Moritz Schlick’s Turning Point in Philosophy

29 Sep

The Turning Point in Philosophy is a smaller essay of his but it puts some things in perspective while looking at the logical positivist movement as a whole. If you are reading a lot of readings in logical positivism and are confused, this essay by Schlick clears a lot of it up, and makes one understand what the spirit, goal, and motivation of the movement really is. Schlick setting out the goals of the empiricism and positivism, makes me want to set out goals of metaphysics and how those goals should be achieved.

Schlick talks about what the main ‘turning point’ in philosophy is and why it has gone in that direction. The turning point in philosophy is where philosophy stops being cognitions, and becomes ‘acts.’ He talks about philosophy as the set of actions where philosophical propositions are shown as to their meanings, and where the propositions are verified as to their truth by science. He also talks about this turning point of going from cognitions to a system of actions by saying that it intentionally causes the collapse of metaphysics. Schlick is very up front about this statement in that he says that while epistemology and empirical philosophy has a process of actions set out for it to verify its truth, metaphysics has none. Carnap and other positivists created a theory of truth  to verify propositions during the positivist movement as a part of this ‘turning point.’ The verification conditions, including justification, meaning and truth is that truth theory set forth by Carnap. I have talked about these verification conditions many times before, but again, if we have a proposition to be verified, we justify it (I will explain this later in this writing), find its meaning (to be an integral part of philosophy after the collapse of logical positivism), and find its truth, and if we are able to find all 3 we have successfully verified its truth. Propositions come up when we observe things that confuse us and cause us to question things. Carnap says that these conditions are our ‘system of actions’ to verify it. Schlick stated this as the turning point in philosophy because of the change in methodology.

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that is done a lot because of cognitions and this leads to Schlick thinking that the whole of metaphysics (and even theology) should be thrown out and be destroyed because metaphysics does not very much have any other methodology besides cognition.  Schlick jumps on the enormous bandwagon of hating on metaphysics just like Carnap, Wittgenstein,  Hempel, Neurath, Hahn, and others. I do not think that metaphysics should be destroyed, collapsed, or discarded just on a trivial issue of methodology.

Methodology is a big part of philosophy that governs what the rest of philosophy does, and how it is done. What Schlick said is a turning point in philosophy is a large methodological reevaluation. Even though it is a large part of philosophy it is only the root of it, and its problems are only trivial ones. A problem in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, ontology, or aesthetics has a lot more dire consequences if not solved promptly. Because of how trivial methodological problems are, the turning point in philosophy should only be a need for some grease for the gears so that the bigger philosophy (i.e. metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, ontology, aesthetics) can work more cohesively. Methodology is just the solution for non-cohesive  epistemology or metaphysics, just like WD-40 is the solution to a squeaky door hinge.

My point in the WD-40 methodology analogy is that since epistemology had a turning point in philosophy in a methodological way that helps it work better, metaphysics can do the same thing. Metaphysics has done this to a certain degree, but I think a larger overhaul of methodology in metaphysics is necessary. Specifically, I think a metaphysical theory of truth is called for. Metaphysics should not collapse or be discarded over a trivial methodological problem, when the the hinges only need greasing. Throwing out metaphysics over this problem would be like throwing out the whole door, and its hinges instead of just going to the hardware store for some WD-40. Sounds illogical does it not?

Another thing that Schlick goes over is that the turning point in philosophy is a result of proving scientific claims. When Carnap first stated the system of the justification of science, one of the main driving forces in philosophy was verifying things through science. The Vienna Circle, where the logical positivist movement originated from, and the publishing The Vienna Circle: The Scientific Conception of the World talked about rejecting metaphysics and theology, while proving epistemological things through unification by science. This was the method that the logical positivists verified anything, and within verification, justified scientific things.  The justification system of science was what Carnap started with implicit definitions of geometry and physics, and coordinating definitions of language all within analytic things, and also observation and protocol sentences within synthetic things. The verification conditions by Carnap included this within the justification conditions. Concerning the turning point’s driving force towards scientifically conceiving and proving the world, I do not find it a bad idea. It was a good thing for them to try to scientifically prove things to benefit epistemology, but counting out metaphysics and theology while doing that is not good for anyone.

I claim that it is not good for anyone to count those two fields of philosophy out because epistemology cannot answer all things in the world and our lives. Metaphysics and theology contain things that can only be answered by metaphysical and theological methodology and philosophy. This is why I think  a metaphysical theory of truth should be formulated so that metaphysics can finally have a specific methodology of proving the things it proposes. I would like to give my 2 cents on what that metaphysical theory of truth as methodology should be, but not right now because I feel my thoughts inferior and I must refine my thoughts on the subject  and research more about it.

Before ending this writing,  I’d like to talk about a few things that a metaphysical theory of truth should have. A theory of truth serving a metaphysical truth must entirely have a way to account for things proposed that cannot be empirically confirmed. When I say empirically I mean things that cannot be observed. There are many things like Kant’s noumena that cannot be empirically observed, but I think that there must be a way to redeem them from a pseudo-statement status, and prove their existence. I know not yet exactly how this is to be done, but that is a long goal to strive for for all metaphysicians. A future theory of truth for metaphysics should also have some meaning qualifications for it as well, simply because many ‘teavy’ and ‘toovy’s ‘ are proposed in metaphysics that suppose extension and reference, which neither are actually meaning, when both are thought to be so (teavy and toovy are 2 examples of what Carnap thinks are like the terms metaphysics proposes, see the category of Rudolf Carnap to your right to see to read more about Carnap’s teavy and toovy). I will talk more in the future about this future metaphysical theory of truth. All that needs to happen is a revamping of methodology in metaphysics instead of just throwing it all out.

Thanks for the support. More to come on Schlick and his Foundations of Knowledge paper, along with more writings on maybe Carnap and a first writing on Quine.


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