Weak Verificationism

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hue-man
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:03 pm
I am strong believer in the verification principle as a criterion for meaningful propositions. A.J. Ayer distinguished between two different types of verification. There is strong verification and weak verification. Strong verification refers to statements which are directly verifiable, that is, a statement can be shown to be correct by way of empirical observation. For example, 'There are human beings on Earth.' Weak verification refers to statements which are not directly verifiable, for example 'Yesterday was a Monday'. The statement could be said to be weakly verified if empirical observation can render it highly probable.

What exactly is the nature of historical knowledge. Is it possible to know the past? Based on these two types of verification, I suppose we can say that historical knowledge is a matter of weak verification.

Weak verification appears to be a kind of pragmatic form of the principle. What are some other examples of weak verification that you find useful for making sense of the world in which we live?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:11 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;133685 wrote:
I am strong believer in the verification principle as a criterion for meaningful propositions. A.J. Ayer distinguished between two different types of verification. There is strong verification and weak verification. Strong verification refers to statements which are directly verifiable, that is, a statement can be shown to be correct by way of empirical observation. For example, 'There are human beings on Earth.' Weak verification refers to statements which are not directly verifiable, for example 'Yesterday was a Monday'. The statement could be said to be weakly verified if empirical observation can render it highly probable.

What exactly is the nature of historical knowledge. Is it possible to know the past? Based on these two types of verification, I suppose we can say that historical knowledge is a matter of weak verification.

Weak verification appears to be a kind of pragmatic form of the principle. What are some other examples of weak verification that you find useful for making sense of the world in which we live?



But the distinction does not help to justify the verification principle as a criterion of meaningfulness. The trouble with the verification principle is that it cannot be formulated in a way that both, and at the same time. will include sentences which are clearly meaningful, and, exclude meaningless propositions.

Here is the classic paper on this issue. It is worth studying.

Hempel, "Problems and Changes in the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning"
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:14 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133688 wrote:
But the distinction does not help to justify the verification principle as a criterion of meaningfulness. The trouble with the verification principle is that it cannot be formulated in a way that both, and at the same time. will include sentences which are clearly meaningful, and, exclude meaningless propositions.

Here is the classic paper on this issue. It is worth studying.

Hempel, "Problems and Changes in the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning"


I'll take a look at that paper, but I would say that the verification principle can be justified by a pragmatic meta-consideration of knowledge.
 
Fido
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:16 pm
@hue-man,
History is a form of fiction...It is not necessary to know the truth, but is to get the idea...

What would be the point of knowing the truth??? Distant events as causual events are too distant to affect us in this time, and if you get the idea correctly then you can take a lesson from them because similar situation always crop up in history...
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:16 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133688 wrote:
But the distinction does not help to justify the verification principle as a criterion of meaningfulness. The trouble with the verification principle is that it cannot be formulated in a way that both, and at the same time. will include sentences which are clearly meaningful, and, exclude meaningless propositions.

Here is the classic paper on this issue. It is worth studying.

Hempel, "Problems and Changes in the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning"

The other problem of course is the verification principle can not be verified.
Sort of a liars paradox problem.
Logical positivism takes all the fun out of speculative or classical philosophy.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:25 pm
@prothero,
prothero;133692 wrote:
The other problem of course is the verification principle can not be verified.
Sort of a liars paradox problem.


Can it not be verified that our only practical access to knowledge is through empirical observation or logical decidability (such as in analytic propositions)?

prothero;133692 wrote:
Logical positivism takes all the fun out of speculative or classical philosophy.


You're assuming that positing the verification principle automatically dismisses the philosophic discussion of that which is not verifiable. The verification principle is about recognizing the distinction between meaningful propositions and meaningful questions. Let's call it the semantic distinction between mind-dependence and mind-independence.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:32 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;133690 wrote:
I'll take a look at that paper, but I would say that the verification principle can be justified by a pragmatic meta-consideration of knowledge.


Yes, but that was not my point. My point, and the point of the paper, is that the verification principle cannot be correctly formulated so as to do what it is supposed to do. Namely, eliminate the meaningless, and include the meaningful. If it does one, it cannot do the other. (A little like the principle of indeterminacy in QM about position and velocity).
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:34 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133698 wrote:
Yes, but that was not my point. My point, and the point of the paper, is that the verification principle cannot be correctly formulated so as to do what it is supposed to do. Namely, eliminate the meaningless, and include the meaningful. If it does one, it cannot do the other. (A little like the principle of indeterminacy in QM about position and velocity).


Would you like to give me a quick rundown of why the verification principle cannot eliminate meaningless statements and include meaningful ones?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:48 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;133700 wrote:
Would you like to give me a quick rundown of why the verification principle cannot eliminate meaningless statements and include meaningful ones?


I did not mean cannot. I meant, has not, so far. And that is why it has been pretty much abandoned. Read Hempel for the history of failed attempts to do it. That is what Ayer's distinction between weak and strong verification tries to do. Eliminate what needs elimination, and admit what should be admitted. Wittgenstein's PI was, in part, a reaction to this futility.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:03 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133708 wrote:
I did not mean cannot. I meant, has not, so far. And that is why it has been pretty much abandoned. Read Hempel for the history of failed attempts to do it. That is what Ayer's distinction between weak and strong verification tries to do. Eliminate what needs elimination, and admit what should be admitted. Wittgenstein's PI was, in part, a reaction to this futility.


I only believe that if a statement is unverifiable then it is meaningless as a proposition. I've made a distinction between two different senses of meaning in philosophic language. One sense refers to mind-independent facts of the world that can be verified by empirical observation and the other sense refers to subjective sentiments that are not matters of knowledge or truth, but matters of sensory value. What's wrong with this interpretation of the verification principle?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:14 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;133715 wrote:
I only believe that if a statement is unverifiable then it is meaningless as a proposition. I've made a distinction between two different senses of meaning in philosophic language. One sense refers to mind-independent facts of the world that can be verified by empirical observation and the other sense refers to subjective sentiments that are not matters of knowledge or truth, but matters of sensory value. What's wrong with this interpretation of the verification principle?


How do you tell whether a statement is verifiable or not? Is that God exists verifiable? (After we are dead, maybe). Some people think it is verifiable right now. Is it? Apparently you think that there are ETs somewhere is not verifiable. But a lot of scientists think it is (in principle). In fact, they are looking for evidence. Isn't that what Ayer's distinction between strong and weak verification is about? Strong verification omitted what was clearly meaningful. So he had to weaken the criterion. But what does the now weakened criterion permit? How about, that God exists? Which positivists held was meaningless. And which strong verification would not allow.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:22 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133719 wrote:
How do you tell whether a statement is verifiable or not? Is that God exists verifiable? (After we are dead, maybe). Some people think it is verifiable right now. Is it? Apparently you think that there are ETs somewhere is not verifiable. But a lot of scientists think it is (in principle). In fact, they are looking for evidence. Isn't that what Ayer's distinction between strong and weak verification is about? Strong verification omitted what was clearly meaningful. So he had to weaken the criterion. But what does the now weakened criterion permit? How about, that God exists? Which positivists held was meaningless. And which strong verification would not allow.


I suppose that depends on what you mean by the word God. Can we prove the existence of a supernatural spirit that doesn't want to reveal itself to everyone? I would say no. "There are ETs somewhere" is verifiable in principle, but that wasn't my point. My point was that if someone were to say that "ETs exist" then they would be making a false proposition because it has not been verified. It would be better to say that "ETs may exist" or "I believe that ETs exist".
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:30 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;133722 wrote:
I suppose that depends on what you mean by the word God. Can we prove the existence of a supernatural spirit that doesn't want to reveal itself to everyone? I would say no. "There are ETs somewhere" is verifiable in principle, but that wasn't my point. My point was that if someone were to say that "ETs exist" then they would be making a false proposition because it has not been verified. It would be better to say that "ETs may exist" or "I believe that ETs exist".


But what is meant by God is the traditional meaning, and the question is whether there is a God is meaningless or not on the verification principle. Is the ET thing strongly or weakly verifiable? Apart from that, is it meaningless? And if on some formulation of the verification principle it turned out to be meaningless, would that not lead you to abandon that formulation? Or would you simply say, it was meaningless. You have to test philosophical theories by their consequences. That is pragmatism.

You cannot mean that it would be false if not yet verified. You think that since it has not been verified that cancer is caused by a virus, that it is false that cancer is caused by a virus? You subscribe to the principle that what is not yet known to be true, is false?
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:48 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133730 wrote:
But what is meant by God is the traditional meaning, and the question is whether there is a God is meaningless or not on the verification principle. Is the ET thing strongly or weakly verifiable? Apart from that, is it meaningless? And if on some formulation of the verification principle it turned out to be meaningless, would that not lead you to abandon that formulation? Or would you simply say, it was meaningless. You have to test philosophical theories by their consequences. That is pragmatism.


If one is referring to the traditional meaning of God, I would say that the statement "God exists" is meaningless as a proposition. What's your take on it?

The ET thing is strongly verifiable in principle. I would say that it's meaningless if it is stated as a proposition but not as a question or a simple belief. I think that our disagreement here is mainly due to what we mean when we say that something is meaningless. By meaningless I only mean that it has not yet been proven. If someone said that "ETs exist" they would be making a declaration and yet their declaration has not been verified. What substance does a declaration hold if it has not yet been proven to be true or the declarer cannot yet prove it to be true?

kennethamy;133730 wrote:
You cannot mean that it would be false if not yet verified. You think that since it has not been verified that cancer is caused by a virus, that it is false that cancer is caused by a virus? You subscribe to the principle that what is not yet known to be true, is false?


Excuse me for using the wrong word. I don't mean that what is claimed to be true is false because it has not yet been proven to be true. I mean that a proposition (a statement that is declared to be true or false) that has not been proven or cannot yet be proven rests on an empty premise.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:00 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;133748 wrote:
If one is referring to the traditional meaning of God, I would say that the statement "God exists" is meaningless as a proposition. What's your take on it?

The ET thing is strongly verifiable in principle. I would say that it's meaningless if it is stated as a proposition but not as a question or a simple belief. I think that our disagreement here is mainly due to what we mean when we say that something is meaningless. By meaningless I only mean that it has not yet been proven. If someone said that "ETs exist" they would be making a declaration and yet their declaration has not been verified. What substance does a declaration hold if it has not yet been proven to be true or the declarer cannot yet prove it to be true?



Excuse me for using the wrong word. I don't mean that what is claimed to be true is false because it has not yet been proven to be true. I mean that a proposition (a statement that is declared to be true or false) that has not been proven or cannot yet be proven rests on an empty premise.


Of course I don't think it is meaningless. Why should I? And if some formulation of the verification principle implies it is meaningless, then I would just reject that formulation of the VP since I am far more certain that the sentence is meaningful than I could possibly be that the formulation that implies it is meaningless is correct.

I don't know what an empty premise is. So, I wouldn't know. And neither would I know how it rests on it if I did know what an empty premise is, which I do not.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:08 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133751 wrote:
Of course I don't think it is meaningless. Why should I? And if some formulation of the verification principle implies it is meaningless, then I would just reject that formulation of the VP since I am far more certain that the sentence is meaningful than I could possibly be that the formulation that implies it is meaningless is correct.

I don't know what an empty premise is. So, I wouldn't know. And neither would I know how it rests on it if I did know what an empty premise is, which I do not.


What do you mean when you say that the sentence "God exists" is meaningful? Do you believe that it can be proven to be true or false?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:10 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;133757 wrote:
What do you mean when you say that the sentence "God exists" is meaningful? Do you believe that it can be proven to be true or false?


People like me, understand what it means. No, I don't believe it can be proven true or false.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:13 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133761 wrote:
People like me, understand what it means. No, I don't believe it can be proven true or false.


I understand what it means in definitive terms, but when I say that it's meaningless I mean that it can't be proven to be true or false and yet it is stated to be true.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:15 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;133763 wrote:
I understand what it means in definitive terms, but when I say that it's meaningless I mean that it can't be proven to be true or false and yet it is stated to be true.



In that case I guess that people who say that cancer is caused by a virus are saying something meaningless. They would be surprised to hear it.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:25 pm
@hue-man,
Philosophy is in essence I would say rational speculation.
Logical positivism reduces "meaningful"philosophy to that which can be verified.
Science reduces natural philosophy to that which can be "falsified"

The question of "God exists" would if true; be a matter of "ultimate concern" and "infinite meaning" but it can neither be verified or falsified (although particular religious assertions and conceptions of god can be falsified I would assert).

Even unverifiable assertions may be matters of "meaning" and areas of rational speculation although perhaps not "meaningful propositions" in the rigid logical and analytic realm of positivism.
 
 

 
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