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Phil 264 - Ayer - Language, Truth and Logic

Phil 264 - Ayer - Language, Truth and Logic - Ayer's...

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Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic (1936) Significance of Ayer's Work: Ayer's book Language, Truth, and Logic develops and applies the Verification Principle of Meaning , according to which all meaningful statements are either empirical (verifiable) or analytic (true by definition). The result is that metaphysics, construed as a body of substantive theoretical claims supported by reason (rather than experience), is exposed as without meaning. Study Questions 1-14 1. What is the criterion of verifiability? A principle that is used to test whether a statement that appears to be factually significant (e.g., there is no mind-independent reality) really is factually significant, and thus truth- evaluable. It claims, A sentence is factually significant to any given person, if, and only if, he knows how to verify the proposition which it purports to express - that is, he knows what observations would lead him, under certain conditions, to accept the proposition as being true, or reject it as being false. If, on the other hand, the putative proposition is of such a character that the assumption of its truth, or falsehood, is consistent with any assumption whatsoever concerning the nature of his future experience, then as far as he is concerned, it is, if not a tautology, a mere pseudo- proposition. (Apply this criterion to a few metaphysical, ethical, theological, and metaphorical statements. Is it possible that a metaphorical statement might "pass" the criterion of verifiability? Why/why not?) 2. What does it mean to say that a sentence is 'factually significant'? The criterion of verifiability, quoted above, amounts to a definition of a factually significant sentence (or statement). Factual significance contrasts with emotional significance. It is possible, according to Ayer, for a statement to be emotionally significant (for a given individual) without its being factually significant (for that individual). (Can you think of a statement that is, for you, emotionally but not factually significant? Factually but not emotionally significant? Emotionally as well as factually significant? Neither emotionally nor factually significant?) 3. What is sense experience? What is observation? There are any number of ways in which the distinction between sense experience and observation might be drawn. One possibility is the following.
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Sense experience refers to the raw data provided by our five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Sense experience is thus passive . In contrast, observation is active and involves interpretation of sense experience; the interpretation of such experience characteristically yields observation of an object/individual. Thus, a subject might have a
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Phil 264 - Ayer - Language, Truth and Logic - Ayer's...

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