Limits of VerifiableJune 27, 2021
The influence of Wittgenstein’s views in the Tractatus is clearly visible in Schlick. Words that make up simple propositions gain their meanings through the objects they refer to. Schlick talks about giving objects instead of words denoting objects.
The objects represented by the words (names) in the Tractatus are not clearly defined. However, for logical positivists, the truth conditions of propositions must be given in sensory experience, perception. Therefore, according to this understanding of meaning, if a proposition does not make a difference in terms of sensory experience, it cannot be considered meaningful. In this respect, logical positivism has close ties with empiricism/empiricism.
Logical positivists have no tolerance for the meaningless. What is meaningless must be completely stripped away from philosophical discourse. What remains meaningfully is nothing but the scientific. In this respect, not only Plato’s ideas, Aristotle’s intellect, Plotinus and the Neo-Platonists’ God, Descartes’ mind as a substance, Kant’s pure reason or noumenon, Hegel’s spirit, but not Wittgenstein’s mystical which is also eliminated. No proposition can be considered meaningful if it cannot be verified within the possibilities of sense experience. The strategy of logical positivists in rejecting all this is not to claim that these metaphysical elements are absent. It is impossible to have a meaningful conversation about whether these elements exist or not.
Of course, not every proposition is expected to be confirmed by sense experience per se. The verification in question does not have to be made directly using our sense organs. Some experimental equipment can also be included in our sense organs. Also, some assumptions themselves may not be directly comparable to experience. In this case, it will be sufficient to test some of the consequences of the assumption in question. Therefore, while some propositions can be confirmed directly, some propositions can only be confirmed indirectly.
In addition, the technological possibilities at our disposal may not be sufficient for a verification to be made. Under the assumption of the technology in question, the fact that a proposition can be verified in principle must be considered sufficient for it to be meaningful. The conclusion from all this is that for a proposition to be meaningful, it is sufficient that it can be verified directly, indirectly or in principle.
On the other hand, whether a proposition can be absolutely verified or not is a separate issue. Logical positivists have thought that there is a difference between strong and weak verifiability. In strong validation, the available data gives a definite result for the proposition in question to be verified. In weak verification, a possibility is mentioned. The available data and evidence are not sufficient to conclusively confirm the proposition. In this case, there is only one possibility. This issue has been at the center of later philosophy of science discussions. (We briefly consider the course of these debates below.)
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook