What is the Principle of Confirmation in Logical Positivism?June 26, 2021
There is perhaps no more striking, clear, and infallible example of how language and matters of meaning can be used to master philosophical problems than logical positivism.
A.J. Ayer (1910-89) took the scalpel of positivism or logical empiricism (logical empiricism) in his widely influential work, Language, Truth, and Logic, and used it on issues in fields such as ethics, theology, and metaphysics.
A. J. Ayer applied a principle known as the “validation principle” to the statements to see if they were meaningful. Ayer said, “To test whether a sentence expresses a true empirical (observable) hypothesis, I adopted a principle of alternating verification.” he wrote. “An empirical hypothesis, in my view, need not be definitively verifiable, but a sense experience of determining the truth or falsity of that hypothesis should be possible. If a legitimately presumed statement does not conform to this principle and is not a tautology, then Then I consider that statement to be metaphysical, that is, neither true nor false, merely meaningless in the literal sense.” Positivists were not after deciding whether a statement was true or false. They believed that this was the work of science. The task of philosophy was to decide what that expression meant, that is, whether the expression had any meaning. A meaningful expression was one that gave information about the world. Ayer’s verifiability principle can be described by looking at what he has to say about the following statements:
1. The cat is on the mat.
2. The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1915.
3. Fenerbahçe men’s basketball team became the EuroLeague champion in 2017.
4. Michael Jordan has the highest points-per-game average of all time (30.1).
5. After my soul undergoes Purgatory, it will go to heaven or hell.
6. Krishna is the avatar (ie incarnation) of Vishnu.
1. If you are sitting in a room with a cat on the mat, then the first statement is true. Even if there is no cat on the mat, the statement is not meaningless, it is simply false. That is, there are “some possible sense experiences” that can at least make the statement true.
2. The statement is wrong (The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923), but it is not meaningless.
Statements 3 and 4 are true because they satisfy the empirical (experimental/observational) demands of the verification principle. However, statements 5 and 6 are the kind of statements that are tested and exposed by Ayer’s validation principle. These expressions refer to beings such as “spirit,” “heaven,” “purgatory,” “Krishna,” and “Vishnu.” These beings are metaphysical and cannot be perceived by the senses. So they are not right or wrong—in a very literal sense—“absurd.” In fact, you can’t even imagine the kinds of experiences that could confirm such beings.
Is “God is omnipotent” a meaningful statement according to Ayer? Not really. Have you ever seen God walking down the main street of the city or shopping at the grocery store? You did not see; So, has God been part of any of your other sense experiences? Probably not. So, do you expect it to be a part of any of your future sensory experiences? If no, then the statement doesn’t make sense either.
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