The verification theory of meaning as originally put forth by Ayer suffered from the problem that according to its criterion, any statement, including “green ideas sleep furiously", was meaningful. This problem did not go away with the reformulation put forth by Wright. This article proposes a different criterion which aims to preserve the notion of “verifiability in principle" which Ayer claimed separated the meaningful from the meaningless. The status of the verification theory as verifiable according to its own standards is (...) also discussed, and the objections to the theory as unverifiable are rejected. (shrink)
A. J. Ayer’s empiricist criterion of meaning was supposed to have sorted all statements into nonsense on the one hand, and tautologies or genuinely factual statements on the other. Unfortunately for Ayer, it follows from classical logic that his criterion is trivial—it classifies all statements as either tautologies or genuinely factual, but none as nonsense. However, in this paper, I argue that Ayer’s criterion of meaning can be defended from classical proofs of its triviality by the adoption of a relevant (...) logic—an idea which is motivated because, according to Ayer, the genuinely factual statements are those which observation is relevant to. (shrink)
There is widespread agreement that while on a Dummettian theory of meaning the justified logic is intuitionist, as its constants are governed by harmonious rules of inference, the situation is reversed on Huw Price's bilateralist account, where meanings are specified in terms of primitive speech acts assertion and denial. In bilateral logics, the rules for classical negation are in harmony. However, as it is possible to construct an intuitionist bilateral logic with harmonious rules, there is no formal argument against intuitionism (...) from the bilateralist perspective. Price gives an informal argument for classical negation based on a pragmatic notion of belief, characterised in terms of the differences they make to speakers' actions. The main part of this paper puts Price's argument under close scrutiny by regimenting it and isolating principles Price is committed to. It is shown that Price should draw a distinction between A or ¬A making a difference. According to Price, if A makes a difference to us, we treat it as decidable. This material allows the intuitionist to block Price's argument. Abandoning classical logic also brings advantages, as within intuitionist logic there is a precise meaning to what it might mean to treat A as decidable: it is to assume A ∨ ¬A. (shrink)
Scott Soames argues that interpreted in the light of Quine's holistic verificationism, Quine's thesis of underdetermination leads to a contradiction. It is contended here that if we pay proper attention to the evolution of Quine's thinking on the subject, particularly his criterion of theory individuation, Quine's thesis of underdetermination escapes Soames' charge of paradoxicality.
The focus of this paper are Dummett's meaning-theoretical arguments against classical logic based on consideration about the meaning of negation. Using Dummettian principles, I shall outline three such arguments, of increasing strength, and show that they are unsuccessful by giving responses to each argument on behalf of the classical logician. What is crucial is that in responding to these arguments a classicist need not challenge any of the basic assumptions of Dummett's outlook on the theory of meaning. In particular, I (...) shall grant Dummett his general bias towards verificationism, encapsulated in the slogan 'meaning is use'. The second general assumption I see no need to question is Dummett's particular breed of molecularism. Some of Dummett's assumptions will have to be given up, if classical logic is to be vindicated in his meaning-theoretical framework. A major result of this paper will be that the meaning of negation cannot be defined by rules of inference in the Dummettian framework. (shrink)
Most analytic philosophers are atheists, but is there a deep connection between analytic philosophy and atheism? The paper argues a) that the founding fathers of analytic philosophy were mostly teenage atheists before they became philosophers; b) that analytic philosophy was invented partly because it was realized that the God-substitute provided by the previously fashionable philosophy - Absolute Idealism – could not cut the spiritual mustard; c) that analytic philosophy developed an unhealthy obsession with meaninglessness which led to a new kind (...) of atheism that dismissed talk of God as factually meaningless (neither true nor false) rather than meaningful but false; but d) that this new-fangled atheism (unlike the old-fashioned atheism of the founders) is false, since it relies on theories of meaning – verificationism and falsificationism – which are themselves false. The primary focus is on Bertrand Russell, though other analytic philosophers such as Ayer, Neurath and Flew are also extensively discussed. (shrink)
The fundamental assumption of Dummett’s and Prawitz’ proof-theoretic justification of deduction is that ‘if we have a valid argument for a complex statement, we can construct a valid argument for it which finishes with an application of one of the introduction rules governing its principal operator’. I argue that the assumption is flawed in this general version, but should be restricted, not to apply to arguments in general, but only to proofs. I also argue that Dummett’s and Prawitz’ project of (...) providing a logical basis for metaphysics only relies on the restricted assumption. (shrink)
Critics of attempts to explain meaning in terms of truth-conditions have tended to charge their opponents with misconceptions regarding truth. I shall argue that the 'naïve' version of the truth-conditional theory which best accounts for its resilience fails for a different and more basic reason, namely, circularity arising from the contingency of meaning. One reason why this problem has been overlooked is a tendency (noted by Dummett in a different connection) to assimilate the naïve truth-conditional theory to an idealized verificationism.
A person skeptical about other minds supposes it is possible in principle that there are no minds other than his. A person skeptical about an external world thinks it is possible there is no world external to him. Some philosophers think a person can refute the skeptic and prove that his world is not the solitary scenario the skeptic supposes might be realized. In this paper I examine one argument that some people think refutes solipsism. The argument, from Wittgenstein, is (...) grounded in a thesis about language. Some people believe that in using language a person necessarily is linked to persons other than himself. Some people think a person can use the ‘communalist’ principle to refute forms of solipsism. I show that people do not refute solipsism with the Wittgensteinian, language-necessarily-is-shared principle. (shrink)
Dem "Manifestationsargument" zufolge steht eine realistische Semantik der Wahrheitsbedingungen im Widerspruch zu dem Gedanken, dass das Verstehen von Sätzen eine Fähigkeit ist, die sich im Handeln manifestieren können muss. – Der Aufsatz zeigt, dass sowohl Realisten als auch Anti-Realisten die These aufzugeben haben, dass das Verstehen eines Satzes im Erfassen der jeweiligen Wahrheitsbedingungenbesteht. Die realistische Annahme der Existenz verifikationstranszendenter Wahrheiten steht – unabhängig vom Manifestationsprinzip – im Widerspruch zu einer wahrheitskonditionalen Semantik. Die von heutigen Anti-Realisten vertretenen Theorien des Verstehens sind (...) allerdings einem ähnlichen Einwand ausgesetzt, insofern sie gleichfalls nicht unsere Fähigkeit, unentscheidbare Sätze zu verstehen, erklären können. (shrink)
As argued in Hellman (1993), the theorem of Pour-El and Richards (1983) can be seen by the classicist as limiting constructivist efforts to recover the mathematics for quantum mechanics. Although Bridges (1995) may be right that the constructivist would work with a different definition of 'closed operator', this does not affect my point that neither the classical unbounded operators standardly recognized in quantum mechanics nor their restrictions to constructive arguments are recognizable as objects by the constructivist. Constructive substitutes that may (...) still be possible necessarily involve additional 'incompleteness' in the mathematical representation of quantum phenomena. Concerning a second line of reasoning in Hellman (1993), its import is that constructivist practice is consistent with a 'liberal' stance but not with a 'radical', verificationist philosophical position. Whether such a position is actually espoused by certain leading constructivists, they are invited to clarify. (shrink)
It is getting increasingly difficult to comprehend the history of ideas of the Vienna Circle and only a clear and critical exposition of it will save it from total oblivion; an apologetic presentation will not be understood. Now that the positivist theory of meaning is no longer accepted, only an honest presentation of this fact will enable us to comprehend it and its transformations. An analysis of a paper by Otto Neurath illustrates this: Neurath's inability to present fairly his critics' (...) ideas and to do them justice then, makes him incomprehensible to us now. (shrink)
More often than not, the attractive features of Peirce's theory of meaning have been overlooked because of the temptation on the part of many philosophers to dismiss Peirce as a beknighted forerunner of a narrow form of verificationism frequently identified with the view of the ...
This paper is divided into four sections. -/- The first section contains an informal characterization of what may, for the purposes of this discussion, be referred to as the standard interpretation of theological statements. -/- Then, in the second section, I mention two challenges to the commonsense view that theological statements have cognitive content: the quote “falsifiability challenge” and the “ translatability challenge”. -/- Both of these challenges involve an appeal to an empiricist criterion of cognitive content, but I contend (...) that they are nonetheless very different arguments and that clarity about the fundamental issues involved in the question of theology and verificationism cannot be achieved unless these two lines are argument are carefully distinguished. -/- The third section is concerned with the question of the possibility of an empiricist criterion of cognitive significance. The underlying purpose of the discussion will be to arrive derive at an evaluation of the commonly advanced claim that verificationist objections to the meaningfulness of theological language can be refuted by simply arguing that is not possible to formulate an adequate confirmability criterion of cognitive significance. -/- I then conclude by suggesting some responses that seem more promising. (shrink)
In the first part of this paper the author restates arguments made earlier against well-known criticisms of a logical nature leveled (by C. Hempel and others) against the so-called verifiability principle, which purport to show that it is at once both too restrictive and too permissive: including as cognitively meaningful, statements intuitively lacking this property, and excluding others that are generally admitted to possess it. The author claims to show that the charge that the verifiability principle is unduly permissive will (...) not stand, because of certain logico-semantical blunders made by the critics; and that the charge of being too restrictive can be removed by introducing the notion of guasi-truth-conditions. He then moves on to an examination and elaboration of the concept of cognitive use, in terms of which he attempts to turn the flank of the argument purporting to show that the verifiability principle is too restrictive, explaining that even if one does not invoke the concept of quasi-truth-conditions, that of cognitive use enables one to save for science and cognition in general sentences that lack truth-values (cognitive meaning). A version of the verifiability principle that denies cognitive meaning to non-finitistic, non-analytic mixed-quantifications does not therefore do any injury to science, frequent claims to the contrary notwithstanding. (shrink)
For some time there have been appearing in the philosophical literature hints and suggestions that the so-called “problem of the external world” should be abandoned, not primarily because it is of little pragmatic significance, but rather because there is really no such problem to be solved. The publication of Reichenbach's Experience and Prediction has now stimulated a resurgence of these suggestions. In the course of his discussion of the book in the April Philosophy of Science Professor Ernest Nagel has taken (...) occasion to argue briefly that this problem, which Reichenbach attempts to solve, cannot even be stated unless one assumes its solution. And in a similar vein more recently Dr. William Barrett has also criticized Reichenbach and has then gone on to present certain fundamental logical considerations which, it is alleged, guarantee that the expression “Is there an external world?” cannot designate a legitimate philosophical problem. The situation, as he describes it, is as follows. The sentence “There is an external world” or the equivalent sentence “There is a physical object” can be confirmed in a physicalistic language only if one assumes the existence of certain physical objects. This procedure is of course circular. These sentences cannot therefore be confirmed, and, since the verifiability theory of meaning is accepted, the questions derived by transferring them into the interrogative mood cannot be meaningfully asked. A similar result is asserted to follow if one employs a perception language for science in place of a physicalistic language, since there is a parallelism between these two languages such that for every expression in the one there will be a corresponding expression in the other. (shrink)
First published in 1949 expressly to introduce logical positivism to English speakers. Reichenbach, with Rudolph Carnap, founded logical positivism, a form of epistemofogy that privileged scientific over metaphysical truths.
In the following, I will mean by ‘verificationism’ the doctrine according to which understanding a sentence entails that one knows how to verify it, i.e. how to determine its truth value. It is not the only possible meaning of ‘verificationism’, nor perhaps the most common. However, it is with reference to this sense of ‘verificationism’ that I am going to ask the question whether the Tractatus is committed to verificationism.