Verification Principle

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  • Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 03-04-14 11:46

Verification Principle

  • Demonstrating the truth using empirical evidence
  • Language is only meaningful if it can be verified by sense-observation (knowledge gained through your senses)


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  • Movement was inspired by science-empirical evidence to confirm a hypothesis
  • Language tells us something about the way the world is. If they can’t be proven right or wrong they are tautologies (meaningless)
  • For example ‘my car is red’ is meaningful as it can be verified by
  • However, ‘the car is beautiful’  is a subjective opinion therefore cannot be verified so is a meaningless statement
  • Weaknesses:
    • The approach was strict and scientific and meant the majority of what people said was proven meaningless despite it making sense
    • Swinburne gave the example ‘all ravens are black’. People would accept this  but there is no way of finding this out. Always a possibility of one or more ravens not being black.  Therefore Verificationists would say this is meaningles
    • Another problem is statements about history. To say the battle of Hastings occurred 1066 is meaningless, as you cannot observe this
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Ayers 1st Verification Principle

  • If a statement is not verifiable it is meaningless (not ‘factually significant’)
  • Not denying people statements important to them eg ‘God answers my prayers’but it has no factual significance
  • Ayer came up with a procedure to test whether a statement is verifiable. The statement in testing is a ‘putative proposition’ 
  • Ayer distinguished ‘practically verifiable’ (statements tested in practise) and ‘verifiable in princicble’ (verifiable in princicble but not in practise).
  • Ayer distinguished between strong and weak verification:
    • Strong= everything conclusively verified by experience and observation
    • Weak= something that is probable (eg all ravens are black)
  • If you apply the principle of verification to religious claims:
    • The claims are deemed meaningless
    • Cannot be supported by observations from sense experience with probability
    • Statements about God do not tell people anything about the world
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Ayers 2nd Verification Principle

  • After his theory being heavily criticised he responded by publishing a second edition of his book
  • He changed the definition of a principle of verification to- ‘A statement is held to be literally meaningful if it is either analytical or empirically verifiable.’
  • It was pointed out that nothing could be verified with strong and weak statements but he concluded that some statements could be conclusively verified
  • To replace strong and weak verification he came up with directly and indirectly verifiable statements:
    • A directly verifiable statement is one that itself is observation statement or is in conjunction with one. Therefore can be directly observe
    • By indirectly verifiable he meant a statement that is not directly verifiable or analytical, but directly verifiable evidence could support it
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John Hick

  • Religion is not meaningless because its truth is verifiable in principle and therefore meets the principles of verification


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  • It is meaningful to have a statement that is not verifiable
  • Swinburne’s gives the example of the toys in the cupboard:
    • The toys only come out at night when no one sees them
    • No way of verifying this movement/life in the toys


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