Tag Archives: empiricism

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.

Advertisements

Analyticity and Quine’s Rejection of the Dogma

16 Nov

I have succumbed somewhat to the understanding that there really is no meaning in anything. I used to think everything had meaning, but after studying W.V. Quine, I understand better why meaning cannot really exist.  If one reads and understands Quine’s On What There Is and Two Dogmas of Empiricism that one person must come up with some big evidence to actually prove that one truth statement can mean another or do any other function that meaning has said to have. This comes from Quine because of the two dogmas: 1) analyticity, and 2) reductionism. My concern here is analyticity and to help myself and the reader of this writing to understand why analyticity can be shown false and can also show ‘meaning’ to be a false hope.

If you have read Kant or other philosophers analytic statements are easy to understand. I understand them as things I can come to understand without having to go through a logical process of factual evaluation. If I hold a red pen up, I can see it and know “this is a red pen” without any logical process of fact evaluation. I know it like the snap of two fingers. Synthetic is just the opposite where factual and logical processes of evaluation must be executed to understand it. Quine defines the analytic in a somewhat different fashion which I can fathom clearly:

“Kant conceived of an analytic statement as one that attributes to its subject no more than is already conceptually contained in the subject. This formulation has two shortcomings: it limits itself to statements to subject-predicate form, and it appeals to a notion of containment which is left at a metaphorical level. But Kant’s intent, evident more from the use he makes of the notion of analyticity than from his definition of it, can be restated thus: a statement is analytic when it is true by virtue of meanings and independently of fact” (Quine).

So ultimately what I want you to get from that quote is that the analytic is statements that are true ‘by virtue of meaning’ and ‘independently of fact.’ Most important is that analytic statements are said to be true by virtue of their meanings. This has so much importance because Quine attacks the use of the word meaning because it is loosely and not well understood or defined.  In Two Dogmas of Empiricism he ultimately concludes that there is no meaning at all. He rejects not only reductionism but also analyticity. He rejects analyticity by rejecting meaning. He rejects meaning by talking about why certain logical truths and synonymies are not meaning and can not be meaning.

Beginning with logical truths he discusses reference and extension to not be meaning. Logical truths are exemplified by Quine with Morning Star and Evening Star. They both are sightings of the planet Venus, and they both are names for Venus, and both refer to Venus. Morning Star does not mean Evening Star or Venus.  This is just naming or reference. These things like certain logical truths and synonymy have been posed as clarification and understanding for what meaning is, and Quine simply paints these as failures to define and understand meaning. Reference and naming are both of singular terms. Extension is a logical truth that is of predicates. Extension is often thought to be meaning. An example of extension would be creating 2 truths about a certain entity as Quine puts it, but he paints this as another failure to understand meaning. If I am talking about a man, 2 logical truths about it would be ‘a creature with a brain’ and ‘a creature with a stomach’. Both statements extend to the same ‘entity’ but just because this is so does not mean that they mean man. These are obvious logical truths that Quine says is not meaning.

Besides logical truths, Quine says that synonymy and definition are also not meaning. He talks about definition and then interchangeability with synonymy. Synonymy is obviously understood because things like bachelor and unmarried man are synonymous, but the question is does synonymy entail meaning. Quine states definition to not be meaning because of what the lexicographer (dictionary writer) does. A definition for a word is just a section of a long chain of synonymies:

” In formal and informal work alike, thus, we find that definition – except in the extreme case of the explicitly conventional introduction of new notations – hinges on prior relationships of synonymy. Recognizing then that the notion of definition does not hold the key to synonymy and analyticity” (Quine).

S0 definition is not at all meaning because of how definition continues from word to word and phrase to phrase and being referred to those because of the synonymies that create the huge chain. Definition is just related to more synonymies and does not have meaning and cannot hold analyticity in any defined word or phrase. Definition and its relation to prior relationships of synonymy are more easily understood when it is understood why most synonymies are not meaning.

Definition not being meaning, Quine goes on to specific synonymies. Interchangeability is a certain kind of synonymy that Quine proves to not be meaning. He goes as specific to talk about interchangeability salva veritatae or interchangeability preserving truth. He declares the synonymy in interchangeability salva veritatae, but no meaning at all. For example, ‘bachelor’ and ‘unmarried man’ are interchangeable salva veritate and synonymous of course, but they are not meaning because what if bachelor is referring to ‘bachelor of arts’, ‘bachelor of science’, or ‘bachelors buttons’ as Quine puts it. In those cases bachelor would not mean unmarried man, so synonymy in the case of interchangeability salva veritatae is not meaning. He also includes that interchangeability salva necesitatae or interchangeability preserving necessity is synonymy yet not meaning because necessity is confusing as to its meaning and causes problems. The issue here is that interchangeability is synonymy yet its not meaning because some words can be synonymous and interchangeable yet not really mean the same thing. He declares this to make difficult the understanding of what meaning is.

Quine continues with his discussion about meaning and synonymy and his rejection of analyticity. I could talk for a long time about it, but I simply want to discuss the basics to understand why he rejects analyticity. In the end of the essay he uses his premises to say that the boundary between analytic and synthetic has never really been drawn. There have been attempts at defining the two in making the boundary, but clarifications have not been given to really make that dreaded distinction. If you read Two Dogmas of Empiricism by Quine and get nothing else out of it, if you get out of it that there is no meaning, then that is good enough.

I think that there is analyticity. If a person understands philosophy that person has their own understanding of the analytic/synthetic distinction that is difficult to put into words good enough to convey understanding of it from one person to another. I really think that there is analytic while at the same time it can be proven that there is not. I have my understanding of analytic and can understand why there is no analytic. Analyticity is a complicated subject because understandings of it are not the same between people.

Coming to an opinion about whether one thinks analytic exists is a difficult one especially because deciding whether one thinks there is meaning is an equally hard thing. Meaning is a hard thing to define or understand because of issues of logical truths and synonymies exemplified by Quine. My opinion is that there is no meaning and that it is all synonymy or logical truths of one form or another. Meaning is like analytic in that it can be understood by a person but not well put into words. I feel like I can understand meaning, but then I can logically reject it at the same time.

What do you think? Do you think there is analytically true statements? or meaning in general?  I am stuck and do not know what my stance on the issue is because I read Quine’s great rationalization on why analyticity, meaning and reductionism are not in existence and then at the same time I can think as if they do.  I am just not sure and need further contemplation.

Please say what you think on Twitter or in comment section. Thanks for the support.

David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature: Origin of our Ideas

2 Nov

I’m treading ground that I have not yet treaded as a thinker and philosopher. I normally have sided and defended Kant in all situations, without having read his empiricist enemies like Locke, Hume or Berkeley. I purchased David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature this weekend and have been reading it. I want to talk today about the very beginning of it in Of the Origin of our Ideas. I have a problem or two concerning the things he says in this section, but I shall address it all here.

Hume states that all ideas originally come from perceptions. He divides perceptions into impressions and ideas. Impressions: “Those perceptions, which enter with most force and violence, we may name impressions, and under this name I comprehend all our sensations, passions and emotions, as they make their first appearance in the soul. By ideas I mean the faint images of these in thinking and reasoning; such as, for instance, are all the perceptions excited  by the present discourse, excepting only, those which arise from the sight and touch, and excepting the immediate pleasure or uneasiness it may occasion” (Hume).  This distinction between impressions and ideas of our perceptions easily makes us understand what Hume means. Perceptions are things we sense, feel, and understand. An impression, I see it, are obvious things that are made apparent to us, that immediately impresses upon our soul. Ideas are things we achieve through reasoning, logic, and forced understanding. I think about impressions and ideas, and am brought back to Kant’s analytic and synthetic. This connection can help one understand Hume and Kant together even if they both opposed each other in other ways. The impressions immediately impressing upon our souls, need no further understanding or logical processes to ‘get’ them, just like Kant’s analytic. The ideas, needing much reasoning and logical processes, are just like Kant’s synthetic for this reason. The synthetic is like the ideas for another reason I shall explain later that is the dominating thing to understand when reading Hume’s Of the Origin of Our Ideas in the Treatise of Human Nature.

Hume makes a second distinction of perceptions (again just like Kant does) where he divides them into simple and complex. Simple perceptions “…admit of no distinction nor separation.” Simple perceptions do not divide because of how abstract they are.  Complex perceptions may be “….distinguished into parts.” I really like how Hume exemplifies this: ” Tho’ a particular color, taste, and smell are qualities all united together in this apple, ’tis easy to perceive they are not the same, but are at least distinguishable from each other” (Hume). When I first read this, I got an apple out of my fridge, and looked at it and understood what a complex perception is. The entire perception of one logically constructed object, has many perceptions, so I can understand why the whole perception is complex.

Looking further, I can understand and even exemplify a complex idea or complex impression. A complex impression could be, for example, the result perception if you found your significant other with another person, feeling sadness and anger at the same time, and also, having another anger just for the person your significant other is with. That can be broken down to at least 3 simple impressions. I can think of a complex idea also. Such as,  if I was trying to understand sense data, the sense data is making its presence by size, shape, and color before me, and I have to figure out how much it represents a material object, and I would list reasons why it does or does not.

One big claim Hume makes overall in Of the Origin of Our Ideas is: “That all our simple ideas in their first appearance are derived from simple impressions, which are correspondent to them, and which they exactly represent.” More simply, our ideas are derived from our impressions. Impressions intrude our senses, and I think that ideas follow because we always want to make sense of them. Referring back to the complex impression where one finds their significant other with another person, and feeling sadness and anger for the significant other, and anger for the person with the significant other,  ideas will certainly follow from this. Reasoning and logical processes are used to create ideas to fathom what happened. I totally agree with the main drive this section of Treatise of Human Nature has.

I have one issue with it that occurs in the beginning of the section, which I purposely neglected until now. Once Hume distinguished perceptions into impressions and ideas, stating that impressions enter our senses with ultimate force and violence causing X, Y, and Z effects, and stating that ideas are faint perceptions from reason and logical processes of understanding, he made a disclaimer that nullified everything he just said:

” As on the other hand it sometimes happens, that our impressions are so faint and low, that we cannot distinguish them from our ideas.”

Not only does the above nullify his distinction between impressions and ideas, but it nullifies what he states later when he says that ideas are derived from impressions. This statement that he says nonchalantly in the beginning of the section just nullifies everything. If any perception is faint and low, it is probably an idea. I cannot understand why Hume would make this statement because that would blend ideas with impressions and vice versa. Furthermore, since impressions and ideas cannot be distinguished from each other, how can an idea come from an impression. It is my opinion that in the event of an impression, if it is like the analytic (using Kant’s term), it is immediately understood, and any perception beyond that instance, is just idea.  This is a way to distinguish them.

There is no impression that is so faint that it can be blended with ideas. I think Hume made a confusion here. I do not know why, but I prefer Kant’s definition of ideas because of that one sentence that nullifies everything. Because of that one sentence is one reason I felt I should talk about Hume’s division of perceptions anyway.

Thanks for the support, More on Hume’s Treatise of Human nature to come….

Moritz Schlick’s Structure and Content: Inexpressibility of Content

28 Sep

In the eighth section of Structure and Content, another essay by Moritz Schlick, he talks about some of the things that are cannot express between each other. By using a blind man as an example, he states that we cannot express ‘content’ between each other; content being empirical observations that are the way they are, and it cannot be explained otherwise. For example, we cannot express yellow to one another. We see yellow, and know what yellow is, but we cannot describe and express yellow only by words and sentences.

Schlick makes a very good example where he talks about the event that you would be talking to a blind man, and you would be trying to describe the color green. When I read this I was drinking an Amp Lightning, which is an energy drink, and it has yellow all over the can, so I thought to myself how I would explain yellow to a blind man. I got no results. I could say: “Okay, so, yellow…..Its lighter than other colors…Its all yellowy.” Sorry if I find this humorous, but this is content according to Schlick, and it cannot be expressed with language. It can only be experienced and observed.

It should be noted the reason for the fact that we cannot express content with language. The answer to the question is that our language systems are all faulty in some way or another. Considering all of the systems of language we have, it is quite a feat for all of those to still be flawed. I have shed a lot of light on the reason that our language systems are naturally flawed, however the issue is how each language in existence is faulty, flawed, and unable to live up to the expectations that our sense, intuitions, and thoughts would like.

The process that I think goes on in us is that we are shown, told, and sensing certain things in the world, and the fact is that we cannot fully reciprocate these actions (if I use the verb correctly).  We are shown the color yellow and black in certain areas as content, and we are only able to tell it back. It can be compared to that tactic for creative writing taught in English classes in the ‘show don’t tell’ tactic. Instead of listing and simply saying what was seen, and sensed, the English teachers teach high school and college students to show. Showing basically means instead of ‘I saw a queen bee, and she stung me on my nose’ as telling, we would write ‘ the large black and yellow insect swiftly flew across the top of my head and confronted my eyes and face, she then inflicted sharp, intense pain with her small but potent stinger’ as showing.  This helps create a sensory image within the mind about what happened to the narrator, and creates a better image than ‘the queen bee stung my nose.’ This showing does not express content however and is as far as one can go in expressing his or her observation. Because the linguistic systems we have do not have the ability to express raw thought, we are left with altered versions of our thought in speech, and are basically stranded in what we really wanted to express.

So what does it mean to epistemology and other philosophy if we cannot express content? I think it means specifically to epistemology (and even more specifically the positivist theory of truth) that verifying the truth and/or existence of the things around us is made much harder. In any theory of truth in metaphysics and epistemology, meaning will always be involved, and if meaning is involved, this faulty language is going to make meaning harder to officially validate. Because we cannot express content, many things have to have more effort put to them to be verified, and also, some things cannot be verified. Some things we see, have content which of course cannot be expressed, and if content is all there is to work with, little can be verified about the experience. For example if an enormous ‘xoolos’ colored rectangular box stood before you, all you would be able to verify is a large rectangular box figure, because the color characteristics of it would not be able to be expressed, because of its content status. If no one else saw it and had no empirical evidence for it, you would basically be talking about any big rectangular box like figure which there are many of in the universe. Fortunately, not all things are so content involved as this that they would be reduced as so, but because of our inability to express content, our ability to verify the existence of some distinct individual things is also flawed, just like our language systems.  The color ‘xoolos’ is just like yellow to a blind man and is content, and cannot be described. This means that some empirical things have the lack of ability or inability to be expressed just as some metaphysics and ontology do. So if there is some epistemological data that cannot be described or verified, why did the logical positivists and the Vienna Circle bash metaphysics so hard? I do not know, but this inability to express content makes all philosophy equal. What this argument basically reduces down to is  that all things in the world are inconsistent, and some things in the world in every subject area cannot be verified. Further reducing the argument down:  We are not sure of some things we propose as truth, and this calls for other methods to assure ourselves of certain things i.e. faith etc.  (this means that we must turn to God for assistance, but that is another argument).

That is a kind of inconsistent explanation. I seem to have flaws in explaining my opinions in contrast with Schlick’s. If you want to talk more about it I would gladly do so.

Not only are there some things in epistemology we cannot verify (very few things cannot be verified in epistemology which allows for some rejection of metaphysics theories), but a way bigger problem is that most metaphysics involves things we cannot verify (by normal methods of empiricism and positivism). It is my point in this writing that if there are things we cannot verify in epistemology but then a few things we sometimes prove out,  it is in metaphysics the same situation. It just so happens that in epistemology more things are verified and proven out than in metaphysics because of the noumena involved in metaphysics. I say this because I think that content should include spiritual intuitions and thoughts in correspondence with God. Many if not most people in the universe would shoot down any theologian or metaphysician if they tried to describe this spiritual correspondence, thoughts or intuitions because we end up sounding irrational, dumb, illogical, and inconsistent. Theologians and metaphysicians sound this way because language cannot show the thoughts, they can only tell (going back to that tactic taught by English teachers). If we have a problem, for example, and pray to God, and then later our problem is solved and we feel very loved and happy in correspondence with God, there is no able way to describe this interaction and event. I have had these correspondences and spiritual thoughts from God, and I cannot come up with words to describe them. Also, if we tried to describe how we can feel God’s presence we will end up sounding illogical and irrational in most cases (God often helps us if we are trying to influence an atheist or agnostic person).  Not only is trying to describe an empirical observation of a color that of content, but spiritual feelings and intuitions are also this way. Comparing Schlick’s talking about describing green to a blind man to a metaphysical content problem, it would be similar to a man saved by God telling a full blown atheist about feeling the presence of God. I feel I have made my point about what content entails and why it equates epistemology and metaphysics in one certain specific manner. If you need more clarification about Schlick or want to talk about my argument more please inquire.

Thanks again for the support.