Verificationism has had a bad press for many years. The view that the meaning of our words is bound up with the discernible difference it would make if what we say, think or write were true or false, nowadays is scorned as “positivist” though it was shared by eminent empiricists and pragmatists. This paper seeks to sort through some of the complexities of what is often portrayed as an unduly simplistic conception. I begin with an overview of its main (...) logical empiricist varieties before considering which aspects of it fall victim to which of the three major types of objection that have been raised against it. I will conclude that what is left standing is a modest proposal that seems worth further investigation. (shrink)
Verificationism is the first comprehensive history of a concept that dominated philosophy and scientific methodology between the 1930s and 1960s,surveying the precursors,the main proponents and the rehabilitators. This title available in eBook format. Click here for more information . Visit our eBookstore at: www.ebookstore.tandf.co.uk.
The term verificationism is used in two different ways: the first is in relation to the verification principle of meaning, which we usually and rightly associate with the logical empiricists, although, as we now know, it derives in reality from Wittgenstein, and the second is in relation to the theory of meaning for intuitionistic logic that has been developed, beginning of course with Brouwer, Heyting and Kolmogorov in the twenties and early thirties, but in much more detail lately, particularly (...) in connection with intuitionistic type theory. It is therefore very natural to ask how these two forms of verificationism are related to one another: was the verificationism that we had in the thirties a kind of forerunner of what we have now, or was it something entirely different? I would like to discuss this question by considering a very particular problem, which was at the heart of Schlick’s interests, namely, the problem whether there might exist undecidable propositions or, if you prefer, unsolvable problems or unanswerable questions: it is merely a matter of wording which of these terms you choose. As I said, it is a problem which was at the heart of Schlick’s interests: it is explicitly discussed already in his early, programmatic paper Die Wende in der Philosophie in the first volume of Erkenntnis from 1930, and there is a short late paper, which has precisely Unanswerable Questions? as its title, from 1935, and he discussed it on several occasions in between also. (shrink)
Verificationism is the doctrine stating that all truths are knowable. Fitch’s knowability paradox, however, demonstrates that the verificationist claim (all truths are knowable) leads to “epistemic collapse”, i.e., everything which is true is (actually) known. The aim of this article is to investigate whether or not verificationism can be saved from the effects of Fitch’s paradox. First, I will examine different strategies used to resolve Fitch’s paradox, such as Edgington’s and Kvanvig’s modal strategy, Dummett’s and Tennant’s restriction strategy, (...) Beall’s paraconsistent strategy, and Williamson’s intuitionistic strategy. After considering these strategies I will propose a solution that remains within the scope of classical logic. This solution is based on the introduction of a truth operator. Though this solution avoids the shortcomings of the non-standard (intuitionistic) solution, it has its own problems. Truth, on this approach, is not closed under the rule of conjunction-introduction. I will conclude that verificationism is defensible, though only at a rather great expense. (shrink)
For example, Cheryl Misak in her book-length examination of verificationism writes that ‘the holist [such as Quine] need not reject verificationism, if it is suitably formulated. Indeed, Quine often describes himself as a verificationist’.[iii] Misak concludes that Quine ‘can be described as a verificationist who thinks that the unit of meaning is large’;[iv] and when comparing Dummett and Quine, Misak states that ‘both can be, and in fact are, verificationists’.[v].
Verificationism has often seemed attractive to philosophers because of its apparent abilityto deliver us from scepticism. However, I argue that purely epistemological considerationsprovide insufficient reason for embracing verificationism over realism. I distinguish twotypes of sceptical problem: those that stem from underdetermination by the actual data,and those that stem from underdetermination by all possible data. Verificationismevades problems of the second sort, but is powerless in the face of problems of the firstsort. But problems of the first sort are equally (...) pressing. Furthermore, there is some reasonto think that the two types of problem have a common origin. Thus the desire to avoidscepticism provides insufficient reason for adopting verificationism. (shrink)
I have argued that without an adequate solution to the knower paradox Fitch's Proof is- or at least ought to be-ineffective against verificationism. Of course, in order to follow my suggestion verificationists must maintain that there is currently no adequate solution to the knower paradox, and that the paradox continues to provide prima facie evidence of inconsistent knowledge. By my lights, any glimpse at the literature on paradoxes offers strong support for the first thesis, and any honest, non-dogmatic reflection (...) on the knower paradox provides strong support for the second. Whether verificationists want to go the route I've suggested is not for me todecide. As in the previous section my aim has been that of defending the mere viability of verificationism in the face of what many, many philosophers have taken to be its death-knell, namely Fitch's Proof. But, as the final objection makes clear, showing that verificationism can live in the face of Fitch's Proof is one thing; showing that it should live is another project. If nothing else, I hope that this papershows that verificationists still have a project to pursue; Fitch's Proof, contrary to popular opinion, need not bury verificationism.13. (shrink)
The connection between sense, verification, and mode of verification never entirely disappeared from Wittgenstein’s philosophy. However, there was a time – the years 1929– 1932 – when Wittgenstein upheld explicitly verificationist views: he identified a proposition’s meaning with the mode or method of its verification, and he said that to understand a proposition is to know how the proposition is verified. This has been regarded as puzzling, in view of the fact that the Tractatus is usually considered not to be (...) committed to verificationism; indeed, it is usually regarded as incompatible with verificationism. Several people have proposed to revise such a received view: Michael Wrigley (1989) has claimed that verificationism must be implicit in the Tractatus; and P. M.S. Hacker (1986) has argued that the Tractatus, though not verificationist, is not as distant from verificationism as it has been taken to be. In another paper (Marconi, forthcoming) I discuss their views. Here I will just notice that, even if one regards the Tractatus as implicitly verificationist, the problem remains of explaining why and how did Wittgenstein reach the explicitly – indeed, blatantly – verificationist outlook of the early Thirties. This is the first question I would like to try to answer in this paper. The second question is, why was such rampant verificationism short-lived? Or in other words, why was verificationism de-emphasized so that, although verificationist themes are undoubtedly present in the later Wittgenstein’s writings, the extreme formulations of the early Thirties tend to disappear after 1933? (shrink)
I aim to stand the received view about verificationism on its head. It is commonly thought that verificationism is a powerful philosophical tool, which we could deploy very effectively if only it weren’t so hopelessly implausible. On the contrary, I argue. Verificationism - if properly construed - may well be true. But its philosophical applications are chimerical.
It is argued that Carnap was not a complete verificationist in the Aufbau despite the widespread view that he was. That doctrine would be intrinsic to constructionalism only if either of two additional assumptions are made, and there is no reason to believe that Carnap made these assumptions. Further, in the Aufbau Carnap did not demand verifiability independently of constructionalism, and his clear rejection of verifiability in Pseudoproblems counts heavily against his ever having accepted it in the Aufbau.
Wittgenstein is accused by Dummett of radical conventionalism, the view that the necessity of any statement is a matter of express linguistic convention, i.e., a decision. This conventionalism is alleged to follow, in Wittgenstein's middle period, from his 'concept modification thesis', that a proof significantly changes the sense of the proposition it aims to prove. I argue for the assimilation of this thesis to Wittgenstein's 'no-conjecture thesis' concerning mathematical statements. Both flow from a strong verificationist view of mathematics held by (...) Wittgenstein in his middle period, and this also explains his views on the law of excluded middle and consistency. Strong verificationism is central to making sense of Wittgenstein's middle-period philosophy of mathematics. (shrink)
_Verificationism_ is the first comprehensive history of a concept that dominated philosophy and scientific methodology between the 1930s and the 1960s. The verificationist principle - the concept that a belief with no connection to experience is spurious - is the most sophisticated version of empiricism. More flexible ideas of verification are now being rehabilitated by a number of philosophers. C.J. Misak surveys the precursors, the main proponents and the rehabilitators. Unlike traditional studies, she follows verificationist theory beyond the demise of (...) positivism to examine its reappearance in the work of modern philosophers. Most interestingly, she argues that despite feminism's strenuous opposition to positivism, verificationist thought is at the heart of much of contemporary feminist philosophy. _Verificationism_ is an excellent assessment of a major and influential system of thought. (shrink)
Papineau has suggested that the Principle of Non-Contradiction is a logical law that ?verificationists? are not entitled to claim as a prioritrue. The Principle, like that of Excluded Middle, is not sufficiently grounded in the ?miserly? epistemology of verificationism to be proven in ?verificationist logic?. We examine who might be challenged by this claim: who are the ?verificationists?? We defend our candidates against Papineau's criticisms and other attacks, but this leaves the verificationist open to a different criticism.
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.
Verificationism has been a hallmark of logical empiricism. According to this principle, a sentence is insignificant in a certain sense if its truth value cannot be determined. Although logical empiricists strove for decades to develop an adequate principle of verification, they failed to resolve its problems. This led to a general abandonment of the verificationist project in the early 1960s. In the last 50 years, this view has received tremendously bad press. Today it is mostly regarded as an outdated (...) historical concept. Theories that have evolved since the abandonment of verificationism can, however, help overcome some of its key problems. More specifically, an adequate criterion of significance can be derived from a combination of modern theories of justification and belief revision, along with a formal semantics for counterfactuals. In view of these potential improvements, the abandonment of verificationism appears premature. Half a century following its decline, it might be about time to revisit this disreputable view. The author argues in favor of a weak form of verificationism. This approach could be referred to as minimal verificationism, as it involves a weakening of traditional verificationist principles in various respects while maintaining their core idea. (shrink)
The question is raised of the source of the extreme verificationist views which Wittgenstein put forward immediately after his return to philosophy in 1929. Since these views appear to be radically different from the ideas put forward in theTractatus some explanation of this dramatic new turn in Wittgenstein''s thought certainly seems to be called for. Wittgenstein''s very low level of interest in philosophy between 1918 and shortly before his return to philosophy is documented. Attention then focuses on the crucial period (...) immediately before Wittgenstein''s return to Cambridge, and it is shown that in this period he encountered only two new philosophical influences. These were the ideas of Brouwer and the ideas of the Vienna Circle. Each of these is examined and neither is found capable of providing an explanation of the source of Wittgenstein''s verificationism. This leads to a reconsideration of the underlying assumption that Wittgenstein''s verificationism does represent the radical departure from the ideas of theTractatus which it appears to. It is argued that the only way we can account for Wittgenstein''s evident approval of the reading of theTractatus which he must have encountered in his meetings with members of the Vienna Circle is by concluding that, far from being incompatible with his earlier ideas, some form of verificationism must always have been implicit in theTractatus. (shrink)
As even a cursory glance at Peirce’s Collected Papers makes apparent, he is an extremely unsystematic and difficult writer. In this paper, I want to sort out some of the main arguments that connect his verificationism with his realism and his metaphysics. I pay particular attention to his contrast between individuals and universals and its bearing on his doctrine of perceptual judgment and abductive inference. In the final section, I turn to two criticisms of Peircean realism urged by Quine (...) and, in conclusion, offer some suggestions as to what is needed for a full critical evaluation of it. (shrink)
In the following article, we propose to show that following the general verificationist epistemic programme (its demand that the truth of our judgments be verifiable), the analysis of measurement on the one hand, and the classical positivist analysis of common-sense observation on the other, do not lead to same conclusions. This is especially important, because the differences in conclusions concern the positivist theory/observation distinction. In particular, the analysis of measurement does not fully support this distinction. This fact might have important (...) consequences for the problem of scientific realism and related ontological and epistemological problems in the philosophy of science. (shrink)
The original version of the Principle of Verifiabüity (PV), formulated as "The meaning of a proposition is the method of its verification" (Schlick, quoting Wittgenstein), can be criticised as ungrammatical. Schlick's claim that it was a "truism" reflecting commonsense and scientific practice is refuted by PV's paradoxical consequences. Its users faüed to distinguish between operational and situational readings, the latter of which invokes a mythology of comparison with "facts". Wittgenstein rightly described PV as a "rule of thumb" of limited usefulness.
The original version of the Principle of Verifiabüity, formulated as "The meaning of a proposition is the method of its verification", can be criticised as ungrammatical. Schlick's claim that it was a "truism" reflecting commonsense and scientific practice is refuted by PV's paradoxical consequences. Its users faüed to distinguish between operational and situational readings, the latter of which invokes a mythology of comparison with "facts". Wittgenstein rightly described PV as a "rule of thumb" of limited usefulness.