Tag Archives: meaning

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.


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.

W.V. Quine: On What There Is

22 Oct

My apologies again for not writing for a long period of time. It has not really been that long, like a week, but for me, and this site, that is a long time. Last week I had school duties to take care of, so did I this week (with a midterm test), and still so I do next week as well, as I have another midterm test. I will try again to post more, but this month is just crazy, with the tests and papers, and I do not suspect November to be the same, and I will resume having 4 to 5 posts per week as usual.

Having not gotten into too much ontology here, I have been reading a lot of W.V. Quine’s essays. I would like to discuss today his essay On What There Is. One thing that Quine takes upon himself to do is to make it known to all philosophers that there is no meaning in the world, and all of it is reduced to grammar and semantics. He does this not only by starting with the riddle of Plato’s beard in On What There Is, but also starting with analytic/synthetic and reductionism in Two Dogmas of Empiricism.  In both essays he comes to the conclusion that all this striving towards finding meaning in everything is useless in that there is no meaning anyway. I will discuss Two Dogmas of Empiricism in a near future writing. Before even going into On What There Is I want to think about ontology’s distinction (or indistinction) from metaphysics. Ontology is understood as the metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence (Princeton). Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value (answers.com). Metaphysics is also taking up the understanding and proving of things not able to be understood or proven by science (all fields).  In lieu of these definitions, I would like to understand ontology as the core division of metaphysics, especially since ontology goes into what being and existence are.

My focus of Quine’s essay On What There Is is not the conclusion he comes to (that there is no meaning at all). My focus is thinking about the riddle of Plato’s beard of nonbeing, and what being and existence are as Quine questions them. This simply means that my opinion is different from Quine’s in that I see meaning in things discussed like Pegasus, the author of Waverley, or the round cupola on top of Berkeley (these are things ontologically defined in On What There Is).

Quine begins his essay discussing Plato’s beard. The riddle of Plato’s beard comes from Plato’s discussion of nonbeing. This refers to Plato’s beard back in Ancient Greece because of how tangled his beard was. The argument and discussion of nonbeing as to finding a meaning in it, and to ontologically define it is a tangled argument, much like Plato’s beard. What makes nonbeing such a tangled argument is that nonbeing is being in one way or another. Quine puts it perfectly: ” This is the old Platonic riddle of nonbeing. Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not?” (Quine). Simply, if we say “Pegasus is not” how the hell did we say and understand Pegasus if it does not exist somehow? Plato’s beard kind of relates to Wittgenstein’s statement in the Tractatus saying that what cannot be thought cannot be said either. If we can think of Pegasus, it can be said also, and since we are saying it, how can we deny its being? This back and forth rambling is Plato’s beard. Quine confronts 2 arguments allowing nonbeing to still work.

The first argument allowing cohesiveness of nonbeing is the thought that nonbeings can be ideas of the mind. I can have an image of a flying horse with wings in my mind and think Pegasus. This argument allows a nonbeing (Pegasus) to still be just in a different manner. Quine refutes this by talking about the Parthenon itself (thing in itself) and the idea of the Parthenon. These, says Quine, are 2 different things and ideas of things being not the same as the thing in itself. This makes the nonbeing not able to be beings in that ideas of things are not ( when I say is, or is not  or are or are not, I refer to being or not being, just to clarify if you get confused in ontological discussion as I sometimes do). The second argument for nonbeing being something, is that nonbeings are beings unactualized with potentiality in space-time. Quine refutes this belief by saying that nothing can be understood or learned about unactualized beings in space-time, while also noting that logically contradictory things can’t be ruled out in this  belief, like a round square (specifically a copula). These two arguments are refuted by Quine simply because they are not being, and with other arguments he eventually concludes by saying that there is no meaning in anything. The meaning discussion is beside the point (my point anyway).

To understand nonbeing and what it represents, being and even existence need to be defined alone first. Quine viewed being as potential unactualized beings or actualized beings, and existence as purely actualized beings. Quine does this to state that the possible potential unactualized beings that are nonbeing in a sense  are not possible because of those logical contradictions and because we cannot find anything out about these possible unactualized beings or nonbeings. Using Russell’s theory of description he not only reduces everything to grammar and no meaning in anything at all, but he proceeds further. He also declares fallacious the ontological commitments to certain things besides something , nothing and other sure things. He finds fallacious the commitment to things such as the existence of Pegasus, blocks of cheese on Jupiter’s moons, God(s),  souls, or other specific things. Again, these things are beside what I want to discuss, as I keep saying that. I want to think about and know what is being (and existence) and therefore what is nonbeing (Plato’s beard)?

Existing, I will agree with Quine’s definition for his argument, is being actualized and having actuality. I think existing is something used to define things tangible in regards to the universe. Tangible is of course physical things, but also living souls with or without nous. In writing Classification of Beings, I only discussed existing things, and nothing on that discussion included nonexistent things. Looking back on nonbeing and how this is Plato’s beard, I do not think nonexistence creates real problems like nonbeing does. All philosophers should create their own understandings of being and existence but the definitions Quine has presented in lieu of his present argument have little room for argument. Being can be looked at to be the same as existence, but I really do not think this is so. If nonexistence would be called into question, there could not be possible unactualized existences or mental existences because of the contradictions that would take place. Nonexistence is not existence simply, and refers to things potential.

A quick aside, all of this discussion of one meaning to the next makes me feel silly. I think as of now that there is meaning in everything, but know what Quine thinks about meaning, and while exchanging meaning for meaning, word for word, I feel this all becomes meaningless. I do not say that I think being and existence are meaningless words, but I just feel dumb throwing these words and meanings around, so hopefully I do not sound dumb, but I think the meaninglessness presented in Two Dogmas of Empiricism and On What There Is might be getting a hold of me. This was just a disclaimer in case I sound stupid or ignorant.

What was I talking about, oh, being. My understanding of being is everything. Quine would probably not have gone this far especially because he states that since we cannot determine anything really, being has a vague definition (not that vague definitions are bad since my and probably others’ definition of being includes everything, and I shall specify as I progress). Quine signified being as things actual and potential (unactualized things). Things in themselves in the world are actual (existent) or unactual/potential (possible potential things that could or may exist at one point or another). Things actual or potential include most of the beings of the world. There are certain things that are not potential or actual that are in different ways. Quine discussed in On What There Is the possibility of nonbeing being in the sense that there are ideas of the mind. Some of these ideas are potential (never actual because our ideas are different from actual existences) but some are not. Pegasus is an idea of the mind, but not potential because a horse being able to fly with large white wings is not a possibility. Our dreams, being so messed up and weird sometimes, are ideas of the mind but not potential. So, in being is included actualities (existences specifically), potentialities (possibilities of existence), and non-potentialities (ideas of the mind not possible to be or exist). These categories of ‘being’ (not really classifications) make up the definition of being, and mostly includes everything. There are things still that are not actual, potential, or non-potential, and this is what I would call nonbeing.

As I finally return to the nonbeing riddle of Plato’s beard, the riddle states that nonbeing can in a sense be being: 1) by being an idea of the mind, 0r 2) by being a potentiality. I believe to have given a solution (that some probably have given already, not really sure) to the riddle of Plato’s beard (at least to two common arguments for it). The ideas of the mind and potentialities are beings and should not ever have been included in nonbeing anyway. What I think nonbeing is is things that actually are not. Quine used as an example for logical contradictions (in a previous argument) when he introduced the example of a round square. A round square (impossible as it is) can never be actual, potential, or non-potential. This is an example of nonbeing.  An example I came up with, think about the colors: blue, black, red, green, yellow, orange, purple, pink, brown, white, gray and various variations between each color. (Aside from each variation between each color like burgundy, turquoise, hot pink, violet, indigo, frog green, forest green, cobalt blue et cetera) Try to think about a different color besides the colors on the color wheel. Can you do it? No you cannot. A new color besides the said colors cannot be perceived of and cannot be. This is another nonbeing. Or can you think of a black Caucasian person (Caucasian meaning white)? No you cannot. This is another nonbeing. These things not actual, potential, or non-potential are nonbeings. If you want to discuss nonbeings more please says so, you know how.

Is this a disentanglement of Plato’s beard? Who knows, yet… probably not….since someone probably already did this, so I am just a follower……probably.

I love ontology, I should talk about it more.

Thanks for the support.

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I have 2 Youtube channels, but on my second one: http://www.youtube.com/bluespectacles I started a Youtube orbit where I make a video every day for a year, and as of now I am trying to keep each day philosophical, but I do not know how well that is going.

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.

Moritz Schlick’s Meaning and Verification

28 Sep

Moritz Schlick was a great philosopher for the time he had, given that he was killed over a girl. The means of Schlick’s death is not the topic for discussion here, but I find it interesting that another guy in the Vienna Circle loved this girl, who blew him off to go sleep with Schlick, and the guy that she blew off, killed Moritz Schlick. Enough history, and on to the philosophy he discusses in his essay Meaning and Verification. This essay being one of many circling the logical positivst movement, discussed the meaning within the verification conditions for propositions. Not only do I want to discuss Schlick’s philosophy here, but I want to make my own modifications to what meaning is as a whole, and what it means to the rest of the verification conditions.

Schlick states to view a ‘proposition’ as a statement of fact after verification. I would first like to redefine a proposition (not really in any analytic fashion). I think that a proposition becomes fact after verification, logical analysis, and application. A proposition to me is statements that have an undefined status as to their truth, and other things unverified. Propositions are essentially questions that are proposed only for further analysis, and all the rest. Proposition and fact are 2 different things. Fact is something that takes a lot of work to achieve, and few propositions are fact. Like in science, I think we should view propositions as going from pseudo-statement status, to hypothetical, theoretical, and finally fact (law in science). Propositions are what make up the process from taking a pseudo- statement to a fact by the three processes of logical analysis, verification, and application.

In Schlick’s essay, he discusses the definition of meaning and verification to pseudo-statement and fact propositions and how we are to use them frequently. He begins with meaning, what it is, and what one has to make a proposition have meaning. Schlick talks about meaning just like any other philosopher or linguist would talk about definition. If we are to define a word, Schlick says, we reduce it down to more words and more words down from that that equally describe the word first examined for meaning. He also says that if something is to have meaning, it is to have consistent use in at least one language (thing language, physics language, theoretical physics language, mind language, brain language etc.), and  it is to create for itself rules of how to use it as you ‘define’ the word for meaning. Meaning like this would work, stated by Schlick, in a set of verification conditions if the meaning sheds any light at all on the truth or falsity of the proposition. Meaning of a word essentially defines a word, and unpacks it of all its contents and examines those bit by bit. In the correct examination of those series of words all defining each other, one should come up with a good understanding of the proposition and the word(s) in it. Schlick directly connects meaning with understanding. For a word within a proposition and therefore the proposition to have meaning, the examiner of it must be able to acquire understanding of it.

I totally agree with Schlick’s statement connecting meaning with understanding, because meaning within a set of verification conditions lets one go from meaning (with understanding only) to truth, and justification, and therefore verification. I think however that meaning is thought of in 2 ways, whether there is understanding or not. Meaning is thought of as meaning whether it is either of 2 forms that are thought of as meaning.  Both forms have been (not exactly by Schlick) given the name ‘meaning’ when really 1 of them is not true meaning, but only something else. One form is meaning thought of as meaning, but really it is only reference. If a word merely refers the examiner of the proposition to another thing, there is no real meaning. The second form of meaning is really meaning simply because going through multiple rounds of definition of it gives you a better understanding of it without referring you to other things. Schlick did not discern what is thought of as meaning between these two, but other philosophers have, and I am only emphasizing that meaning that is really meaning is the only one that works in a verifying conditional system.

Like Schlick said, meaning is reducing a word or phrase into other words that create a better understanding in the word’s entirety. We cannot be sure if something has meaning, or if it is just referring to something else unless we actually go through that process that Schlick described. On a side note, real meaning is achieved when understanding of it is achieved without the extra tasks Schlick talked about. I like to  think of meaning as definition. If we look up a word in the dictionary, a set of words are there to install an understanding in us of the word. If we see one or more words within that definition that prevent our understanding of the word, we look them up too, and so on. This defining process of meaning tells us whether the examined proposition or word has meaning or not. If we keep defining, and end up going in circles reviewing the same definitions, this means that there is no more to define (this is when we have understanding of all words in a definition), and we have established understanding and therefore meaning of the word in question. If, on the other hand, we try to define something, and keep having to define new things, and are referred to other uninvolved definitions, and we cannot see how all of these definitions fit into what the main word means, the word has no meaning, and is only thought to have meaning by reference. A word does not have meaning if its definitions refer to other abstract that require their own large series of definitions, this is only reference, and false meaning. Those definitions together could be used to prove a point within all defined referred things, but no definition there yields meaning, simply because no understanding can be had from it.

I am going to try to exemplify this hopefully without making a fool of myself, and without trying to say anything metaphysically at this point. Try to discern the two:



Def: the supernatural being conceived as the perfect and omnipotent and omniscient originator and ruler of the universe; the object of worship in monotheistic religions.

*To be particular I would have to define all of those larger words: supernatural, being, conceived, perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, originator, ruler, universe, worship, object, monotheistic, religions just assuming I did not know any of those words. I shall pick 1 just for my point assuming that I know all except what monotheistic means.

DefA: Monotheistic: believing that there is only one god

DefB: Believing: the cognitive process that leads to convictions; “seeing is believing”

*Now lets assume I know what convictions are but not cognitive.

DefC: Cognitive: The part of mental functions that deals with logic, as opposed to affective which deals with emotions.

*Assuming I know all except the word logic.

DefD: Logic: the branch of philosophy that analyzes inference

*Assuming I know all except inference

DefE: Inference: A determination arrived at by reasoning

* Assuming I know all except reasoning

DefF: Reasoning: thinking that is coherent and logical

*Assuming I know logical, but not the word coherent

DefG: Coherent: marked by an orderly, logical, and  consistent relation of parts

I could go way further down to 2 letter words, and even lesser, but does the above give a good series of definitions of God? Do you now understand it while before you may have not? Since we went from an overstretching term like God, and came down to understandable and strictly defined terms like logic and coherence, and cognition, we have an understanding of the term God. We went from God, to  a still large stretching term like monotheistic to believing, and it just got stricter and stricter from there as to the defined. If this were mere reference we would not be able to escape going from broad vague word to broad vague word to broad vague word. We have established meaning to a word, without reference. I state this only because within the verification conditions used against metaphysics and theology, is meaning, and to establish meaning to things, we have to know what that is and how to establish it.  I feel like I went all over the place there, simply because I did. If you would like further exemplification and explanation of this, please say so, and I would gladly further discuss my opinion and explanation.

Talking about meaning brings me to total verification. By Carnap and most of the positivists, verification comes from justification, meaning (which is why I went through such a long discussion of it), and truth. Verification by the positivists is finding out the truth or falsity of something, but I think it is worth looking into about what conditions we would have to have to declare the verification of existence in the world. One big thing that Schlick in  Meaning and Verification and other positivists like Carnap say is that a proposition is a pseudo-statement unless it can be tested for. I think that this testing lies in the justification within verification and within the criterion of application which according to the positivists, all propositions must have. After reading Carnap, Neurath, Hempel, Waismann, Schlick, and Ayer, I want to reconstruct the qualifications to verify the truth and/or existence of propositions. I do not have a distinct set of them yet, but I want to talk about  the positivist set of qualifications of verification.

1) Logical Analysis

2) Verification Conditions-  Justification=Meaning=Truth

3) Criterion of Application

Each of these is not discussed together as a set of qualifications for propositional truth, but positivists have intermittently all described these in one way or another (mostly Carnap and Schlick). I have simply put all of these together where it has not been done so before. Logical analysis explained by Carnap a lot, is testing for consistency logically between parts of a proposition. Logical consistency is what is being searched for in anything. This logical analysis is the first thing searched for and found simply because if it does not have logical consistency, it can be shot down where it stands. Since most propositions true or not have logical consistency, this logical analysis does not mean much as to the verification and truth of the proposition but it is the only starting point.

Second being the verification conditions, including the meaning and justification, and therefore truth,  is a harder thing to come by per proposition. This includes the necessity by positivists to test for things to prove them (probably in the justification side). I feel this needs modification, and I have an understanding of what it is I want to do to the positivist verification conditions.

Third, is extremely important to Carnap, and some other positivists in that it cannot be thought true by any means by them, if it cannot be applied to life at all. It is my opinion against the positivists that things can be verified and declared true without having any criterion of application. Some things can be declared true without this simply because some things are not a part of our visible world. Just because some things are not a part of our visible world, does not mean it is false. I state all of this in response to Schlick’s essay because I want to lay the ground work as to how I want to defend metaphysics in the future.

I am still trying to discern all of my version of the qualifications of truth concerning propositions, but I must figure out what justification within verification actually is and what it requires.

Thanks for the support, and sorry if this writing is too long for your taste.