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Verification principle
Posted: 20 September 2007 06:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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dougsmith - 20 September 2007 12:10 PM
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.

“there is a transcendent being” is a statement without a truth condition, and that is not sophisticated theology.  I cannot think of a state of reality that would falsify it. Again, it is very unlike “G.W. Bush is a lake”.  Do you think that saying “a transcendent being” has sense? In what category would you put it? For me sense is related to verifiability.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 06:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith” date=“1190335069]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).

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 ...
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.

What is your personal view on logical positivism?

[ Edited: 20 September 2007 06:34 PM by wandering ]
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Posted: 20 September 2007 08:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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wandering - 20 September 2007 06:28 PM

Do you think that saying “a transcendent being” has sense? In what category would you put it? For me sense is related to verifiability.

Before we could think in its verifiability, we should understand what ‘a transcendeent being’ is. I agree it is meaningless, and I think it is meaningless because it carries no information. After this, yes, it could be unverifiable.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 10:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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wandering - 20 September 2007 06:28 PM

“there is a transcendent being” is a statement without a truth condition, and that is not sophisticated theology.  I cannot think of a state of reality that would falsify it. Again, it is very unlike “G.W. Bush is a lake”.  Do you think that saying “a transcendent being” has sense? In what category would you put it? For me sense is related to verifiability.

I’d be inclined to agree with you to a certain extent. The problem isn’t the sentence, really, it’s the word “transcendent”. The problem is that it’s too vague, it could mean very many things. To “transcend” means to “go beyond”; so a transcendent being is a being that goes beyond something.

OK, in one sense this makes perfect sense: Columbus was a transcendent being. He “went beyond” the world known by Europe. wink

But clearly that’s not what “transcendent” means in this context. So when someone uses the word that way, I do think it’s germane to ask what they mean by the term. If what they mean is that this being goes beyond human understanding, then the obvious question is how we can understand it enough to know that. And of course how it can be that this being is worthy of worship, open to prayer, ethically perfect, et cetera, if it is in fact beyond our capacity to understand.

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Posted: 20 September 2007 10:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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wandering - 20 September 2007 06:31 PM

What is your personal view on logical positivism?

My personal view is that Logical Positivism was an honest mistake. It was overly simplistic. Meaning is not given by methods of verification, nor by logical concatenations of sense-data.

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Posted: 21 September 2007 05:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Perhaps you can give me an example of a statement that would fall between the chairs of LP?

I fail to understand Quine, he just confuses me.

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Posted: 21 September 2007 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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wandering - 21 September 2007 05:50 AM

Perhaps you can give me an example of a statement that would fall between the chairs of LP?

This is going to be hard to answer, because first of all there are going to be different versions of it. Secondly it’s not clear to me that an industrious believer of LP couldn’t cook up some sort of unconvincing analysis of any statement we present, if he were sufficiently interested in doing so.

But that said, traditionally the logical positivists constructed their system so as to reject theological and metaphysical claims as meaningless. So presumably they would consider these sorts of sentences as meaningless or without truth conditions:

God created the world.
Jesus was the son of God.
Zeus lived on Mount Olympus.
Numbers exist as abstract entities.
Everything that exists is either a substance or a property.
Spacetime is a four-dimensional manifold.

Quine’s writing can be hard to decypher. Although I think that historically his attacks on LP were taken the most seriously, there were others as well that may be somewhat clearer. The wiki page on Logical Positivism might be a good place to start for more info on problems with it. See the section marked “Criticism and influences”.

For example, another criticism of LP that they mention in Wikipedia that is indeed devastating is that the verification theory of meaning is itself unverifiable. Hence on its own criteria it should itself be meaningless.

Also, as they note, it is arguably impossible to verify a universal (all ravens are black), or a negative (no ravens are orange). For the same reasons, it doesn’t appear to me that a LP can make sense of modality (terms like “could”, “possible”, “necessary”, “impossible”). How do you verify that it is impossible to create a perpetual motion machine? Or that telekenisis is impossible? Is it possible to verify that something is possible without actually doing it?

etc.

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Posted: 21 September 2007 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I’ve thought about the paper and your response (and my blabberings) some more Doug!

I suppose I was off-base, as I was thinking the attack on positivism was an attack on evidence-based notions of truth (and philosophy).

My thinking was that if one could reduce positivism to a formal system, of course it would lack completeness.

Is there a school of philosophy you can point me to which is considered “better” than positivism at recognizing the importance of evidence and experience?  Heretofore, I’ve considered myself a positivist, which is probably some of my problem (that and I need a hair-cut). smile

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Posted: 21 September 2007 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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tscott - 21 September 2007 09:58 AM

I’ve thought about the paper and your response (and my blabberings) some more Doug!

I suppose I was off-base, as I was thinking the attack on positivism was an attack on evidence-based notions of truth (and philosophy).

Oh, perish the thought!

tscott - 21 September 2007 09:58 AM

My thinking was that if one could reduce positivism to a formal system, of course it would lack completeness.

Is there a school of philosophy you can point me to which is considered “better” than positivism at recognizing the importance of evidence and experience?  Heretofore, I’ve considered myself a positivist, which is probably some of my problem (that and I need a hair-cut). smile

Well, the odd thing in philosophy nowadays is that there really aren’t “schools” per se ... it often seems like all there are are individual philosophers who agree or disagree with one another to a certain extent, and taken as a whole they seem to cover nearly the entire field of rational play.

I would say very generally that so-called “Analytic” philosophy is a pretty good place to start, however that is a very wide umbrella that includes early logical positivists as well as later people who rejected LP. (Indeed, one can pretty much say that LP died out in the 1950s as a serious philosophical enterprise). To get an idea of the people one could start with, take a look at this wiki list of analytic philosophers. I doubt there’s much of anything they all agree on except that truth should be evidence and argument based, and that clarity of argument is a virtue.

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