The Verification Principle

Notes made with my teacher's notes and the textbook on the verification principle.

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The Verification Principle
The Vienna Circle and the Verification Principle:
The Vienna Circle were a group of philosophers who were influenced by Ludwig
Wittgenstein, they first met after the First World War and continued to meet during the
1920s and the 1930s.
They followed the thinking of Auguste Comte in that they believed tat theological
interpretations of events and experiences belonged in the past, to an unenlightened age
where `God' was used as an explanation for things which science hadn't yet mastered.
Comte said this theological era was replaced by the metaphysical era, where philosophical
concepts were used as a replacement for the gods to fill the gaps science left. Then there
was the positivist age, where it was recognised that the only useful form of evidence for
investigation as that available to the sense, which could not scientifically be tested.
The Vienna circle agreed that the theological way was outdated, and took up the idea of
looking at empirical evidence, that which is is available to be trusted by the sense, as this
was the key to understanding what was and what wasn't meaningful.
A. J. Ayer and the Verification Principle
The British philosopher, A. J. Ayer supported verification theory. In Ayer's Language, Truth
and Logic (1936), he stated, "The criterion we use to test the genuineness of apparent
statements of fact is the criterion of verifiability." Ayer was a logical positivist meaning
that he believed that in order for a statement to be meaningful it ought to be either a
tautology or verifiable using the empirical senses. This view was heavily influence by
Ludwig Wittgenstein, the author of Tractatus, who asserted that the only language with
meaning was the language of science, language that referred to empirical reality. By
`meaningless', Ayer meant `factually insignificant'
Ayer is stating that a priori analytic and a posteriori synthetic statements are meaningful.
A priori analytic statements are also referred to as tautologies, a tautology is a statement
of fact that cannot be confirmed or falsified by any observation, and it is a logical truth. A
example of an a priori analytic proposition is, `2+2=4', this cannot be falsified. A posteriori
synthetic statements are statements that can be verified by observation. For example, `it is
raining outside' can be proven by using the senses of sight and maybe even sound and
feel, due to the fact that it can be verified or falsified using the empirical senses means
that the statement `it is raining outside' is a meaningful statement. Ayer and other
verificationists hold that metaphysical, non-cognitive statements are completely
meaningless because they attempt to assert facts about things that cannot be verified
using the empirical senses and are not tautologies. Religious language, therefore, attempts
to assert facts about God as a priori analytic statements, but in reality they are a priori
synthetic statements and are `factually insignificant'. As Ayer puts it:
`The term `god' is a metaphysical term. And if `god' is a metaphysical term, then is cannot
even be probable that God exists. To say that `God exists', is to make a metaphysical
utterance which cannot be either true or false. And by the same criterion, no sentence
which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent god can possess any literal

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Here Ayer does not just deny God's existence, he deny the possibility of God's existence
altogether on the grounds that there is no way of empirically verifying God's existence.
Ayer would disagree with all of the traditional arguments for the existence of God, as none
of them conclusively and empirically prove the existence of God.…read more

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Ayer also rejected any argument from religious experience. He accepted that people might
claim to have experiences of God, but he argues that a person, such as Paul, saying they
have seen God is recounting a set of emotions that are religious. He suggested that the
fact people have religious experiences raised interesting psychological question, but
because religious experiences are not verifiable Ayer rejected them as meaning
statements.…read more

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One traveller believes that there is a Celestial City at the end of
the journey and view difficulties along the way as learning activities and good
events as gifts from the ruler of the Celestial City. The other traveller does not
believe that ther is a Celestial City. Tis traveller views good events as welcome
and bad events have to be endured. Whichever on is right at the end of the
journey, their view could be verified.…read more


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