Language, Truth and Logic
Significance of Ayer's Work:
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
Study Questions 1-14
1. What is the criterion of verifiability?
A principle that is used to test whether a statement that
to be factually significant
(e.g., there is no mind-independent reality)
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-
(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
(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.