History, Transfer, Politics: Five Studies on the Legacy of Uppsala Philosophy

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The Uppsala school of Axel Hägerström can be said to have been the last genuinely Swedish philosophical movement. On the other hand, the Swedish analytic tradition is often said to have its roots in Hägerström’s thought. This work examines the transformation from Uppsala philosophy to analytic philosophy from an actor-based historical perspective. The aim is to describe how a group of younger scholars (Ingemar Hedenius, Konrad Marc-Wogau, Anders Wedberg, Alf Ross, Herbert Tingsten, Gunnar Myrdal) colonised the legacy of Hägerström and Uppsala philosophy, and faced the challenges they met in trying to reconcile this legacy with the changing philosophical and political currents of the 1930s and 40s. Following Quentin Skinner, the texts are analysed as “moves” or “speech acts” in a particular historical context.

The thesis consists of five previously published case studies and an introduction. The first study describes how the image of Hägerström as the father of the Swedish analytic tradition was created by a particular faction of younger Uppsala philosophers who (re-) presented the Hägerströmian philosophy as a parallel movement to logical empiricism. The second study examines the confrontations between Uppsala philosophy and logical empiricism in both the editorial board and in the pages of Sweden’s leading philosophical journal Theoria. The third study focuses on how the younger generation redescribed Hägerströmian legal philosophical ideas (Scandinavian Legal Realism), while the fourth study discusses how they responded to the accusations of a connection between Hägerström’s value nihilistic theory and totalitarianism. Finally, the fifth study examines how the Swedish social scientist and Social Democratic intellectual Gunnar Myrdal tried to reconcile value nihilism with a strong political programme for social reform.

The contribution of this thesis to the field consists mainly in a re-evaluation of the role of Uppsala philosophy in the history of Swedish philosophy. From this perspective the Uppsala School was less a collection of certain definite philosophical ideas than an intellectual legacy that was the subject of fierce struggles. Its theories and ideas were redescribed in various ways by individual actors with different philosophical and political intentions.
Original languageEnglish
Print ISBNs978-952-10-6159-2
Electronic ISBNs978-952-10-6160-8
Publication statusPublished - 2010
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Note regarding dissertation

Five articles and an introduction of 130 pages

Fields of Science

  • 611 Philosophy
  • logical empiricism
  • positivism
  • analytic philosophy
  • value nihilism
  • Uppsala philosophy
  • Axel Hägerström
  • Ingemar Hedenius
  • 615 History and Archaeology
  • cultural transfers
  • history of philosophy
  • intellectual history
  • 513 Law
  • legal realism
  • Alf Ross
  • 517 Political science
  • nordic welfare state
  • totalitarianism
  • democracy

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