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

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

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