Realschulen, the more practically oriented middle schools that led to vocational or technical careers. Petelenz allowed that the children of the upper classes might learn best when left (p.234) to their own devices, but they were the exception. “One should not imagine though that the young boy entering school is wild about learning and being taught, that he has learning alone at heart. (Laughter.) That would be counter to the nature of boys.” Emilie had described young pupils as “plastic,” drawing on the Herbartian psychology that was deeply rooted in the Austrian Gymnasien.23 Petelenz insisted to the contrary that the material with which a Realschule teacher had to work was often “indifferent” and “vexing.” “One student can be compared to wet plaster, another to hard marble, a third to impenetrable granite.”24 The implication was that Emilie's image of learning was elitist and inapplicable to the population at large.

Emilie, who had once proclaimed her allegiance to the “aristocracy of intellect,”25 hardly recognized this elitism as a shortcoming. Like Serafin Exner, she believed that a Gymnasium education was rightly reserved for a small segment of the population. Indeed, she blamed the Gymasium's failings partly on the more modest backgrounds of the instructors. As she wrote to another academic wife, “Our Gymnasium professors are mostly peasants' sons and their … field of view quite small.”26 Her ideal of a learning environment was the vacation home of a privileged family, and its relevance to the education system of the empire was questionable.

SHORTLY before the opening of the Middle School Inquiry, Wilhelm Ostwald arrived in Vienna from Leipzig to add his voice to those of Austrian critics of the classical Gymnasium curriculum. Europe's leading physical chemist, Ostwald was not easy to define politically. Like Friedrich Jodl, he was a member of the anticlerical Monist League. But Ostwald belonged to the Berlin-based branch of this movement, which was known for its German nationalism, while Vienna's chapter embraced pacifism.27 Ostwald was neither a liberal nor a socialist. Better put, he was a technocrat, a strong believer in social engineering. This set him far apart from Austrian liberals, who placed their hopes in individual freedom and the free market. With the coming of the First World War, Ostwald also became a fervent German nationalist.

(p.235) Tellingly, Ostwald had disliked his colleague Serafin Exner from the moment they met in Vienna in 1889. The two men soon became embroiled in a dispute over techniques for measuring contact potentials, in which substantive disagreements were overshadowed by issues of experimental skill and scientific integrity.28 Serafin accused Ostwald of “superficiality,” of changing his position from one moment to the next, and of falsely attributing opinions to him.29 Meanwhile, Ostwald described Exner in his autobiography as “lacking scientific objectivity.”30 Between the lines there emerged a clash of values.

Unlike the Exners, Ostwald came from a lower middle-class background and was raised in the Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire, far from the centers of German culture. There he had been forced to study Russian and Latvian, followed by French, Italian, and Dutch, on top of Latin and Greek. Speaking in December 1907 in the capital of the multilingual Habsburg Empire, Ostwald declared that all these classes had been a waste of time.31 In Vienna, Ostwald denounced the teaching of foreign languages in the name of efficiency and progress. The goal of schooling was to turn children into adults who were “rational, logically thinking, and work effectively with their brains.” “The arbitrariness in the construction and form of language, which finds its expression in countless exceptions from the rule, kills in the young (p.236) mind the feeling for the regularity and for the magnificent order that we find in nature again and again by studying it. It kills the causal sense [Kausalitätsempfinden],”32 Ostwald did not explain whether this causal sense was of physiological or psychological origin. But he made clear that it was a feature of a rational and efficient mind, which could either be sharpened by a training in natural science or dulled by exposure to grammar.

Ostwald's speech outraged Vienna's Association of Friends of the Humanistic Gymnasium (Verein der Freunde des Humanistischen Gymnasiums). Among the members of this group, founded in 1906 to protect the classical curriculum, were Serafin, his brother Sigmund, and Sigmund's wife Emilie. The VFHG's president, Salomon Frankfurter, was the author of a celebratory history of the reform program of the first Franz Exner. These liberal humanists met just weeks after Ostwald's appearance. Their responses focused on the German chemist's characterization of language. Turning his argument on its head, they insisted that the very irregularity of language made it an essential tool for developing a rational mind. Wilhelm Jerusalem, a cofounder with Friedrich Jodl of the anticlerical Ethical Movement, insisted that language must be viewed “psychologically” rather than “logically.” “Then this study offers insight into the nature of actual thought and feeling.”33 A less prominent member seconded Jerusalem's point, adding that “the strict regularity of natural laws cannot teach us to understand the illogical in man, his emotional life.”34 From this perspective, the “causal sense” was a poor guide to understanding human nature.

Other Austrians responded to Ostwald by emphasizing the proximity rather than the distance between language and natural science. A pamphlet by philosophy professor Georg Albert argued that both the natural and human sciences rested on empirical observation, “quick intuition,” and “thoughtful reflection.” Both fields of study trained “the student's sense for faithful observation, precise measurement, and objective thought.”35 Albert opened his essay with a long quotation from Adolf Exner's 1891 rectorial address (see chapter 4), reminding his readers of Adolf's call for a new, antideterministic (p.237) approach to political education that would teach students to analyze complex social phenomena. A few weeks later, in the education ministry's official hearings on the middle school question, parliamentary representative Robert Pattai likewise stressed that language study sharpened the skills of empirical observation. Pattai argued that languages acquired their irregularities through a natural growth process, just as crystals grew surfaces of unequal areas. In language as in crystals, closer observation revealed the underlying structure.36

These proponents of the classical curriculum defended the study of language as a training in empirical reasoning on par with the study of nature. This was an argument characteristic of Austrian liberalism. In Baden in the 1860s, by contrast, even a liberal defender of the classical curriculum like Hermann von Helmholtz had stressed that grammar fell short as a pedagogical tool because it lacked “general laws of unexceptionable validity and of an extraordinarily comprehensive character.” Such laws, unique to the experimental sciences, demonstrated “the conscious logical activity of the mind in its purest and most perfect form.”37 Helmholtz, like Ostwald, recommended the study of nature's absolute laws in preparation for what he famously referred to in this address as “the intellectual mastery of the world.” Vaunting the value of science for an industrializing society, Helmholtz and Ostwald characterized science in terms of prediction and control. Austria's liberal scientists at the turn of the twentieth century were far more alert to the threat of religious dogmatism. In Austria, teaching students to analyze systems that were stubbornly unlawlike was a defense against intellectual rigidity.

Vienna's liberal humanists also rejected Ostwald's call to “individualize” the middle school curriculum.38 As the VFHG's president Frankfurter tried to make sense of it, Ostwald's argument led from the laws of thermodynamics, to the conditions of happiness, to the structure of education. It was something along the lines of “all the conditions of our lives, if they are ordered normally, must stimulate normal sensations; for that reason work must be designed such that it is accomplished with pleasure.” Out of this hodgepodge of utilitarian rhetoric, Frankfurter drew the conclusion that Ostwald's principle of individualization was a destructive form of relativism. He countered: “The school must accustom the student to adapting himself to (p.238) something larger and to fulfilling duties toward the whole without consideration of his personal comfort.”39 This aspiration to a universal perspective was typical of Austrian liberals, with their emphasis on self-discipline as a counterweight to skepticism and their defense of the supranational principle of the Habsburg Empire.

This dispute with Ostwald highlighted the convictions that set liberals in Austria apart from left-leaning intellectuals in Germany. Ostwald's technocratic inclinations made causal reasoning central to his education program. Austrian liberals, hounded by clerical conservatives, insisted instead that students must learn to come to grips with uncertainty. Against Ostwald's charge that languages killed the causal sense, the Austrians argued that causal reasoning was only one narrow function of a well-trained mind. More important was learning to analyze systems that did not conform to idealized laws, like those actually found in nature and society. Ostwald, like Helmholtz, believed that language's contingent and irregular character made it an insufficient model for the exercise of reason. His Austrian opponents valued language precisely as a system fraught with contingencies, which could nonetheless be analyzed. But the very prominence of uncertainty in Austrian education made it imperative to steel students against the pitfall of solipsism. To their ears, Ostwald's principle of individualization verged on relativism. Echoing the supranational politics of imperial Vienna, they therefore demanded that students reason from a perspective beyond the merely personal.

As we will see, discussion of the ethical status of uncertainty also demarcated Austrian liberals from their domestic political opponents to the left and right. Socialists intended to train students to recognize that natural and social laws were absolute. Catholics meant to teach students to recognize the evidence of design. Only liberals like the Exners treated the confrontation with contingency as a vital element of moral education.

Ludwig Wahrmund and the “Conquest of the Universities”

While Ostwald warned against exposing young minds to phenomena that could not be explained on the basis of absolute laws, Austria's Catholic conservatives were also working to safeguard young minds against uncertainty. They insisted that students must not be allowed to contemplate complex phenomena such as cosmic structure or consciousness without the security of a teleological explanation. This position hardened in July 1907, when (p.239) Pope Pius X issued his syllabus against the errors of “modern” thought. The list of “errors” concluded as follows:

  1. 64. Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be readjusted.

  2. 65. Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a nondogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism.40

With the pope condemning modern science and rejecting a more flexible Catholicism, liberal university instructors in Austria saw an urgent need to protect their academic freedoms. In September, professors gathered in Salzburg for an annual meeting and resolved to preserve “the independence of the universities.” Then, at the Sixth General Catholic Congress in Vienna in November, Mayor Lueger countered with words that resonated in the halls of the universities as a declaration of war. He called for “the conquest of the universities. The universities must not continue to be a soil for subversive ideas, a soil for revolution, a soil for the rejection of the fatherland and religion.”41 Liberal professors answered with a new slogan: “Against the clericalization of the universities!”42 Shortly thereafter, liberals in parliament sponsored a “motion of urgency” that called for the government to defend the universities against the Christian Socials. This passed after being rephrased more generally as a guarantee of the protection of “academic freedom.” Nonetheless, the climate at the universities was now volatile.

The final spark came in January 1908, when an obscure professor of canon law at the law faculty of the University of Innsbruck gave a lecture (p.240) entitled “Catholic Worldview and Free Science,” soon published as a pamphlet. The author, Ludwig Wahrmund, had begun to anger his Catholic colleagues as early as 1902 with arguments against religious instruction in public schools. Now he responded to the papal antimodernity decree. Where German physiologist Emil Du Bois-Reymond had attempted to reconcile science and dogma by leaving accounts of consciousness and final causes to theologians, Wahrmund insisted that the two worldviews were, as the pope claimed, simply incompatible.43 Wahrmund refused to admit any limits to the explanatory power of natural science. That scientists could not yet explain consciousness or final causes was no reason to believe in a cosmos governed by angels and devils:

Certainly, we are still in obscurity about the essence of force and matter; but that we must therefore believe in Gods who personally descend from heaven, or in men, who personally ascend, no reasonable man will maintain.

Certainly, we are not able to explain the facts of consciousness; but that in one and the same man divine omnipotence and mortal finitude could not be simultaneously joined, is nonetheless entirely certain to us.44

Wahrmund continued in this vein and drew such ire from the Innsbruck community that Tyrolean peasants descended on the university to demand his removal. Throughout the spring, German-national students, hostile to the influence of Rome, clashed with Catholics on campuses throughout the empire. In March the papal nuncio in Vienna intervened to have Wahrmund fired.

The next move fell to the academic senate of the University of Vienna, of which Serafin Exner was an elected member for the academic year 1907–8. The Senate concluded unanimously that the nuncio's attempt to control the composition of the law faculty contradicted the principles of the university as they had been established by the Constitution of 1867 and the school law of 1869. These had made the secular faculties independent of clerical influence and protected the freedom of research and teaching.45 But the dispute was far from over. In May, peasants stormed the university in Graz, to which Wahrmund was scheduled to be transferred. The following month German (p.241) national students in Vienna went on strike to express their opposition to the clerical forces. These two events unleashed a flood of debate in parliament. Liberal senators, like the Vienna academic senate, treated the affair as an issue of a freedom guaranteed by the constitution. Christian Socials, on the other hand, argued that Wahrmund had violated the section of the criminal code that prohibited the slander of recognized religions.46 Minister of Education Marchet took a conciliatory stance, defending the “freedom of scientific research,” yet calling on scholars not to contradict “without need” others' religious convictions. As a temporary solution, the government asked Wahrmund to stop teaching for two months. He wisely left the country for a holiday in Spain.

The Exners watched these events unfold with a mixture of satisfaction and frustration. “As much as I lament the conflicts,” wrote Emilie Exner of the Wahrmund affair in early June of 1908, “which will likely end badly for an excellent minister of education, nonetheless I must express my pleasure that the academic youth defends itself so energetically against the violations of the clergy.”47

AT stake in Wahrmund's heresies, as in the reforms of the secondary schools, were competing visions of adolescence. Should youth be a period of indoctrination, as the Christian Socials would make it? Of focused specialization, as progressives and technocrats insisted? Or of “freedom,” as liberals continued to insist, even as they struggled to define the meaning of this concept? Unlike other historians who have treated the Wahrmund affair exclusively as a political controversy, I mean to take seriously the moral dimension of this conflict. Certainly, as John Boyer argues, the scandal marked the moment of a break between the Austrian bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia and therefore a lost chance for liberalism in Austria. Never again would professors serve as spokesmen for the middle classes, as they had in the 1860s and 1870s.48 But for Austria's liberal educators academic freedom was not an abstract civil right. It was a necessary condition for the moral development of scholars and citizens.

Wahrmund's inflammatory pamphlet was, as philosopher Friedrich Jodl noted, “a diatribe, not a scientific work.”49 As the dean of Vienna's philosophy (p.242) faculty for 1907–8, Jodl judged this case firsthand. Like many liberal academics, Jodl overlooked Wahrmund's crude arguments and rabble-rousing tactics and defended him in the name of academic freedom. In March 1908, as Wahrmund's fate was being determined, Jodl commented on the proceedings in Vienna's liberal newspaper. Jodl insisted that a professor's freedom of speech in the lecture hall was a necessary condition for the university's task of instructing students “in the most many-faceted manner … A right of students to be protected from any views whatsoever … cannot exist, because it contradicts the essence of the university.”50 For these words Jodl was attacked as a “diabolical atheist” by a member of the theology faculty.51

Jodl's anticlerical views were well known. He was a prominent advocate of full secularization of Austrian schools, committed in particular to establishing ethical education on a secular basis. In the wake of the Wahrmund affair and the Middle School Inquiry, he significantly expanded his theory of ethical education. As in the literary narratives of Bildung of the nineteenth century, Jodl attributed formative power to a young person's confrontations with contingency. In his view, “chance” was a pervasive element in human lives. Like most moral philosophers of the period, Jodl meant by chance not events without causes, but our own subjective experience of ignorance about those causes. According to Jodl, we have nothing to fear from chance and everything to learn. Events that appear random tend to reveal regularities under repetition—if they did not, Jodl noted, “Today's experience would be able to teach us nothing about tomorrow. We would always remain children.” Moral development, on Jodl's account, was a process of mastering chance. Ethical education was “nothing else but a struggle against chance, the chance of the moment of anger, of mood, of passion.”52 Ethics could indeed be taught, but not as a set of “absolute rules,” “because the multiplicity of life's situations leads each absolutely rigid rule or habit of action inevitably ad absurdum.”53 Like the laws of physics, ethical rules were abstractions from experience, necessarily incomplete attempts to grapple with the unexpected.

(p.243) Another interpretation of the lessons of the Wahrmund affair came from Carl Menger, the liberal economist and member of the upper house of parliament. In early 1908 Menger delivered an address in parliament on Lueger's threatened “Conquest of the Universities.” Menger's speech was a sketch of the conditions of intellectual progress. Human history had advanced from a blind trust in authority, a “rigid dogmatism,” to “free progressive science;” from the age of “patriarchy,” the “childhood of humanity,” to the age of “objective research.”54 In the Enlightenment tradition of Auguste Comte, Menger compared human history to an individual life, designating empirical science as the full flower of intellectual maturity. The path to adulthood, whether individual or collective, required the rejection of received ideas in favor of the evidence of reason and experience. Like Jodl, Menger treated Wahrmund's case as an opportunity to defend a model of moral development central to Austrian liberalism.

In this liberal vision of adolescence, the experience of uncertainty played a pivotal role. As liberals like Jodl and Menger intervened in defense of academic freedom, they invoked a familiar trope of Bildung as a confrontation with chance. Through an ever widening sphere of experience, the individual came to grips with life's contingencies and renounced the false comforts of religion and authority. The Wahrmund scandal was, fundamentally, a conflict over how to train future citizens. The Christian Socials hoped to use education to pass on a sense of responsibility to the state and an acceptance of the social order. The liberals, by contrast, wanted to use education to guide students from a blind acceptance of received knowledge to a critical engagement with the world. They understood the university's “essence” to be an open environment in which students could mature into independent thinkers.

The Probable and the Merely Possible

A few months before Wahrmund burst onto the scene, Serafin Exner had released a petite, popular book on astronomy, which, at first glance, was a world removed from the concurrent turmoil of academic politics. Its few copies were printed in an old-fashioned font with archaic spellings, strewn with Latinisms, and embellished with rhyming verses. Published independently, the book was dedicated to an anonymous young woman, identified (p.244) by other Brannwinklers as the family's friend Grete Conrad. The title page identified the author only with Greek initials: Ω. Σ., that is, “Onkel Serafin.” This playful style reflected the Exners' love for riddles and costumes, and it suited the typical tone of after-dinner conversation when the family gathered on summer evenings. This was, in fact, the setting in which Serafin first read the book aloud.55 Earlier discussions at Brunnwinkl of Boltzmann's natural philosophy and Einstein's theory of special relativity had primed Serafin's younger relatives to appreciate the work.56

Part 1 of the Simple Astronomy was an account of the present state of the solar system. It began, however, with a coming-of-age story:

When man reaches the age when an inclination awakens in him to regard his surroundings critically he has usually not seen much of the world; his village or his town with the neighboring mountains … are as a rule all that he knows and from his elders he hears from childhood on that things were no different in the past … Since the fathers and grandfathers have known the same mountains and rivers as the grandsons, it is understandable that one gets used to considering the earth as an unshakeable fundament. No wonder then that nothing gives a man such a panicked fright as the first earthquake that he experiences, since with the first quiver of the ground crumbles too the inherited feeling of security and peace that the earth affords.57

As in a Bildungsroman, Exner introduced the reader to a young man impatient to leave his birthplace in search of new experiences. It is to be expected that the hero will face a loss of certainty, a descent into doubt, and a break with the thinking of his parents. This story continued at the opening of part 2, an account of the solar system's evolution:

As in an earthquake, what begins to shake is just what we have since childhood grown used to regarding as the one solid thing in the world, and so in an instant our previous faith proves to be false and one-sided; just so, when setting foot in a distant land, it appears that the new world does not agree with the old and familiar one … [G]radually we will find our way, then see with some surprise that what appeared to us a new world is really just the old one, if in another form; but the core has remained the same. For whom would such a recognition not yield a certain satisfaction?58

(p.245) This account of an intellectual coming of age employed two vivid metaphors. The first, travel, was a familiar trope of the Bildungsroman and a central theme in Serafin's account of his own life. The second was the earthquake, an image of the uncertainty one experiences when leaving behind the familiar world of accepted beliefs. Serafin's father had likewise written of the moment in a Gymnasium education when the “ground of experience … becomes shaken by doubts.” The earthquake was an aptly chosen metaphor. Serafin's contemporaries judged that the emergence of a view of earthquakes as natural rather than supernatural was a key stage in the evolution of scientific thought.59 At the start of the twentieth century, earthquakes represented a final, uncolonized frontier of the campaign to bring nature under human calculation and control. The earthquake stood for an element of uncertainty that could be neither eliminated nor ignored.

Part 2 of The Simple Astronomy outlined a strategy for coming to grips with such uncertainty. Here Serafin introduced the reader to the stochastic perspective of Maxwell and Boltzmann. The universe consists of bits of matter in random motion; the rise and fall of mountains, the flow of rivers, all these arrangements of matter are merely “chance states.”60 The reader must now be taught to reason in the wide world where certainty is unattainable. In the final chapter, after proposing to lead the reader through the solar system's history, Serafin issued the following warning:

In turning to such questions I ask you, dear reader, to consider that we are leaving the ground of facts and of certain knowledge … Yet in doing so by no means do we want simply to give our imagination free rein; on the contrary we will take twice as much care with it here, on uncertain ground; and so we want to produce, if not always what is certain, then indeed only what is thoroughly probable.61

Now that the reader had accepted a mature view of the universe as contingent, she would have to take care to distinguish between degrees of certainty, between the probable and the merely possible, in order not to fall into blind speculation. A few pages later Serafin remarked, “There we are admittedly reliant on conjectures, nonetheless a few things may be said with a certain probability.”62 And shortly thereafter: “As we promised, we do not want to overreach the very probable and lose ourselves in the merely possible.”63

(p.246) The cosmic theory that Serafin treated so gingerly in this chapter was the nebular hypothesis, first proposed by Laplace at the end of the eighteenth century. Laplace theorized that the solar system originated in a primordial cloud of matter, in which gravitational attraction caused bits to lump together into chunks and finally into planets. Laplace had proposed this theory to counter Daniel Bernoulli's claim that the organization of the planets revealed the hand of God. Appropriately for Serafin's purposes, Laplace had used the mathematics of probability to calculate that the planetary orbits could in fact be a product of pure chance. Serafin's text thus recapitulated a historical as well as individual progression from certainty to doubt to probability. Serafin used the concept of probability to guide the young reader safely through her formative encounter with contingency.64

The Simple Astronomy appeared in February 1908, shortly after Wahrmund's controversial pamphlet and the close of the Middle School Inquiry. It was a subtle and skillful intervention in the education politics of the day. Like Jodl and Menger, Serafin worked with an implicit analogy between individual development and human history. He associated childhood with blind trust in authority and adulthood with empirical science. At another level, his textbook was a defense of the status of scientific hypotheses, both as a general principle and in the specific cases of evolution, atomism, and the nebular theory of the solar system. Each of these theories contradicted Catholic theology and risked being banished from classrooms by the Christian Socials. As one contributor to the Middle School Inquiry remarked, it was necessary to introduce students to hypotheses as a mode of scientific reasoning—without, of course, losing sight of their merely probable status.65 Similarly, the Simple Astronomy showed young readers how to handle hypotheses conscientiously. Following a characteristically Austrian-liberal model of moral development, the book led the reader through the formative experience of uncertainty, then provided her with the philosophical tools to emerge from the pit of skepticism.

Four months later, Serafin made up his mind to intervene more directly in the politics of education. In June he was unanimously elected Rector Magnificus of the University of Vienna. As he wrote in response to a note of (p.247) congratulations from Friedrich Jodl, “it was really the difficult times, from which no one can escape, which moved me to take over an office that I would perhaps rather have avoided, and the fact that I see myself met with confidence from all sides; may it be merited!”66 Thanks to his sense of duty and the trust of his colleagues, Serafin now held responsibility for defending academic freedom against Lueger and his followers. The faculty had lived through months of armed clashes and student strikes, and they looked to the new rector to guarantee a peaceful academic year.

Kantian Molecules and the Liberal State

Serafin's inauguration took place on 15 October 1908, “in the usual festive manner and with the highly unusual lively participation of the students.” The university's large ceremonial hall was packed with “the full academic Senate, numerous University professors, and many ladies.”67 As the press made clear, Serafin's speech was hotly anticipated. Those who awaited a defense of academic freedom would not be disappointed. But most would be surprised by the form it would take.

Sixteen years earlier, Serafin's brother Adolf had delivered his own rectorial address from that same podium. Adolf had charged that the study of natural science had accustomed students to analyzing deterministic systems, leaving them helpless before the intricate causal web of the social realm. He had called on the universities to provide a new basis for “political Bildung,” founded on the ability to analyze complex, historical phenomena—“the probability calculus on whose correct use all practical statecraft rests.”68 Adolf had died suddenly three years later, at the height of his career, but liberals continued to cite his rectorial address.69 Now, using language strikingly similar to Adolf's, Serafin used this opportunity to defend the value of his own field for training the citizens of a liberal state.

Serafin's argument rested on an insight due to the latest Viennese physics: that an orderly system could arise out of an aggregate of strictly independent (p.248) and unconstrained individual components. This was the lesson of Boltzmann's statistical reformulation of the second law of thermodynamics. Using this new understanding of the laws of physics, Serafin turned Adolf's critique of natural science on its head. Adolf had insisted that political factors are often inaccessible to measurement, requiring analytical methods distinct from those of the sciences. Serafin agreed that in the social sphere “visible events are not the only factors, rather all those imponderables that cannot be captured; but the physicist finds himself in the same situation. By imponderables we mean events whose physical correlate remains unknown to us, and the physicist is all too often in a position to come to terms with these.”70 The physicist, like the historian or statesman, had to learn to work with imperfect knowledge. Serafin was now in a position to argue that physics, far from inculcating rigid modes of thought, was actually an ideal training ground for grappling with uncertainty.

Where Adolf had attacked science for obstructing political education, Serafin demonstrated that the study of physics actually taught crucial political lessons. He began, like his brother, by stressing the similarity between physical and juridical “laws.” The laws of physics “do not exist in nature,” he claimed; “they are formulated by man, who uses them as a linguistic and arithmetic aid, and he implies merely that events in nature proceed as if matter, like a rational being, would obey these laws.”71 Exner had begun to develop this analogy between laws in science and statecraft in an earlier popular address.72 In 1890 he had given the comparison a Bismarckian cast, stressing that a gas, like a Rechtstaat (a constitutional state), was subject to inexorable laws. Now, after a decade of municipal government by the Christian Socials, he drew from the same analogy distinctly libertarian implications. According to Boltzmann's version of the second law, “every ordered state” is “counter-natural,” possible only on account of “an intervention against the law of chance.” But social order was equally counter-natural: “All juridical laws, written and unwritten, which keep society on an orderly course, are in fact nothing other than such interventions.”73 A noninterventionist government was therefore the most natural form, allowing society to evolve toward its most probable state.

(p.249) Which state would that be? Serafin insisted that this equilibrium state would not be homogeneous. He explained that the circulation of money depended on the self-interest of innumerable independent individuals and thus had the character of a chance phenomenon. The “most probable state” therefore was not an equal distribution of wealth—“that would instead be highly improbable.” There should instead emerge a large middle class and smaller upper and lower classes, with all deviations from the average income distributed along a normal curve. Exner dismissed legislative attempts to counter this natural effect as wholly irrational. The most highly evolved society implied the perfect independence of each individual. The liberal (nation-) state was the most probable (physical) state.

Compared to representatives of statistical thinking elsewhere at the time, Exner was unusual in taking the collective as the basis for his analysis, yet attributing freedom and individuality to its members. As he would later put it, “Where herdlike uniformity ends, where the individual emerges from the mass, there begins culture.”74 This move reflected Vienna's liberal tradition of economic thought. By 1908, Carl Menger's students Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk and Friedrich von Wieser were leaders of a distinct “Austrian School” of economics. Serafin's link to the Austrian School was personal as well as intellectual, since Wieser's daughter Anna married Adolf Exner's son Franz in 1910. In a strategy characteristic of Austrian liberalism, Serafin's rectorial address thus took aim at two sets of opponents. While defending academic freedom against clericals on the right, he also defended economic freedom against socialists on the left.

In his closing remarks, Serafin brought the weight of his statistical worldview to bear on the inescapable issue of the day. Culturally as well as economically, he explained, a free society evolves toward a state of maximal differentiation. Serafin praised his alma mater as an illustration of such an evolutionary path. Broaching at last the matter of academic freedom, he portrayed the modern university with its multifarious specializations as a system ideally adapted to a state of freedom:

Is the university as an institution itself not the result of a thousand-year evolution? Certainly this too is only the accumulation of a large number of chance events, under the influence of which the university as it is today emerged as the most functional [zweckmässigste] state. But we know that such an evolution continues only so long as the external conditions do not change. Now, for the (p.250) university there has always been essentially only one such condition to which its entire constitution and its deepest essence is adapted, that is the absolute freedom of research and teaching. So long as this is preserved for us, and it will be preserved, our alma mater will be an ever faithful reflection of the entire world.75

Throughout his address, Exner had built up a series of nested models of a liberal society, packed together like a set of Russian dolls. He had compared the university to a “large” and “many-branched” family and to a society in miniature, and had modeled these all on an ideal gas. A gas in equilibrium, a family at leisure, a modern university—the structure of each system depended on the full independence of its members. But could the lessons of smaller scales apply to larger ones? This was a question that would plague Exner during his term as rector.

Liberals, at least, were pleased with Exner's performance. He had shown liberalism to be the only “natural” state for the university and society at large. According to a report in the liberal Neue Freie Presse, “The ingenious discourse of the renowned physicist was received with tumultuous, prolonged applause.”76

Academic Freedom at What Price?

During his first term as rector Serafin Exner mediated some of the most violent student clashes since 1848. He also faced ongoing conflicts with the Christian Socials. In one case, an impoverished student at the law faculty, publicly identified only as “R. R.,” had been offered a scholarship sponsored by the municipal government. This was an exceptional opportunity for R. R., who until this point had to work in a law office to support his studies. Before receiving the scholarship, however, R. R. was made to sign the following oath, which one commentator in the Neue Freie Presse called “Dr. Lueger's formula”:

R. R. makes it known herewith that he, first, is not presently a Social Democrat, nor will be one in the future; secondly, is not presently a German nationalist [Alldeutscher], nor will be one in the future; thirdly, did not participate in the strike and in the future will not participate in any strike.77

R. R. had apparently never taken part in the June student strike nor in any other political movement. Yet after signing the declaration, R. R. regretted (p.251) having sworn never to participate in the future. He asked to have the form back, but the city government refused to return it. To the Neue Freie Presse's commentator, this had all the signs of a pact with the devil. According to the writer (“an expert”), the “principal thing” was that the student was being forbidden ever to change his opinions. The oath was at odds with a student's ability to “develop freely.”78 To the liberals, the principle of self-directed development was inviolate. The Christian Socials, on the other hand, viewed freedom at such a young age as an invitation to rebellion.

Student protests, even violent ones, had long been excused as a rite of youth, and were even celebrated in the memorials to 1848. Yet events early in Exner's term as rector shook this complacent view. A group of students in Vienna from the Habsburg lands in northern Italy had petitioned in parliament for a university in Trieste, but they had received no response. They approached the new rector and received his promise to raise the matter at the next meeting of the academic senate in November, which he did.79 Meanwhile, on the tenth of November, violence erupted between Zionist and German-national students, and Exner was hard pressed to mediate a standoff. This was his first experience as peacekeeper, and he discovered that the university's autonomy from the state entailed a burden as well as a privilege. The fighting had taken place on the palatial circular ramp leading from the Ringstrasse up to the university's main entrance. The ramp was officially public land, not part of the university's grounds, and therefore subject to police jurisdiction. As Exner commented in an interview with the Neue Freie Presse, the students had at least respected the university grounds. But the police had been reluctant to intervene because the ramp was only nominally within their jurisdiction. The university's independence from the state powers could thus leave it vulnerable. Its unique autonomy rested on the tenuous assumption that the academic community would keep politics outside its walls.80

Exner had barely recovered from this episode when two weeks later Italian students lost patience with the stalemate over the issue of a university in Trieste.81 They received the rector's permission to demonstrate in the university courtyard on the condition that they refrain from singing (p.252) patriotic songs. According to the German nationalist students, who had likewise filled the courtyard, the demonstrators eventually launched into a hymn to Garibaldi. Deciding that the Italians had “broken their promise,” the German-nationalists tried to push them out of the courtyard. In the scuffle, over a dozen students were wounded, and three Italian students were arrested on suspicion of having shot revolvers. This was one of the most violent incidents at the university in decades. Liberal commentators were particularly shocked at the use of revolvers. The entire university and all other Hochschulen in Vienna were closed for the rest of the week. In an interview with the Neue Freie Presse Serafin Exner called the fighting “acts of the grossest barbarism.”82 In an official announcement released the same afternoon, he denounced the incident as “a deep wound to the sanctity of academic ground, a mockery of academic order, a disgrace for the perpetrators. What certain Italian students carrying deadly weapons have undertaken here, in the cause of culture, was not a demonstration within the bounds of the concepts of honor of citizens and students. These were crimes.”83 Exner's message was that students had to earn the privilege of academic freedom by demonstrating a bourgeois sense of honor, founded on self-discipline.84

In his final address as rector, Exner reminded his audience of the defense of academic freedom he had offered at his inauguration. Reflecting on the lessons of the previous months, he drew the year to a close on a more circumspect note. He addressed himself to the students in the audience:

What counsel shall I give you as I take my leave? I can only recall to you the words which I once before had occasion to address to you: In your hands the most precious possession of the university has been laid: academic freedom. Protect it for your own well-being and for the well-being of those who come after you; but do not believe that the professors or the academic authorities or any power of the world whatsoever can preserve it for you, if you do not do so yourselves. But you can do it; you can preserve this freedom uniquely if you do not abuse it. Take this advice to heart, follow it and you will be certain of success, notwithstanding all those to whom this freedom is a thorn in the eye.85

Over the course of this challenging year, Exner's support for academic freedom had not wavered, but his tone had changed. In admonishing the students not to “misuse” their freedom, Serafin recalled his message of (p.253) November, when he spoke of the “sanctity” of the university and the “concepts of honor” appropriate for its members. Freedom was not simply an “external condition” for the development of young intellects; it was a privilege they would have to earn for themselves. In doing so, they would have the satisfaction of confounding those opponents of liberalism to whom academic freedom was as irritating as “a thorn in the eye.”

THE events of 1907–9 forced the Exners to be explicit about what they meant by “freedom.” Freedom was the fertile soil of the liberal society the Exners cultivated at Brunnwinkl. It was the precondition for an adolescent's formative experiences of doubt and uncertainty. Only in conditions of freedom could young people learn to contend with the foreign, the unexpected. Only through freedom would they learn to act responsibly in an uncertain world. The alternative was a life spent clinging to the child's trust in received ideas, a life of dogmatism.

For this reason, Serafin Exner attributed moral value to a stochastic worldview. In a universe of randomly colliding particles, no description at a macroscopic scale could be more than an approximation. To borrow a metaphor from the Exners, the recognition that determinism was an illusion would pull the firm ground of certainty out from beneath a student's feet. But a foothold would be found in the theory of probabilities. With probability as her guide, the student could see that order in the system as a whole depended on the freedom of each individual. This was the statistical physicist's ultimate lesson to future citizens of a liberal state.

In 1908 the Exners seized opportunities to apply the lessons of their utopian experiment at Brunnwinkl to the empire at large. Bourgeois confidence drove them to present the family as a model for the university and the university as a model for the empire, just as the physicist saw society mirrored in a flask of gas. Yet the results of the Middle School Inquiry and of Serafin Exner's year as rector cast doubt on this analogy of scale. Lessons drawn from a bourgeois household did not necessarily apply to an empire in the throes of democratization. (p.254)


(1.) Emilie Exner, Der Brunnwinkl, p. 12.

(2.) K. v. Frisch to Friedrich Paneth, 8 Aug. 1908, Paneth Nachlaβ—K. Frisch, Abt. III, Rep. 45, Mappe 37, Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin-Dahlem.

(3.) K. v. Frisch to Friedrich Paneth, 1 Sept. 1909, Paneth Nachlaβ—K. Frisch, Abt. III, Rep. 45, Mappe 37, Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin-Dahlem.

(4.) Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, diary entry for 25 Aug. 1893, Tagebuch, vol. 4, p. 240.

(5.) Emilie Exner to Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, 13 Aug. 1907, folder 81082Ja, Vienna Stadtarchiv, Vienna.

(6.) Discussed in Emilie Exner, “Der Mittelschüler in Literatur und Wirklichkeit,” Österreichische Rundschau 12 (1907): 123–30.

(7.) Emilie Exner to Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, 9 July 1907, folder 81082Ja, Vienna Stadtarchiv, Vienna.

(8.) Emilie Exner to Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, 22 July 1907, 81082Ja, Vienna Stadtsarchiv.

(9.) Emilie Exner (Felicie Ewart, pseud.), “Der Mittelschüler in Literatur und Wirklichkeit,” Osterreichische Rundschau 12 (1907): 123–30, quotation on p. 123.

(10.) Groos, Die Spiele des Menschen (Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1899), pp. 91, 122.

(11.) Emilie Exner, “Mittelschüler,” p. 124.

(12.) Tara Zahra, Your Child Belongs to the Nation: Nationalization, Germanization, and Democracy in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1945 (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 2005); “Das österreichische Mittelschulwesen und der Mittelschultag,” Das Vaterland, 16 April 1891, Nr. 104, p. 1, Weisinger Collection.

(13.) Franz Serafin Exner, “Lebenslauf” (1917), p. 3, Personalakt, Archiv der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna.

(14.) On Scheu's middle school reform movement, see Engelbrecht, Geschichte des Österreichischen Bildungswesens, vol. 4.

(15.) See too Gustav Uhlig, Die Entwicklung des Kampfes gegen das Gymnasium, Vortrag in der Wiener Festversammlung der deutschen Gymnasial-Vereine am 2. Oktober 1909 (Vienna and Leipzig: Carl Fromme, 1910).

(16.) John W. Boyer, Political Radicalism in Late Imperial Vienna: Origins of the Christian Social Movement, 1848–1897 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), Boyer, Culture and Political Crisis in Vienna: Christian Socialism in Power, 1897–1918 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

(17.) Richard S. Geehr, Karl Lueger: Mayor of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990).

(18.) Boyer, Culture and Political Crisis, p. 174.

(19.) Philosopher Friedrich Jodl to jurist Karl von Amira, 27 Oct. 1905, in Jodl, Vom Lebenswege. Gesammelte Vorträge und Aufsätze (Stuttgart and Berlin: J.G. Cotta, 1916), vol. 1, p. 515.

(20.) Geehr, Karl Lueger, p. 291. On Lueger's conception of youth, see Boyer, Culture and Political Crisis, p. 9.

(21.) Franz Serafin Exner, “Ein Wort zur Schulreform,” Neue Freie Presse, 18 Feb. 1908.

(22.) Die Mittelschule-Enquete im k.k. Ministerium für Kultus und Unterricht, Vienna 21–25 Januar 1908, Stenographisches Protokoll (Vienna: Alfred Hölder, 1908), p. 57; see too the words of approval from Freiher von Pidoll, ibid., p. 18 and 36.

(23.) Ibid., p. 11.

(24.) Ibid., p. 340.

(25.) Emilie Exner to Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, 29 July 1905, 9 July 1907, 22 July 1907, folder 81082 Ja, Stadtarchiv, Vienna.

(26.) Emilie Exner to Helene Bettelheim, undated, 909/35, Manuscript Collection, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.

(27.) Hacohen, Karl Popper, p. 43.

(28.) Ostwald and Exner disagreed over the implications of measurements made with a “mercury drip electrode,” an instrument developed by William Thomson and used to determine the potential of liquids and of air (hence its importance for Serafin Exner's research on atmospheric electricity). Since both Ostwald and Exner were opponents of the “contact” theory of electricity, there was no theoretical disagreement at stake. Their dispute was nominally over the value of the potential difference between the mercury electrode and the acid whose potential was to be measured. Serafin took the difference to be zero, while Ostwald took it to be 0.9 V. Each one accused the other of deriving his value from the discredited contact theory. Franz Serafin Exner and J. Tuma, “Studien zur chemischen Theorie des galvanischen Elementes,” Sitzungsberichte der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Wien IIb 97 (1889): 917–57; Wilhelm Ostwald, “Über Tropfelektroden,” Zeitschrift für physikalische Chemie 3 (1889): 354–58; Franz Serafin Exner and J. Tuma, “Ueber Quecksilber-Tropfelektroden,” Repertorium der Physik 25 (1889): 597–614; W. Ostwald, Zeitschrift für physikalische Chemie 4 (1890): 570; 597–614; Franz Serafin Exner and J. Tuma, “Ueber Ostwald'sche Tropfenelektroden: Zweite Erwiderung,” Repertorium der Physik 26 (1890): 91–101.

(29.) Franz Serafin Exner and J. Tuma, “Ueber Quecksilber-Tropfelektroden,” pp. 597–99.

(30.) Wilhelm Ostwald, Lebenslinien, vol. 1, p. 256.

(31.) Wilhelm Ostwald, Naturwissenschaftliche Forderungen zur Mittelschulreform (Vienna: Verein fur Schulreform, 1908); reprinted in Die Forderung des Tages (Leipzig: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1910), pp. 517–37. On the role of the multilinguistic state in shaping Austrian philosophy, see Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein's Vienna (New York: Touchstone, 1973).

(32.) Ostwald, Mittelschulreform, p. 10. Ostwald made a similar point in Der Energetische Imperativ (Leipzig: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1912), p. 394.

(33.) Wilhelm Jerusalem, Mitteilungen des Vereins der Freunde des humanistischen Gymnasiums 5 (1908): 21. On Jerusalem, see Friedrich Stadler, Studien zum Wiener Kreis (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1997), esp. pp. 94–95.

(34.) Mitteilungen des Vereins der Freunde des humanistischen Gymnasiums 5 (1908): 25.

(35.) Georg Albert, Ein Wort für das humanistische Gymnasium zur Erwiderung an Geheimrat Ostwald (Leipzig and Vienna: Deuticke, 1908), pp. 29–30.

(36.) Reprinted in Robert Pattai, Reden und Gedanken (Vienna: self-published, 1909), p. 14.

(37.) Hermann von Helmholtz, “On the Relation of Natural Science to Science in General,” in Science and Culture, pp. 76–95, on 86–88.

(38.) See too Uhlig, Entwicklung des Kampfes, p. 17.

(39.) Mitteilungen des Vereins der Freunde des humanistischen Gymnasiums 5 (1908): 10.

(40.) Pope Piux X, Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists, 3 July 1907.

(41.) Neue Freie Presse, 18 Nov. 1907, quoted in Matthias Höttinger, “Der Fall Wahrmund” (Ph.D. diss., University of Vienna, 1949), p. 18. This dissertation remains the most detailed analysis of the Wahrmund affair. The author, Matthias Höttinger, described the episode as an intrusion of politics into the academy. He accused conservatives and liberals alike of feeding the flames of a debate that would otherwise have quickly burned itself out. Höttinger was deeply critical of Wahrmund and his liberal apologists and sympathetic to their Catholic critics. Höttinger matriculated at the University of Vienna in October 1945, so perhaps his sympathy for Wahrmund's Catholic critics reflected an association between anti-Catholicism and National Socialism.

One of the most interesting contemporary comments on the affair came from Arthur Schnitzler, whose drama Professor Bernhardi considered what might have happened had Wahrmund been Jewish. See Schnitzler's letter to R. Charmatz, reprinted in the Schauspielhaus edition, p. 149. On this episode see also Engelbrecht, Bildungswesen, pp. 248–50, and Boyer, Culture and Political Crisis, pp. 200–1.

(42.) Neue Freie Presse, 21 Nov. 1907, quoted in Höttinger, “Fall Wahrmund,” p. 19.

(43.) On Du Bois-Reymond's argument, see Keith Anderton, “The Limits of Science: A Social, Political, and Moral Agenda for Epistemology in Nineteenth-Century Germany” (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1993).

(44.) L. Wahrmund, Katholische Weltanschauung und freie Wissenschaft (Munich: J. F. Lehmann, 1908), p. 5.

(45.) Höttinger, “Fall Wahrmund,” p. 55. See Akademischer Senat, G. Z. 1389 ex 1907/8, Archiv der Universität Wien, Vienna.

(46.) Höttinger, “Fall Wahrmund,” p. 6.

(47.) Emilie Exner to Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, 4 June 1908, folder 81082Ja, Vienna Stadtarchiv, Vienna.

(48.) Boyer, Culture and Political Crisis, pp. 200–1.

(49.) “Der Fall Wahrmund,” Das Freie Wort 2 (April 1908).

(50.) Neue Freie Presse, 3 Nov. 1908, p. 8.

(51.) Margarete Jodl, Friedrich Jodl, p. 231.

(52.) F. Jodl, “Der Begriff des Zufalles: Seine theoretische und praktische Bedeutung” (1904), reprinted in Vom Lebenswege, pp. 515–33, quotation on p. 533. See too Jodl, “Zufall, Gesetzmäβigkeit, Zweckmäβigkeit,” speech delivered in the Academy of Sciences, Vienna, May, 1911, in Vom Lebenswege, pp. 533–48.

(53.) F. Jodl, “Die Lehrbarkeit der Moral,” in Das Problem des Moralunterrichts in der Schule: Zwei Vorträge (Frankfurt am Main: Neuer Frankfurter Verlag, 1912), pp. 30–45, quotation on p. 33.

(54.) Menger, “Die Eroberung der Universitäten,” reprinted in A.J. Peters, “Klerikale Weltauffassung” und “Freie Forschung”: Ein offenes Wort an Professor Dr. Karl Menger (Vienna: Georg Eichinger), pp.7–9.

(55.) According to Hans Frisch, 50 Jahre Brunnwinkl, p. 10.

(56.) Franz Exner, Exnerei, p. 22; Karl Frisch, Fünf Häuser am See, p. 66.

(57.) Franz Serafin Exner, Der Schlichten Astronomia (Vienna: self-published, 1908), p. 42.

(58.) Franz Serafin Exner, Astronomia, p. 138.

(59.) Mach, Analyse der Empfindungen, 2nd edition (Jena: G. Fischer, 1900), p. 210.

(60.) In “Exner's Indeterminist Theory” Stöltzner perceptively notes that Exner shifted here from a Newtonian to a Boltzmannian framework.

(61.) Franz Serafin Exner, Astronomia, p. 235.

(62.) Ibid., p. 240.

(63.) Ibid., p. 246.

(64.) On the politically progressive connotations of the nebular hypothesis in nineteenth-century Britain, see Simon Schaffer, “On Astronomical Drawing,” in Picturing Science, Producing Art, ed. Peter Galison and Caroline Jones (New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 441–74.

(65.) Quoted in Salomon Frankfurter, Verlauf und Ergebnisse der Mittelschulenquete des Unter-richtsministeriums 21.–25. Jänner 1908 und andere Beiträge zur Geschichte der österreichischen Mittelschulreform (Vienna: Carl Fromme, 1910), p. 116.

(66.) Franz Serafin Exner to F. Jodl, 28 June 1908, folder IN 13340, Stadtarchiv, Vienna.

(67.) “Rektorsinauguration an der Wiener Universität,” Neue Freie Presse (evening edition) 15 Oct. 1908, p. 9.

(68.) Adolf Exner, Über politische Bildung, p. 12.

(69.) For instance, just two days after Serafin's inauguration a writer in the Neue Freie Presse cited Adolf's speech in an article on civics education in progressive schools (Neue Freie Presse, 17 Oct. 1908, p. 26). The humanist Georg Albert likewise cited Adolf in his defense of the classical Gymnasium curriculum (see above).

(70.) Franz Serafin Exner, Über Gesetze in Naturwissenschaft und Humanistik, Inaugurationsrede (Vienna: Hölder, 1909), p. 71. He dated the speech 28 Aug. 1908, St. Gilgen.

(71.) Franz Serafin Exner, Über Gesetze, p. 49.

(72.) Franz Serafin Exner, “Über unsere Atmosphäre,” speech delivered 19 Nov. 1890, published in Populäre Vorträge (Vienna: Verein zur Verbreitung naturwissenschafticher Kenntnisse, 1891), pp. 129–63.

(73.) Franz Serafin Exner, Über Gesetze, p. 63.

(74.) Franz Serafin Exner, Vom Chaos zur Gegenwart. Eine kulturhistorische Studie, Sig. 1888.089 MS, Library of the University of Vienna, p. 433.

(75.) Ibid., p. 87.

(76.) “Rektorsinauguration an der Wiener Universität,” Neue Freie Presse (evening edition) 15 Oct. 1908, p. 10.

(77.) Neue Freie Presse, 2 Nov. 1908, p. 6.

(78.) Neue Freie Presse, 2 Nov. 1908, p. 7.

(79.) See his letter to the Ministry of Culture and Instruction, 7 Nov. 1908, Akademischer Senat G.Z. 311, ex 1908/9, Archiv der Universitât Wien, Vienna.

(80.) Neue Freie Presse, 11 Nov. 1908, p. 12.

(81.) In between, he had held off a fight by negotiating separately with the German and Italian students. See his letter to the Ministry, 18 Nov. 1908, S.Z. 311 ex 1908/9, Archiv der Universitât Wien, Vienna.

(82.) Neue Freie Presse, 24 Nov. 1908, p. 4.

(84.) On bürgerliche notions of honor, see Frevert, Men of Honour.

(85.) Bericht über das Studienjahr 1908/1909 (Vienna: Adolf Holzhausen, 1909), p. 21.