LECTURE 12
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LECTURE 12 ANTI-REALISM AND VERIFICATIONISM PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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LECTURE 12 ANTI-REALISM AND VERIFICATIONISM. WILLIAM ALSTON CLAIMS THAT MANY KINDS OF ANTI-REALISM ARE BASED ON VERIFICATIONISM. VERIFICATIONISM IS A PHILOSOPHICAL CLAIM (OR THEORY) ABOUT MEANING:

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LECTURE 12 ANTI-REALISM AND VERIFICATIONISM

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Lecture 12 anti realism and verificationism

LECTURE 12

ANTI-REALISM AND VERIFICATIONISM


William alston claims that many kinds of anti realism are based on verificationism

WILLIAM ALSTON CLAIMS THAT MANY KINDS OF ANTI-REALISM ARE BASED ON VERIFICATIONISM

VERIFICATIONISM IS A PHILOSOPHICAL CLAIM (OR THEORY) ABOUT MEANING:

VERIFICATIONISM: (V) A SENTENCE IS MEANINGFUL IF AND ONLY IF IT IS CAPABLE OF BEING VERIFIED (OR FALSIFIED) IN TERMS OF ITS OBSERVABLE OR TESTABLE CONSEQUENCES.

WEAK VERIFICATIONISM: : (WV) A SENTENCE IS MEANINGFUL IF AND ONLY IF IT IS CAPABLE OF BEING CONFIRMED (OR DISCONFIRMED) IN TERMS OF ITS OBSERVABLE OR TESTABLE CONSEQUENCES.


Strong verificationism

STRONG VERIFICATIONISM

(SV) THE MEANING OF A SENTENCE JUST IS THE MODE OR METHOD OF VERIFYING IT.

THE IDEA IS THAT THE MEANING OF A SENTENCE IS JUST GIVEN BY THE TESTS OR METHODS ONE MIGHT USE TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT IT IS TRUE. BERKELEY WAS SOME SORT OF VERIFICATIONISM. THE MEANING OF A STATEMENT JUST CONSISTS IN THE PERCEPTIONS THAT WOULD COUNT AS VERIFYING THE SENTENCE. SOME MODERN PHILOSOPHERS HAVE INSISTED THAT CONCEPTS INTRODUCED INTO SCIENCE MUST BE GIVEN “OPERATIONAL MEANING”. THIS IS A KIND OF VERIFICATIONISM.


The verificationist master argument

THE VERIFICATIONIST MASTER ARGUMENT

  • A SENTENCE IS MEANINGFUL ONLY IF IT IS VERIFIABLE.

    (2) THE REALIST CONCEPTION OF TRUTH WOULD ALLOW SENTENCES TO BE TRUE EVEN IF THEY WERE NOT VERIFIABLE.

  • BUT IF A SENTENCE IS TO BE TRUE, IT MUST BE MEANINGFUL.

    SO:

  • THE REALIST CONCEPTION OF TRUTH IS INCOHERENT.

    SO IT SHOULD BE REPLACED BY A MORE SERVICABLE CONCEPTION OF TRUTH: VERIFIED IN THE LONG RUN, USEFULNESS, … OR SOME SUCH.


There are many variations on this theme not all of them use verificationism explicitly in this form

THERE ARE MANY VARIATIONS ON THIS THEME. NOT ALL OF THEM USE VERIFICATIONISM EXPLICITLY IN THIS FORM

THE “VEIL OF PERCEPTION” ARGUMENT:

  • IN ORDER TO DETERMINE WHETHER SOMETHING IS TRUE IN THE REALIST SENSE WE WOULD HAVE TO “GET BEHIND” OUR PERCEPTIONS, OUTSIDE OF OUR PARTICULAR POINT OF VIEW, AND COMPARE OUR BELIEFS WITH REALITY.

  • CLEARLY THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE, WE CAN ONLY COMPARE OUR EXPERIENCE WITH OTHER PARTS OF OUR EXPERIENCE.

    SO,

    (3) IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DETERMINE WHETHER ANYTHING IS TRUE IN THE REALIST SENSE. SO THE CONCEPTION IS USELESS…ETC.


Alston s reply to this variant

ALSTON’S REPLY TO THIS VARIANT

WE KNOW IN SOME CASES WHAT THE WORLD IS LIKE – WE DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY TO HAVE KNOWLEDGE. THE EPISTEMIC CRITERIA WE APPLY TO BELIEFS OFTEN MAKE IT ENORMOUSLY PROBABLE THAT THE BELIEF IS TRUE (IN THE REALIST SENSE). WE DO NOT HAVE TO “DIRECTLY APPREHEND” SOMETHING IN ORDER TO COME TO KNOW THAT IT IS TRUE. THE ARGUMENT THAT WE HAVE TO “GET BEHIND” OUR PERCEPTIONS IS JUST A KIND OF “PICTURE THINKING.” (COMPARE BERKELEY ON THIS.)


What s wrong with verificationism

WHAT’S WRONG WITH VERIFICATIONISM?

IN ITS STANDARD FORM, IT RULES OUT AS MEANINGLESS A GREAT MANY OF THE CLAIMS OF SCIENCE. TYPICALLY SCIENTIFIC THEORIES AND STATEMENTS CAN’T BE ABSOLUTELY VERIFIED, THEY CAN ONLY BE CONFIRMED (SOMETIMES TO A VERY HIGH DEGREE).

SO CONSIDER WEAK VERIFICATIONISM:

A STATEMENT IS MEANINGFUL IF AND ONLY IF IT CAN BE CONFIRMED (OR DISCONFIRMED) IN TERMS OF ITS TESTABLE OR OBSERVABLE CONSEQUENCES.


What s wrong with weak verificationism

WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEAK VERIFICATIONISM

CONSIDER AGAIN THE CLAIMS OF SCIENCE. THE CONFIRMATION OF A STATEMENT (SAY, EINSTEIN’S GENERAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY) INVOLVES ALSO ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT MEASUREMENT AND THE ACCEPTED CONSEQUENCES OF OTHER THEORIES. A STATEMENT IS NEVER JUST CONFIRMED BY ITSELF, BUT ONLY AS IT IS EMBEDDED IN A (SOMETIMES ELABORATE) THEORY.

IT IS WORTH NOTICING THAT MORAL CLAIMS DO NOT HAVE THE APPROPRIATE KIND OF TESTABLE CONSEQUENCES. VERIFICATIONISTS (CONSISTENTLY) CONCLUDED THAT SUCH SENTENCES ARE “COGNITIVELY” MEANINGLESS.


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