Archive | A.J. Ayer RSS feed for this section

Ayer’s Function of Philosophy in Language, Truth, and Logic ( A Metaphilosophy #2)

2 Dec

I am writing a few things here on my free of obligations thursday so that I can get some posts in before I won’t be able to write anything for about a month (I think). This is simply because I have a ton of school things to do for the next 2 weeks and then I will have Christmas break and will have little time.  I will for sure come back to writing by the week of January 10.

I want to talk about an aspect of another section in A.J. Ayer’s Language Truth and Logic. The second section of the book is the Function of Philosophy. I find this interesting because metaphilosophy and finding out what the goal of philosophy is should be held dear by any philosopher. Again showing his rejection for metaphysics Ayer states that the function for philosophy is not to find insight on metaphysical things. Ayer says that the search for a first philosophy is not really the goal. First philosophy is the kind of philosophizing Descartes did in his meditations.

Ayer proclaims philosophy to be a critic. This is for one thing towards scientific propositions where philosophy is used to critique the sciences and make it better. Mostly, he states philosophy to be a critic in that it tells one whether their beliefs are  ‘self consistent’ or not, and that it shows the things we use to find the truth ( or lack thereof) in our propositions. This function of philosophy contributes to science and critiques things one scientifically proposes. Ayer seems to be defending against the idea that science cannot do without philosophy because of induction. He goes on to say that induction cannot be solved, and we should deal with it in science and philosophy is not really needed for this purpose.

Others in the logical positivist era and before it have maintained the idea that science can do without philosophy and simply that philosophy assists philosophy by critiquing it and making it the best it possibly can be. In the beginning of logical positivism, the Vienna Circle (influenced by Mach and Wittgenstein, and including Carnap, Hempel, Schlick and others) wrote the Scientific Conception of the World. “The goal ahead is a unified science. the endeavor is to link and harmonize  the achievements of individual investigators in their various fields of science. From this aim follows the emphasis on collective efforts, and also the emphasis on what can be grasped intersubjectively; from this springs the search for a neutral system of formulae, for a symbolism freed from the slag of historical languages; and also the search for a total system of concepts.” This I quoted from the Scientific Conception of the World. The aim these scientists show to have is to give philosophy a goal to contribute in this unified science with physics, chemistry and all other sciences contributing in any specific theory. Philosophy just seems here to be one of many parts of a collective effort. Philosophy plays a huge part in this collective effort in that its theories can contribute to any kind of discipline or science. Did I mention the members of the Vienna Circle rejected metaphysics too? Its what all the positivists were doing. If your friends jumped off a bridge would you do it too? I am simply joking because of how many people in the logical positivist era who advocated a verification, an a priori epistemology, and the rejection and elimination of all metaphysics and its pseudo-statements. I can understand why they feel the need to remove metaphysics from philosophy because science does some of metaphysics’ roles in the most logical way possible (I am kind of being facetious). A unified science achieved by collective efforts among many sciences and disciplines is one goal philosophy has. This should not involve the rejection of metaphysics however.

Putting science aside, I feel philosophy is not simply an additive profession used to critique and assist scientific experimentation and exploration. In mostly non-metaphysical aspects of philosophy, there are roles in philosophy made specifically for the critique and use in science, but an underlying goal or purpose exists under all specialized goals and roles the specific kinds of philosophy has (such as I feel the Vienna Circle refers to the philosophy of science and not really to the rest of philosophy as they may have thought). The huge purpose philosophy seems to me to have is the role in doing what science and experimentation cannot.  Science cannot prove the existence of noumenal beings or transcendent realities but philosophy actually has a chance at doing just that. If one uses the intersection of metaphysics and epistemology along with some ethics (and of course logic as the foundation of understandings) to postulate upon our empirical and un-empirical observations, things can be discovered that science cannot measure up to. This is why I think the unified science by the collective efforts of all disciplines including philosophy is the best combination because science being paired with philosophy can yield great results. Philosophical propositions can be experimented sometimes scientifically and proved out.

I totally advocate the unified science proposed by the Vienna Circle, but instead of eliminating half of the entire body of philosophy, it should be revitalized and used toward science’s benefit. Metaphysics can be beneficial to scientists as can some religion.  Philosophy should be used whenever possible in all disciplines of science.

I have interest in metaphilosophy to help philosophers define and redefine the purpose being driven toward. I want to keep addressing themes in metaphilosophy here every once in awhile to keep thoughts on track. Each philosopher regardless of situation has his or her own course of action to take to complete a philosophical project or work. I have my own so I feel it necessary to keep metaphilosophically addressing philosophy right now, and the philosophy I currently pursue.

What function or goal do you think philosophy should have?

Let me know your answer if you would like to (on Twitter, commenting below, or by email).

I appreciate the support as always.

A.J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic: Elimination of Metaphysics

30 Nov

I return, once again, yes again, to Mr. Alfred Jules Ayer. I am now interested in his book he wrote in his twenties Language Truth and Logic. Reading it, the first section addresses metaphysics and why it sucks.

What a positivist.

I have two bones to pick with the first section of Ayer’s book, but he goes over more things than I am particularly concerned with. He begins to discredit the metaphysician  by stating that they attempt to get into the transcendent reality (unseen unempirical reality) when we create our propositions by our senses. When we feel we are limited to our 5 senses, postulating about anything other than empirical matters can be something hard to muster. Ayer claims that if one cannot really or worthily postulate about anything unempirical, most metaphysics conducts philosophies of pseudo-statement where nothing is really proclaimed and nothing can be argued for or against because again nothing is really proclaimed. From this discussion of most metaphysics as crappy pseudo-statements Ayer goes on to saying that statements and propositions made in metaphysics and epistemology must have a process of verification. He then goes into aspects of verification ( like application and other things).

Like I said, what a positivist (trying to kill metaphysics and trying to verify statements).

I have said before, I have 2 opinions differing from Ayer. 1) must all propositions be derived from sensory perception?

2)Verification is a lost cause.

In the beginning of the section Elimination of Metaphysics, Ayer stated that if most propositions are derived from sensory perception, transcendent realities cannot be understood or postulated about. Not to say that we have a 6th sense, but there are senses and feelings beyond the 5 senses we all know (sight, sound, smell, touch, sound). The main five tell us things about phenomenal reality, but there are things we have that can lead us to postulations about noumenal reality. When I say noumenal reality, I mean reality we cannot empirically perceive. I hate to exemplify this because I will be called dumb, but one might be a conversation indirectly or directly between a God and man. This is not of th 5 senses. This can note an existence of a God, and a heaven. Another example is God talking to a man and sending him to a very dark place (i.e. Hell) and then bringing him back. These observations are not empirical. This would lead me to question does one have the 5 senses beyond the body and when the soul is relocated? I think not, and it is just that everything is made known to the soul of what is around it. This is all hard to explain because empirically understood people will not understand. A connection between a God and a man, or a relocation to another space, is personally experienced only with the soul present, and cannot be understood to a man who has not experienced it himself.

I have only experienced an indirect conversation with God. In a hard time of problems in my life, and constantly praying to God for answers, my prayers were answered as I immediately understood wholly my situation and what I needed to do from there on out. It is almost as if I had a close experience with God to the point that I cannot explain it to any other than myself. These experiences are examples of what can lead us into inferring a noumenal space not empirically observed by people.

My point is that not all propositions have to be derived from empirical observations. It isn’t like we can chose to observe unempirically a noumenal place or being, but it happens at the will of God and other beings there. I do not mean to reject Ayer’s argument solely on religious inferences, but I mean to reject it by saying that if people have conceived of beings and places unempirical and not phenomenal before, it  can happen again even if its not at our will.

This leads me to verification, the Holy Grail of the logical positivists. Quine and other philosophers have shown the with meaning and other things in verification, it is just not a feasible project for metaphysical and epistemological propositions.  Verification can be done, but only on a personal basis, or a local basis between a few people who have experienced the same things. If verification of statements can only be done on such local or personal bases, there is little point to continuing on the quest for verification. Meaning has been solved, as has justification and criterion of application, and how these are applied has also been solved, but using all of these things in verification is what I understand as a pointless endeavor.

Going back to the noumenal perceptions that I believe people (including myself) to have, if these noumena unempirical perceptions are there mixed with the phenomenal ones, propositions become personal. Once these propositions about the world phenomenal or noumenal become personal, verification is a pointless endeavor.  It cannot be done, and one would be continuously be searching for that last part to verify a proposition.

Where does this leave a person who wants to know things about the world?

Still with a bright future I think (I haven’t even addressed the current foundationalism vs. coherentism, and internalism vs. externalism yet but nonetheless this is a totally different course of action in postulating things about the world). The fact that propositions cannot be verified only means that single propositions cannot be verified because of personal aspects with noumenal facts. Various propositions grouped together are what actually can tell one something about the world. Plethoras of propositions put together that while aren’t verified alone, can overlap and tell people something about the phenomenal or noumenal world. Or at least this is what I think, not taking into account any other philosophies.

Let me guess what you’re thinking, “Bullshit”. Did I hit the nail on the head?

Noumenal metaphysics is something totally feasible, just not entirely by empirical observation. Empirical observation is the short cut in all epistemology crossing with metaphysics, and it is also seen as the only way, when really it is one among many.

Thanks for the support. I have not a clue when I shall write again as my college papers are coming closer to their due dates and I will have less time.


Reductionism of Logical Positivism and Quine’s Rejection

16 Nov

The two dogmas of empiricism are rooted in the verification theory of meaning and meaning itself. Analyticity I have previously discussed, but here I want to discuss the other dogma of reductionism. Quine ultimately rejects meaning and rejects both dogmas. Reductionism, specifically radical reductionism, is the belief that “every meaningful statement is held to be translatable into a statement (true or false) about immediate experience” (Quine). Reductionism is generally the belief that statements of one kind are translatable into statements of other kinds. It is often thought in reductionism that one translation is confirmed or accepted as true (or later as the best). Quine rejects this dogma again by rejecting meaning. The verification theory of meaning of logical positivism is rejected because of the rejection of meaning. If the verification theory of meaning is rejected reductionism is rejected because one translation cannot be reduced down. Meaningful statements being able to be reduced down into statements about immediate experience cannot really be true because of the lack of ability to understand meaning.  Reductionism is simply is the translation between linguistic frameworks possibly from meaningful statement to statements about immediate experience. Reductionism carries the need to confirm a translation by verification of meaning. Quine rejects this: “My present suggestion is that it is nonsense, and the root of much nonsense, to speak of a linguistic component and a factual component  in the truth of any individual statement” (Quine). To ultimately simplify, reductionism is rejected by Quine because of his rejection of meaning (just like analyticity is rejected).

The main thing I want to do here is keep talking about Quine’s discussion of meaning and reductionism, and talk about philosophers partaking in reductionism in the early to mid 20th century. I think I am understanding reductionism and Quine’s rejection, but if I miss something please let me know.

Above is Bertrand Russell. In 1914 he published Our Knowledge of the External World which had Hard and Soft Data in it. Hard and Soft Data presented logic and sense data as the two hardest hard data as he presented soft and hard data based on logically and psychologically derivative and primitive. In this essay he presented sense data (as Moore and Royce did before him). While having his logic and sense data, he claimed that a process of reconstruction would be taking place from here on out. This reconstruction was the reconstruction of the language of physical objects into language of sense data. Physical objects are complicated when seen and to philosophically and epistemologically understand physical objects better, this reconstruction was presented by Russell. This is a form of reductionism because physical objects language has meaning, while sense datum language is based on immediate experience. I have exemplified these languages before, but physical object language would be exemplified by saying “I am seeing a red marker before me” and sense datum language would be exemplified by saying ” I see an elongated cylindrical red patch, with some black patches inside.”  This is a very early form of this reductionism Quine rejects.

Another philosopher and scientist taking up a reductionism is, above, Rudolf Carnap. In Der Logische Aufbau der Welt , Elimination of Metaphysics through Logical Analysis, and Empiricism Semantics and Ontology, Carnap’s quest for reductionism while granting the analytic is shown.  In the Aufbau and even the Elimination of Metaphysics Carnap has a desire to uphold a stricter set of linguistic frameworks where the correct framework is searched for. Looking for a correct framework is not upheld in his 1950 Empiricism Semantics and Ontology. The previous linguistic frameworks of the 1928 Aufbau are presented in the verification conditions including meaning. This is the build up from observation statements and protocol statements to thing language and physics language while accepting a geometry and a physics. Carnap’s reductionism is accepted in mainstream logical positivism at the time.  From that point Otto Neurath comes along and revises the protocol statements of Carnap’s verification conditions and the buildup of confirmation. Moritz Schlick later accepts his own reductionism.

In Empiricism Semantics and Ontology, logical positivism has sort of gone down from its peak, while Carnap and A.J. Ayer are both still trying to keep old positivist techniques. In this essay Carnap really softens his die hard reductionism, yet he still maintains a reductionism.  He states that a plethora of linguistic frameworks are to be accepted while not accepting a metaphysical doctrine at the same time. He maintains that a tolerance of linguistic frameworks is to be had while being cautious and evaluative of the frameworks presented. Unlike in the Elimination of Metaphysics and the Aufbau, in Empiricism Semantics and Ontology Carnap states that the framework that works best is the one to be accepted instead of the framework that is correct. This is still a ‘subtle’ reductionism.

Above is Moritz Schlick. He was the leader of the Vienna Circle and an influence in logical positivism. Taking into understanding Carnap (Empiricism Semantics and Ontology had not happened yet note) and Neurath and their influences on the verification theory of meaning, he had his own idea of it in his Foundation of Knowledge. He advocated a similar reductionism to Carnap and Neurath by keeping observation statements at the bottom of the whole thing, which become protocol statements (partly statements about sense data), which can be translated into thing language statements, physics language statements, and theoretical language statements. That statement can have a prediction made from it, and may or may not be confirmed. All of this grounded to the side in experience. This shows the reductionism because of how all of it is able to be reduced to statements about immediate experience.


A.J. Ayer is another philosopher advocating reductionism specifically because he advocates ‘cash value’ translations between sense datum language and physical object language. He does so in Phenomenalism and his expanded theory of perception.

I did not mention Neurath because all he spoke to was Carnap’s supposedly wrong understanding of the protocol statements.

Statements being able to be reduced down, or translated between each other is implying that most statements have meaning. This is what Quine uses to reject reductionism. The verification of meaning is involved here because it is implied that most statements have meaning and can be verified that way. After contemplating meaning more, I am thinking that we all grant meaning quickly, but I really do not think there is meaning. These languages each have their own set of rules of logic because rules of logic can be proven wrong and verified from one statement to the next. Because of this variation of logical rules I think that meaning is granted, yet no real justification for it is presented.

I think I have come to a general opinion about Quine’s rejection of the two dogmas.

I think I understood everything, and talked about everything correctly, but if I did not please tell me so I do not look foolish. Thanks again for the support.

A.J. Ayer and the Act Object Analysis of Sensation

3 Nov

Here I am referring back to Ayer’s Phenomenalism, yet just another aspect in his entire argument that I have explained before. In case you did not know, I started another website where I talk about history, politics, and current news.

Ayer begins Phenomenalism with a discussion about Bertrand Russell’s definition of sense data where he describes them as “objects of acquaintance.” He finds confusion and need for further explanation with Russell’s sense data because this implies that he is describing sense data as objects of knowledge. For something to be an object of knowledge, Ayer says,  it is something that we know to be or not be the case. Ayer states that knowing things is something meaningless to say, and therefore there are no objects of knowledge.

This all leads to Ayer’s conclusion that it  “is meaningless to speak of knowing objects.” He continues further: ” Failure to realize this has contributed , I think, to a famous piece of philosophical mythology, the act-object analysis of sensation. For once it is assumed that having a sensation involves knowing an object, then it may seem reasonable to apply to this case the principle that what is known must be independent  of the knowing of it…..”

This at first implies that its meaningless to talk about knowing objects, because knowing objects involves saying that it is or isn’t the case in certain situations, or it means knowing it in other ways, making it entirely meaningless. Ayer talks about knowing being a transitive verb carrying many meanings that are variously used by philosophers and people that do not philosophize creating many confusions. All of this together makes it meaningless to talk about knowing things. This leads further to say that we often assume that knowing an object always involves  having a sensation. Finally, the act object analysis of sensation says that what is known, call it A, can be thought that because of all of the above, is independent of the action of knowing it.  Because of all this A is thought to be independent from the action of knowing it.

Because we cannot really talk about knowing objects, we are lead to this act object analysis of sensation where the act of sensing an object is separate from the actual object.  I like to think of this as if the act of sensing an object was  a part of, or dependent on, the object. If this is the case in any sensation, the object cannot have any postulates made upon it as to whether or not it is a real object that can be known.

If the act and the object are together and dependent on each other, we cannot speak of knowing an object, because most likely the object is not real anyway. Ayer seems to think that this is the best way to go about thinking about things. If this were the other way, where the act and object are separate and independent, this would imply that an object may be out there to be known, and the act would be used for just that purpose.

Ayer states that the act and object cannot be independent or separate because this would lead to objects being able to be known. To Ayer, however, objects cannot be discussed as to how they can be known.

First, I do not know how meaningless it is to discuss knowing objects. Because of how transitive of a verb knowing is, I think it needs much clarification as to what knowing means when talking about sense data and objects. Ayer only says that its meaningless to talk about objects being known because of how physical objects are logical constructions of sense data, and he wants to end discussion about objects in the beginning words of his essay.  I disagree here, because I think objects can be discussed as to if we know certain ones or not. What we mean when we say we know of an object needs to be clarified. I think it should be clarified to say the following: knowing an object is the apprehension of an actualized existence or being.

This view is contrary to Ayer’s and it endorses a modal realism discussed by David Lewis. Lewis states in On the Plurality of Worlds that each thing we see is an actualization of a being in one way or another. When we see anything, we are apprehending objects that are existent. This would lead me to think that the act of seeing an object and the object itself are totally independent…..

This is true in most cases I think. Lewis’s modal realism would still work in the case that the act of seeing the object and the object itself are dependent and together. This scenario I think is existent in the case that one is hallucinating, dreaming, or seeing anything usually not actualized. Any hallucination or dream is still an actualized existence, even if the act of seeing it, and the seen object are dependent and together.

All in all, I disagree with Ayer’s originating proposition that begins discussion of the act object analysis of sensation. When Ayer says that discussion of knowing objects is meaningless, I think he is wrong. Yes ‘knowing’ is a confusing transitive verb that has meanings that can be confused between each other, but this only needs clarification to return to discussion of knowing objects. Anyway, I think we can know objects anyway because we see something all the time that is actualized existences in one way or another. We are always seeing real objects whether the act and object are independent or dependent, together or separate.

This modal realism and its following ontology dismantles Ayer’s thought that discussion about the knowledge of objects is meaningless.

This is only a  tiny part of Ayer’s entire argument in Phenomenalism, but the act-object analysis of sensation making one choose between the two options made me think about it, and how my specific philosophy at the moment totally tears it apart. Hopefully this wasn’t too hard to understand as I am sleepy and incoherent. I shouldn’t be writing in this state of incoherence, but if there are any inconsistencies, misuse of information, or misinformation, please let me know.



Thanks for the support.

A.J. Ayer’s Principle of Verifiability

13 Oct

My apologies for not having written in about a week. I do not know if this is the end of my prolonged break from posting frequency, but I might have another one later today, or on thursday. Im just not sure right now. I will keep posting at least every once per week to make aware of my existence. I am reading and writing a lot of things for classes and other purposes so I have less time this entire month. Today, I feel it is good to bridge the gap of my break by discussing verifiability and meaning.

One thing I love about Ayer’s writing is that he continuously talks about one other philosopher’s work and refutes each point of that person’s philosophy. Like in his Phenomenalism, he talked about Price, Stout, and Hardie, and he refuted their philosophy (and built off those refutations). In Principle of Verifiability he does the same with W.T. Stace who discusses verifiability and meaning. This leads to and proceeds his understanding of verifiability. Ayer is also awesome because he was a British spy….just a sidenote.

Concerning verifiability of the logical positivists this is the essay where Ayer puts his views on the subject of verifiability. I will quote him because of how well he puts it: “The first point that I must make clear is that I do not hold that a sentence can be factually significant only if it expresses what is conclusively verifiable; for I maintain that no empirical propositions are conclusively verifiable” (Ayer). This sentence says that things that are conclusively verifiable are not a big deal at all, and are not what is important to philosophy, science, or empiricism.  Empiricism, he says, does not have propositions in it that are verifiable. Things that are conclusively verifiable are things that are known to the common sense and that our mind has most likely previously verified anyway. These things I would think are sentences like ‘everything I see is perceived by my eyes and brain.’ That sentence is granted and needs little process of verification. He also says that no empirical propositions are conclusively verifiable (again empirical meaning things experienced and observed). This shows a light on Ayer’s philosophy that makes it seem like he does not rely too much on empirical propositions (he does not rely on his perception and observation very much to find truth and verification). He continues: “All that I require of a putative statement of fact is that it should be verifiable in what I have called the ‘weak’ sense of the term; that some possible observations should  be relevant to the determination of its truth or falsehood” (Ayer). And: “Let us call a proposition which records an actual or possible observation an an experiential proposition. Then we may say that it is the mark of a genuine factual proposition, not that it should be equivalent to an experiential proposition, but simply that some experiential propositions can be deduced from it in conjunction with certain other premises without being deducible from those other premises alone” (Ayer). I find this neat because of the two kinds of propositions denoted by Ayer. Experiential propositions are propositions created upon experience, and a genuine factual proposition is a fact stating proposition where multiple experiential propositions can be ‘deduced.’ This principle of verifiability relies entirely on empirical, observational, and experiential propositions, which all three rely on perception, and seeing what you believe to be factual. Ayer also contributes to the logical positivists’ rejection of all meatphysics by saying that since all genuine factual propositions are deduced from experiential propositions, metaphysics cannot be meaningful or true. By this he also states that a genuine factual proposition that deduces multiple experiential propositions  is verified, has meaning, and is justified. The status of a genuine factual proposition to Ayer is the verification that all logical positivists set forth.

Just to refresh the understanding of what logical positivist verification conditions (specifically Carnap):

Justification cond. = Meaning cond. = Truth Cond. = Verification Conditions

Justification being the experimental hypotheses and theories to justify its truth and verification, and meaning being exactly what meaning is (meaning is later totally dismantled by W.V. Quine in his paper Two Dogmas of Empiricism), and those equal truth and verification.  What Ayer does in his paper Principle of Verifiability is further rejects metaphysics and narrows down what is to be verified and how it is done.  With his genuine factual proposition, justification and meaning are achieved by the experiential propositions deduced from the genuine factual proposition (and justification and meaning equal verification and truth).

Ayers 2 kinds of propositions to get to verification is one way to think about it, but I disagree. I disagree with Ayer here simply because genuine factual propositions deduce experiential propositions. These experiential propositions are created empirically, observationally, and by experience, and not all things in philosophy and even science are asked, deduced, or created by empirical observations. Mostly I disagree with his rejection of metaphysics in this verifiability proposition manner. I want to eventually create a metaphysician’s way to redeem propositions from a pseudo-statement status (Carnap’s understanding of a proposition not really saying anything). I would even like to have verification conditions for metaphysics as well. I think it is best now to discuss what meaning can mean to metaphysics and epistemology (even if Quine threw out meaning).

Meaning, I now believe, should not be achieved by definition or reference. Both of those cause one to enter into an infinite regression of statements that end up going way beyond the subject of the questioned proposition. Meaning is not understood by definition or reference because definition is reference. When something is defined in a search for meaning, you are referred to another set of words saying something about the questioned thing. This then can lead you to define these defining words, and those defining words need to be again defined, and so on. Definition is reference. I think that meaning is the possibility to be understood of a proposition or statement. If the proposition can be discovered and cohesively understood by the philosopher/scientist, the proposition has meaning. Meaning is not definition of the proposition in the verification process, it is the possibility to be understood. If a proposition means something it can push its understanding on others, and can be understood beyond 1 person, or a localized group also. Just because 1 person or 20 localized, deserted, isolated people understand it doesn’t mean the rest of the world will.  I will talk more on this later especially when I talk more about W.V. Quine’s Two Dogmas of Empiricism.  And justification is scientific experiments and other things that justify it. It is my belief that in a possible metaphysics verification conditions,  justification would be eliminated because of its vagueness and necessity to have scientific testing, hypotheses and theories. Metaphysics and philosophy as a whole exists a lot because there are things we can verify that scientists cannot with their experiments.

Hopefully this will not be the only writing this week, and sorry again for my absence.

Thanks for the support.

A.J. Ayer’s Phenomenalism

5 Oct

A.J. Ayer, a philosopher at the end of the logical positivist movement, wrote a paper called Phenomenalism, creating a ‘theory of perception’ of how sense data is taken in and understood. Even though he does not say so at the outset, he picks on positivist protocol statements stating previous sense data observations. I have not addressed protocol statements that much before, but the things that make them up are what Ayer attacks to promote phenomenalism. Ayer’s writing envelops a lot of philosophy and thought, and here I only aim to discuss the 3 problems of sense data and protocol statements (in a sense) that he addresses, and why he lands on phenomenalism as the true theory of perception. Ayer specifically addresses many other things in this essay that I do not wish to venture into, such as what logical constructions are, and what sense data is defined by Russell as, along with some other specific arguments.

Protocol statements is a part of the logical system unified under science that Carnap, Neurath, and Schlick have advocated and changed throughout the logical positivist movement. Protocol statements are the recorded past versions of immediate observations. They are recorded as X was observed by observer W,  at place U , and at time C. Once something is observed it immediately becomes this protocol statement. It is this that the logical positivists used in their system of unified science. I discussed this in my first writing about Carnap. This occurs where intuitions are divided between analytic and synthetic. In analytic are the implicit definitions, and in that, geometries (Euclidean, Lobachevskian, and Riemannian) and physics (relativistic, or Newtonian). Also in analytic are the coordinating definitions which are the language  chosen to convey the subject/object, and those are either thing language, or physics language. The synthetic intuitions by Carnap are observations, that immediately become these protocol statements. This is the system you would use to go from your observation to protocol, to implicit definition, and coordinating definitions to have physics language, and later theoretical physics language statements. When Neurath published his thoughts, he focused on the protocol statements by putting most emphasis on them by eliminating observations from the system totally (as an observation only has a microsecond to actually be an observation before it becomes a protocol). This caused a collapse of the system until Schlick published his Foundations of Knowledge where he made the protocol statements the starting points of all knowledge.

I elaborate so much on this because it has been through Carnap, Neurath and Schlick that the protocol statement has traveled only to be dismantled by Ayer with phenomenalism. Again, Ayer does not talk about protocol statements directly but he addresses the observer, place, and time that are all a part of a protocol statement, which is why understanding what it is is so important. With the observer, time and place of a protocol statement Ayer states each to have its own problem to be addressed. From addressing these problems, is where he gets phenomenalism.

The problem of the observer is that the observer observing a situation is really no different from what he observes. Ayer discusses the observer as equal to the physical objects he observes, and that trying to point out which physical object among the many is doing the observing is a worthless task. Physical objects are subject to creating more sense data and only being another question of sense data and its relation to the physical object (if you know phenomenalism already, I have not yet gotten to the main principle of it yet). The problem of the place is similar, in that one place is mixed with all other places that are all placed in question together: “Thus the phenomenalistic analysis of ‘x is at P’, will be something like the following: ‘X is sensing a visual or tactual field such that if he had replaced it by another spatially adjoined to it, and if he had replaced that by another spatially adjoined to it, and if he had replaced that in turn by still another, and so on, then eventually he would have been sensing the visual or tactual field which is actually being sensed by the speaker at this moment”.  I quote Ayer, simply because I could not have said it better myself. If one place is singled out from the others, it could conventionally be replaced with spaces around it and still work with the place and observer. This creates a large sense field with a set of places, set of observers, and also a period of time. The problem of time is again similar with the other two. It is so much more than just one instant that the place and observer are consistent with the sense data. Ayer states that not only would S2 and P2 be consistent with t (time), but so would S5 and P5.  These are all problems that Ayer states to be issues for the phenomenalist. He then in the fifth section of the paper, gives the solutions to these three problems.

For the time and place, Ayer creates a ‘local scenery’ where time and place are all contained into one construction. For place, in the local scenery is the large somewhat finite area where things are perceived as sense data, so that way in a sense, there is no one space, but there are many places within the local scenery. For time, there is no set time for something to be seen within the local scenery. If someone is to ask ‘when’ something is perceived within the local scenery, that person would be asking an ‘illegitimate’ question because at one time or another, things are perceived in the local scenery. It is that local scenery where the place and time is included. He also addresses the observer problem where he answers it by stating that there is no observer at all. The local scenery is set up basically as the given, in the possible event that in some point of the existence of the local scenery that someone would happen to observe something within it. This local scenery is the visual sensory field that Ayer has been creating throughout the paper that is the logical replacement for protocol statement sense data.

So, entirely, phenomenalism is a the perception theory that physical objects are not exactly real material beings, but are “logical constructions out of sense data.” We see things, we believe a physical object to be there causing the sense data we perceive. Ayer and other phenomenalists believed that sense data had no ties to a physical object, but the physical  object was only sense data’s logical construction.  Not only is this a different perceptional theory, but it is a new take on positivist ideas.

Phenomenalism says nothing about what physical objects are or what they tell us, it only says that our sense data does not often denote physical objects. We only see sense data, and think it always to be physical objects, when really, even in real life, our sense data only 50 % of our lifetime denotes a physical object. I agree with all of this essay and all other phenomenalist work because of that fact. I disagree with all other philosophies that discredit all sense data (i.e. solipsism and neutral monism), but I agree with this because of how this is a milder version of philosophies that discredit the perception.  Solipsism discredits all perception, and only states the soul to exist. I entirely disagree with that.

Phenomenalism is different from solipsism. Phenomenalism only decides to make the rule to always take sense data as sense data only before it is taken as anything else. Sense data (as constituents of a  local scenery/visual sensory field) takes a lot of understanding and research before it might be considered to be representative of a physical object. Ayer seems to take phenomenalism to discredit the sense data as representative of physical objects more than phenomenalism does as a whole,  so I would endorse a softer form of phenomenalism.

The kind of phenomenalism that I would endorse would be less strict than Ayer’s. The kind I would endorse would be discrediting all sense data until further notice. Upon further understanding, research, and verification of my sense data when paralleled with reality, I might consider that my set of questioned sense data is closer to a real physical object. I believe that this can be easily done by experiencing more sense data, and comparing them side by side, face value for face value, and any similarities and corresponding themes between them can denote some reality in perception.

I think that with Ayer’s Phenomenalism essay, I have explained it well to a degree to help my own, and others’ understanding. Also, I think I took my own turn on it, by altering Ayer’s phenomenalism version towards my own beliefs about sense data.

I find it interesting also that in the beginning of the essay, Ayer begins talking about sense data, and states that Bertrand Russell first used the term in the teens and 20’s, when really the first philosopher who used it was Josiah Royce in 1882. I want to eventually read him, and possibly write about him in the future.

Thanks for the support.