Philosophy of Science (Final)

Philosophy of Science (Final) - Said Saillant Philosophy of...

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Said Saillant Philosophy of Science Professor Sidney Felder 1. Schlick’s essay “Positivism and Realism” is largely an elaboration of the fundamental maxim “It is impossible to give the meaning of any claim save by describing the state-of-affairs that must obtain if the claim is to be true” (p. 263). What is a reasonable interpretation of this maxim that is consistent with the following passage on page 265: “The statement that ‘there are 10,000 ft. mountains on the far side of the moon’ is beyond doubt absolutely meaningful . . . even if we knew for certain, on scientific grounds of some kind, that no man would ever reach the far side of the moon . . . . But if someone advanced the claim that within every electron there is a nucleus which is always present, but produces absolutely no effects outside, so that its existence in nature is discernable in no way whatever—then this would be a meaningless claim.” In this essay, Schlick takes some pains to argue that his own position is not a form of idealism. Describe and evaluate his argument. The maxim advanced in Schlick’s “Positivism and Realism” says that “It is impossible to give the meaning of any claim save by describing the state-of-affairs that must obtain if the claim is to be true.” That is to say, that a statement can only have meaning if the possibility of verifying the statement’s claim exists. Consequently, only statements about what may be observable can be meaningful. Meaning, for Schlick, is the capacity for a statement to be determined true or false. When set side by side with that passage that “The statement that ‘there are 10,000 ft. mountains on the far side of the moon’ is beyond doubt absolutely meaningful . . . even if we knew for certain, on scientific grounds of some kind, that no man would ever reach the far side of the moon . . . . But if someone advanced the claim that within every electron there is a nucleus which is always present, but produces absolutely no effects outside, so that its existence in nature is discernable in no way whatever—then this would be a meaningless claim,” one sees that this passage is consistent with my interpretation of the maxim as follows: “The statement that ‘there are 10,000 ft. mountains on the far side of the moon’”
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makes a claim that is in theory possible to test, i.e. possible to determine its truth value or can be observed. Whether we may ever be able to actually test the statement has no bearing on the statement’s meaningfulness. On the other hand, the claim that ‘within every electron there is a nucleus which is always present, but not produces absolutely no effects outside, so that its existence in nature is discernable in no way whatever” cannot possibly be tested. That is to say, the electron nucleus statement precludes the possibility of testing; there are no possible worlds where the described nucleus of electrons can be observed. Therefore, proclaims Schlick, “this would be a meaningless claim,” because no
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This note was uploaded on 06/01/2009 for the course PHILOSOPHY 426 taught by Professor Sidneyfelder during the Spring '09 term at Rutgers.

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Philosophy of Science (Final) - Said Saillant Philosophy of...

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