The stuff below is excerpts and quotes from Pojman‘s reprint of Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic. I wasn’t quite sure how to blog this, and in particular I was not sure if I should wait with covering Ayer to I’d also finished reading Russell (I’m currently reading Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy from the same book. I may decide to read William James later on as well), covering both in one post. I somewhat dislike writing long posts based on paper-books, so in the end I decided to just post what I’d got. I haven’t really commented much on the stuff below and given my own views, partly because I’m lazy, but I guess I don’t mind going on the record here as someone who’s probably not exactly a big fan of metaphysics (…to the extent that I even know what it is; it’s not like I’ve wasted a lot of time on this kind of stuff.).
“Like Hume, I divide all genuine propositions into two classes: those which, in his terminology, concern “relations of ideas,” and those which concern “matters of fact.” The former class comprises the a priori propositions of logic and pure mathematics, and these I allow to be necessary and certain only because they are analytic. That is, I maintain that the reason why these propositions cannot be confuted in eperience is that they do not make any assertion about the empirical world, but simply record our determination to use symbols in a certain fashion. Propositions concerning empirical matters of fact, on the other hand, I hold to be hypotheses, which can be probable but never certain. […] no proposition, other than a tautology, can possibly be more than a probable hypothesis. […] A hypothesis cannot be conclusively confuted any more than it can be conclusively verified.”
“I adopt what may be called a modified verification principle. For I require of an empirical hypothesis, not indeed that it should be conclusively verifiable, bu that some possible sense-experience should be relevant to the determination of its truth or falsehood. If a putative proposition fails to satisfy this principle, and is not a tautology, then I hold that it is metaphysical, and that, being metaphysical, it is neither true nor false but literally senseless. […] much of what ordinarily passes for philosophy is metaphysical according to this criterion […] The traditional disputes of philosophers are, for the most part, as unwarranted as they are unfruitful. [I included this quote in the recent quotes post as well] […] philosophy, as a genuine branch of knowledge, must be distinguished from metaphysics.”
“the fact that a conclusion does not follow from its putative premise is not sufficient to show that it is false.”
“We say that the question that must be asked about any putative statement of fact is not, Would any observations make its truth or falsehood logically certain? but simply, Would any observations be relevant to the determination of its truth or falsehood? And it is only if a negative answer is given to this second question that we conclude that the statement under consideration is nonsensical.”
“It must, of course, be admitted that our senses do sometimes deceive us. We may, as the result of having certain sensations, expect certain other sensations to be obtainable which are, in fact, not obtainable. But, in all such cases, it is further sense-experience that informs us of the mistakes that arise out of sense-experience. We say that the senses sometimes deceive us, just because the expectations to which our sense-experiences give rise do not always accord with what we subsequently experience. That is, we rely on our senses to substantiate or confute the judgments which are based on our sensations. […] Consequently, anyone who comdemns the sensible world as a world of mere appearance, as opposed to reality, is saying something which, according to our criterion of significance, is literally nonsensical.” [On a related note I have always found it hard to figure out what’s the point of discussions about ‘whether we really live in a simulation or not’, and I’m slightly mystified by how many presumably very smart and in other respects seemingly sensible people consider exploring such questions in depth to be a good use of their limited time here on Earth.]
“existence is not an attribute. For, when we ascribe an attribute to a thing, we covertly assert that it exists: so that if existence were itself an attribute, it would follow that all positive existential propositions were tautologies, and all negative existential propositions self-contradictory; and this is not the case. […] In general, the postulation of real non-existent entities results from the superstition […] that, to every word or phrase that can be the grammatical subject of a sentence, there must somewhere be a real entity corresponding. For as there is no place in the empirical world for many of these “entities”, a special non-empirical world is invoked to house them. To this error must be attributed, not only the utterances of a Heidegger, who bases his metaphysics on the assumption that “Nothing” is a name which is used to denote something peculiarly mysterious, but also the prevalence of such problems as those concerning the reality of propositions and universals whose senselessness, though less obvious, is no less complete. […] The metaphysician […] does not intend to write nonsense. He lapses into it through being deceived by grammar, or through committing errors of reasoning”
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