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Verification principle
Posted: 20 September 2007 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi,

The logical positivists had the idea that in order for a proposition to be meaningful, it has to be vefrifiable.

It seems to make sense. Though they discarded as well as metaphysical also ethical and aestethical statements.

But nobody thinks so now. Why? What were the innovations?


One can add also the falsifiability principle to that, does it save the principle?

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Posted: 20 September 2007 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I gave a thumbnail answer to that question HERE. The logical positivists were just wrong about meaning.

Part of what demolished Logical Positivism was WVO Quine’s extremely influential paper “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, where Quine attacked what he saw as two falsehoods at the basis of the Logical Positivist movement. The second dogma was the dogma of “reductionism”, that is, reducing meaning to logical concatenations of sense data. (This is where the whole notion of verificationism comes from. You “verify” a proposition by reducing it to sense data).

For a quick version of Quine’s argument you can check out the wiki page on Quine’s paper.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I should add that the second problem with Logical Positivism and verificationism is as follows. The Vienna Circle philosopher Rudolf Carnap actually attempted to write up a detailed program for a reduction of meaning to sense data in his book Der logische Aufbau der Welt (usually known as “the Aufbau”). It is recognized as a failure. Carnap himself, IIRC, believed as much.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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“I wish to propose for the reader’s favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.” - Bertrand Russell, Introduction to Sceptical Essays

In other words: why entertain notions when there is nothing whatsoever to substantiate them other than our imaginations? Take gravity for example. We don’t know everything about it but apples fall to the ground. So there is a ground (sic) to suppose it is true. If something is unverifiable - like God, souls, afterlife, supernatural, metaphysics, ghosts, etc - then there is no sound basis in which to entertain the ideas.

String Theory had 30 years to provide something but nothing has blossomed. So it is being abandoned. Religions, the supernatural and metaphysics have had millenias with no success. They should die of disuse.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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truthaddict - 20 September 2007 11:19 AM

“I wish to propose for the reader’s favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.” - Bertrand Russell, Introduction to Sceptical Essays

In other words: why entertain notions when there is nothing whatsoever to substantiate them other than our imaginations? Take gravity for example. We don’t know everything about it but apples fall to the ground. So there is a ground (sic) to suppose it is true. If something is unverifiable - like God, souls, afterlife, supernatural, metaphysics, ghosts, etc - then there is no sound basis in which to entertain the ideas.

String Theory had 30 years to provide something but nothing has blossomed. So it is being abandoned. Religions, the supernatural and metaphysics have had millenias with no success. They should die of disuse.

Agreed. (Well, all except the claim about metaphysics). But it is one thing to reject them on the grounds that they are false and quite another to say they are meaningless and hence without truth conditions.

To say a sentence is meaningless is to say it’s the same as saying “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” to take Noam Chomsky’s famous example from linguistics. But sentences involving God, the afterlife, etc., aren’t literally meaningless. They are simply false.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 11:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Doug,

I agree too, but I never said anything about rejecting them because they are meaningless. I am in total agreement on basing it not just on being false (that implies a final determination which isnt available) but not having a basis to even observe. Maybe one day evidence can be observed to show there is a God, soul and/or Heaven. In which case I will entertain the notion and accept it as truth. But as of now we have nothing to observe (and after millenias I think it’s safe to abandon), so entertaining the notions is “undesriable.”

And I rescend my comment on metaphysics. I was thinking of something completely different and used the wrong word.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 11:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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truthaddict - 20 September 2007 11:36 AM

I agree too, but I never said anything about rejecting them because they are meaningless. I am in total agreement on basing it not just on being false (that implies a final determination which isnt available) but not having a basis to even observe. Maybe one day evidence can be observed to show there is a God, soul and/or Heaven. In which case I will entertain the notion and accept it as truth. But as of now we have nothing to observe (and after millenias I think it’s safe to abandon), so entertaining the notions is “undesriable.”

And I rescend my comment on metaphysics. I was thinking of something completely different and used the wrong word.

Heyyy, we’re in total agreement!

LOL

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Posted: 20 September 2007 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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ain’t that some crazy shit?

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Posted: 20 September 2007 11:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith” date=“1190327193]
Agreed. (Well, all except the claim about metaphysics). But it is one thing to reject them on the grounds that they are false and quite another to say they are meaningless and hence without truth conditions.

To say a sentence is meaningless is to say it’s the same as saying “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” to take Noam Chomsky’s famous example from linguistics. But sentences involving God, the afterlife, etc., aren’t literally meaningless. They are simply false.


Some religions are not only false - they are indeed without truth conditions. Not all, but when you talk about an ““unkowable god”, or “The deep-essence of everything loves is”, that lacks any truth condition. So, even if it is false, it is false in another way than “Doug is a woman”.

I agree that they are not meaningless in the same way as “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”, and not in the same way as “Ghroj sjuue akdj asduw”. Actually, even these two are meaningless in different ways.

But the idea of ‘‘sense” is related too strongly for me with reality, verification, and falsification, that I would agree that the propositions of religions are sensical.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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wandering - 20 September 2007 11:59 AM

Some religions are not only false - they are indeed without truth conditions. Not all, but when you talk about an ““unkowable god”, or “The deep-essence of everything loves is”, that lacks any truth condition. So, even if it is false, it is false in another way than “Doug is a woman”.

Actually, I would agree with you there. There are some sorts of obscurantist beliefs about religion (or indeed some ideas coming from postmodernism) that do seem to me literally nonsensical. This is a sort of jujitsu tactic of those on the losing ends of arguments sometimes. They basically blow smoke.

But I’d argue that sort of tactic is in the minority, except perhaps in some of the so-called “sophisticated” sorts of theology.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 12:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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wandering - 20 September 2007 11:59 AM

But the idea of ‘‘sense” is related too strongly for me with reality, verification, and falsification, that I would agree that the propositions of religions are sensical.

For me, the idea of ‘sense’ has to do more with undersanding. I can understand the propposition “God decided Katrina hurricane as a punishment for the secularization of the US’ (I guess I remember it is a true sample… I don’t remember if with Katrina or with 9/11) , I wouldn’t say it has no meaning, it has a strong meaning. It has nothing to do with reality, and cannot be tested or verificated.

Of course, it is hard, at least for me, to define ‘understanding’ without using the word meaning.

What is meaningless is to say that ‘God loves us all, but we cannot understand god decisions’. Here the word ‘love’ is used in a unclear meaning, not the ussual meaning.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Barto - 20 September 2007 12:33 PM

What is meaningless is to say that ‘God loves us all, but we cannot understand god decisions’. Here the word ‘love’ is used in a unclear meaning, not the ussual meaning.

Right. What you can say is that one or the other of those claims can be true, but they both can’t be true together; not while preserving the meanings of the words.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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You guys are a hoot!  I minored in philosophy as an undergrad, but missed out on Quine somehow?!!  Well smack my knee and call me Mable if his arguments don’t seem to boil down to pionting out that a formal system entirely self-referential is necessarily incomplete.  Godel seems to have had something to say about that too… smile

It throws me into paroxysms of glee to see lots of smart people coming to essentially the same conclusions from different directions.

On the other hand, given my cursory reading and preliminary understanding,  Quine’s attack on positivism lacks persuasiveness exactly (dare I say “necessarily) because he treats positivism as a closed logical system, which systems we know to be inadequate and self-paradoxical.

The ruminations about quantum logic make me giggle out loud!  Even the example in Wiki is “meaningless” or content free once one recognizes the semantic and physically insupportable error of trying to make a definitive statement about position and momentum (i.e. “particle is moving X” and “particle is located Y”) simultaneously.  I like the idea that quantum logic’s relationship to predicate logic is largely coincidental!  It reminds me of the similar math and vocabulary used to describe Shannon entropy and thermodynamic entropy.  The similarities lead to a logical error of assuming identity, which identity is clearly false.  Similarity of formal analysis between two systems does not necessarily imply identity.

On the other hand, I could be a mere tyro here, and full of ideas as worthless as chinchilla-tinkle. smile

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Posted: 20 September 2007 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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tscott - 20 September 2007 12:53 PM

Well smack my knee and call me Mable if his arguments don’t seem to boil down to pionting out that a formal system entirely self-referential is necessarily incomplete.  Godel seems to have had something to say about that too… smile

I don’t see the similarity of argument. Not that it isn’t there, but I’m afraid you’ll have to point out what Quine’s has to do with Gödel’s.

(Although I’d prefer we not get too far off topic).

tscott - 20 September 2007 12:53 PM

On the other hand, given my cursory reading and preliminary understanding,  Quine’s attack on positivism lacks persuasiveness exactly (dare I say “necessarily) because he treats positivism as a closed logical system, which systems we know to be inadequate and self-paradoxical.

I’m not sure that the self-reference problem is an issue here. I actually do agree with you that Quine’s arguments aren’t entirely persuasive. That said, historically they were extremely important in loosening the grip of Logical Positivism. Once its grip had been loosened there was a lot more space for conventional sorts of metaphysical questions, and philosophical systems like those proposed by David Lewis, Saul Kripke, etc., wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

The wiki page on the Two Dogmas paper I linked to includes a section on “Critique and Influence”. A lot of those critiques are quite germane, IMO. But they also rely on a rejection of Logical Positivism. I think that the general feeling in philosophy is that Quine was right about Logical Positivism but for the wrong reasons ...

tscott - 20 September 2007 12:53 PM

The ruminations about quantum logic make me giggle out loud!  Even the example in Wiki is “meaningless” or content free once one recognizes the semantic and physically insupportable error of trying to make a definitive statement about position and momentum (i.e. “particle is moving X” and “particle is located Y”) simultaneously.  I like the idea that quantum logic’s relationship to predicate logic is largely coincidental!  It reminds me of the similar math and vocabulary used to describe Shannon entropy and thermodynamic entropy.  The similarities lead to a logical error of assuming identity, which identity is clearly false.  Similarity of formal analysis between two systems does not necessarily imply identity.

Meh.

Quine’s speculation on revising logic is pretty silly, IMO. One can construct the sort of logical system he proposes, one without the law of the excluded middle, but so what? That doesn’t make logic an empirical science. It makes empirical scientists able to choose a different formal system, if they prefer.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Doug!!!! Very fun ideas!  I’d quote your message, but I haven’t figure out how to do that yet… :(

I was just thinking, based on the Wiki article, that Quine tried to recast positivism as a system based wholly on deductive reasoning by negating the experiential, evidence and sensory-based inductive content.  Then, by fitting it into what must then be a wholly internally-consistent and self-referential system (the circular logic piece), he notes that it leads to paradox and absurd conclusions. 

I’m no formal logician, but from my understanding of Godel, he did the same thing with notions about the supposed self-consitency and internal sufficiency of mathematics.

In both cases, the arguments seem to me to come down to an attack on the “grammar” (whether mathematical or verbal) we use to characterize a system.  Essentially, it seems grammar of itself is wholly insufficient (and again, I perceive Quine reduced positivism to a grammatical analysis).

Yet, isn’t postivism exactly the opposite of an internally consistent grammar by virtue of its appeal to external “reality” - just as the irreducible and underivable axioms of mathematics are external prerequisites rather than derivable and wholly consistent parts of the whole?

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Posted: 20 September 2007 04:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Hello tscott,

I’m not quite sure I follow what you’re after. First of all, it wasn’t Quine who tried to formalize the Logical Positivist system, it was the Logical Positivists themselves, in particular Rudolph Carnap. And he did this not by trying to “negate the experiential” but by trying to embed sense data (experience) in a logical framework, to explain how words and phrases got meaning.

Now, one might argue along Gödel’s lines that any formal system cannot express all true propositions from within that system. But that’s not the problem that Quine found, nor is it a problem that likely would have worried Carnap. I expect he’d have been fine if his logical system was on all fours with every other such system.

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