Tag Archives: theory

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.


Russell’s Solution to the Problem of Infinity and Why It Matters

16 Sep

Infinity and the philosophy of time is something that, in my opinion, matters directly to metaphysics, which is the main reason why I address Russell’s essay ‘Problem of Infinity Considered Historically.’ Russell talks about the long time theories of infinity including Zeno, Hegel, and Kant. In my discussion here on the matter, my aim is to discuss how certain things are infinite, and how this discussion is a preamble of what I want to talk about metaphysically.

First, philosophers think infinity is a false thought for varieties of reasons. A few that are popular arise from mathematics, and were discussed by Russell. The infinite series that are discussed in trigonometry and calculus, are often finite, which when mixed with the other series that are in fact finite, it causes confusion. Metaphysically, people die, and a person is thought to cease to exist, and this for some ceases the possibility of infinity.  Also, it is Kant’s and many other’s belief that everything has a beginning, and that that discredits all infinity in the past. Infinity is also thought not to exist because we are contained within a began and ended part of time, and that there is no way to prove whether anything is infinite because we cannot exist before our coming to be, and that some believes that we cannot exist after our coming out of existence (when really everyone does, because we always go somewhere after death).  All of these things together require a need to justify that things can be infinite both ways. And by both ways I mean infinite in past existence, and infinite in future existence.

I have a structure to understand the temporial, spatial, and existential statuses of individual things ( like X for example). I have not written this structure for the classification of beings yet, but that is to come in the near to distant future as I clarify my structure and classifications.  I should not even have these theories anyway, as I have not  actually graduated with any philosophy, so I am in no hurry to publish anything.

Russell’s justification in ‘The Problem of Infinity Considered Historically’ is simply by how people count:  1,2,3,4,5,6…….. Counting is one of the ways we can justify infinity. I think that counting just from 1 to 2 to 3 and one to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 and on. I use such a high number to say how high we can count is because that large number I stated is not the end of our count. We could start from that large number and start counting again. I  could count forever if I wanted to. If I could really count forever, this proves infinity to exist in the future tense. I was thinking about this and thought, how we use the word ‘million’ to describe 1,000,000. I was thinking that every word in every language said by anyone in the past present and future could be postulated by a number.  The word ‘stimfuggerinpod’ is in fact a number. The word ‘ computer’ is a number. The word ‘fagilabottlekoop’ is also a number. This is only true because there is infinity in this future tense.

Another way to prove infinity this way is to think about the number 1.  If I have o.8 and I want to round up to 1 and get as close as possible to it as I can, it cannot happen because as I try to round up, the distance between o.8 and 1 will get so much smaller and smaller, and I will never get to the smallest amount before 1. For example, if I went from 0.8 to get to 1 and I got to 0.99999, if I kept adding more and more to it to get closer and closer to one, I would never do it.  0.999999, 0.999999999,  0.999999999999999, 0.99999999999999999999999999, 0.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 99999

And so on. I could keep doing this until I reach 100 years old, and I would still not be as close as possible to 1 without being 1. Get the picture?  Do you now believe that things can be infinite? If you do not, let me know and I will meet with you and discuss it out, or I could do to you what Richard did to Tommy on Tommy Boy while on the freeway in front of Prehistoric Forest (Richard hit Tommy with a 2×4).

Finally, people discredit the past infinity. As in the fact that God has always existed into past infinity, is what people discredit. This past infinity of any being denotes that this being never came into being. Now  thats a contradiction. This is one of the metaphysical principles (of time especially) that I aim  to defend. I want to do so because I have FAITH and BELIEF that God has this past infinity and never came into being, but was always a being.

The specifics of infinity aside, infinity and proving its existence matters to metaphysics.  In Russell’s other essay about infinity ‘The Positive Theory of Infinity’ ,  he states that infinity is proven when put into classes.  I aim to further this incentive because in my forthcoming paper of the classification of beings, I want to put beings into classes to state their temporal status. I personally believe that stating the temporal status of a being helps prove their status of existence. By temporal status I mean whether they are infinite, and if so how infinite and in which ways. If we can figure out the temporal status of certain beings.   Hey look to your diagonal left there is the words ‘temporal status’ three times in a column! ^ ^^^

Finally, I want it to be known before I even postulate more on the classification of beings, that all things in the universe are infinite. In one way or another they are infinite. If a body dies, the soul is recycled into one of the spatial regions. The material body is decayed and remains in the biospheric creatum somehow.  A carrot that is eaten does not disappear from existence, but it is infinite. The carrot is released from the body, goes to the soil and still remains in the biospheric creatum somehow.

More on this later in my classification of beings, thanks for the support.