Tag Archives: verification

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

30 Nov

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

What a positivist.

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

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

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

2)Verification is a lost cause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reductionism of Logical Positivism and Quine’s Rejection

16 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

A.J. Ayer’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:

1

God

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.