Tag Archives: positivism

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.

 

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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 http://herodotean.wordpress.com 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.

 

slleeeeeepp…..

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.

If you don’t have a Twitter you need one, heres mine: http://www.twitter.com/cosmosz

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.

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.

Moritz Schlick’s Turning Point in Philosophy

29 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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