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ALFRED JULES AYER’S VERIFICATION PRINCIPLES: AN EVALUATION

  • Type:Project
  • Chapters:4
  • Pages:73
  • Methodology:Descriptive
  • Reference:YES
  • Format:Microsoft Word
(Philosophy Project Topics & Materials)
ALFRED JULES AYER’S VERIFICATION PRINCIPLES: AN EVALUATION
ABSTRACT

    This study focuses on the principle of verification as A.J. Ayer posited it. Ayer had said that the meaning of a statement is the method of its verification.
    The study starts by researching into the Biography of Ayer and thus uncovering the factors that shaped Ayer. Understanding the factors that shaped the life of Ayer will help us to know how and why Ayer propounded the theory of verification. The period in which Ayer lived is the contemporary period, so a review of contemporary philosophy is undertaken by his researcher.
    In chapter four, the principle of verification principle is thoroughly examined. This writer argued that verification principle has implication for metaphysics, ethics, religion and epistemology.
    The method used in this research is the Historical, synthetic and critical method. The study looks at the history of verification in philosophy and critically addressed its shortcoming. The research will consult books, and journals in this study.
    The study concludes by criticizing the theory of verification in philosophy.  
TABLE OF CONTENT
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
Background of the study                
Statement of the Problem                     
Significance of the Study                 
Scope of the Study                    
Methodology                         
1.6    Literature Review                     
Endnotes                         
CHAPTER TWO: LIFE AND TIMES OF ALFRED JULES
            AYER
2.1    Parental Background                     
2.2    Educational Background             
2.3    Professional Life.                     
2.4    Influences in the Philosophy of A.J. Ayer         
2.4.1    Bertrand Russel                         
2.4.2    Augute Comte                         
2.4.3    David Hume                         
2.4.4    G.E Moore                            
2.4.5    Voltaire                             
2.5    An overview of contemporary philosophy:
The era of A.J. Ayer                
2.5.1    Pragmatism                         
2.5.2    Analytic Philosophy                
    Endnotes                            
 CHAPTER THREE: THE PRINCIPLE OF VERIFICATION
3.1    What is the verification Principle            
3.2    Formation of Verification Principle        
3.3    Nature of the Principle of verification         
3.4    Tenet of Verification Principle            
3.5    Implication for Metaphysics             
3.6    Implication for Religion                 
3.7    Implication for Ethics                    
3.8    Implication for Science                 
3.9    Implication for Epistemology            
    Endnotes                         
CHAPTER FOUR
Criticism and Conclusion                    
    Endnotes                             
    Bibliography                         
CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1    Background Of The Study
    The history of philosophy is divided into Ancient Greek period, medieval period, modern period and the contemporary period.
    The setting of this study is contemporary philosophy. By contemporary is meant the present time. This period in the history of philosophy started with pragmatic movement in philosophy.
    Contemporary philosophy does not represent one particular philosophical idea. There are various strands of the thoughts in this period, among them are pragmatism, essentialism, process metaphysic, and analytic philosophy.
    Analytic philosophy holds that the purpose of philosophy is not to postulate doctrines but to clarifies, analyse words that we use in describing the world. Analytic philosophy has undergone many stages. One of such stages is logical positivism. Logical positivism is based on the principle that holds that for us to have a criterion of meaningfulness, a statement is either analytic or synthetic.
    Analytic statement are statements that are necessarily true. It is true because of the meaning of its term, such statement does not increase our knowledge, so it is a tautology.
    On the other hand, synthetic statement is a statement that is either true or false. In order for it to be meaningful, it must be capable of being verified. It is this scenario that A.J. Ayer wrote his book language, Truth and logic. In the book, Ayer insisted that the meaning of a statement is the method of its verification.
1.2    Statement Of The Problem
    According to A.J. Ayer, the meaning of a statement is the method of its verification. This theory is problematic on many grounds. If the criterion of meaning is verification, what about statements that cannot be empirically verified? Is it tenable to say that metaphysical statement, religious statement and ethical statement are meaningless because they are not subject to empirical verification?
1.3    Significance of the Study
    This study is important because it will show that the approach of A.J. Ayer to meaning is very parochial and ill-founded. So the study will prevent other philosopher from the pitfall of A.J. Ayer.
1.4    The Scope of the Study
    This study focuses on the principle of verification as A.J Ayer posited it. Ayer had said that the meaning of a statement is the method of its verification.
    The study will research into the life of A.J. Ayer in order to uncover the factor that shaped the philosopher of A.J. Ayer.
    The verification principle will be studied in its length and breadth. Finally the study will criticize the principle of verification.
1.5    Methodology
    The method used in this research is the historical synthetic and critical method. The study looks at the history of verification in philosophy and critically addressed its shortcomings. The research will used books and journals.
1.6    Literature Review
    In this study the researcher finds many books useful to the research. These books are reviewed below:
    In Lacey’s Dictionary of Philosophy there are many articles that discuss verification principles. “Analytical propositions are true without any sort of empirical investigation at all. So for the logical positivists, analytic proposition are “trivial”. They do not tell us anything about the world”1.
    In a very useful book, A modern introduction to philosophy, the verification principle is analysed. The various objections to the principle are presented. Ayer attempted a response to these objections. This book will be invaluable in this research2.
    Joseph Omorogbe in his book: Ethics: A systematic and Historical Study, made an application of Ayer theory of verification to ethics. For A.J. Ayer, since ethical statements cannot be verified through sensory observation, they are meaningless. Ethical statement are non-cognitive3.
    In the book titled Philosophy, popkin made clear how verification principle attacked traditional philosophy. He went further to state that there is a distinction between a statement, that are verified and statement that are verifiable4.
    In a philosophical look at Religion, Omoregbe discuss in chapter six, the verification principle of Ayer as it relates to religion and metaphysics the logical positivist, writes Omorogbe, took verifiability as the criterion of meaningfulness. The principle states Any proposition that is verifiable is meaningful whereas any proposition that is unverifiable is meaningless. It was this principle that the logical positivists, among whom is Ayer, used to write off religious and metaphysical statement as meaningless5.
    In metaphysics without tears: A systematic and Historical study Omorogbe analysed how Ayer contributed to the criticism of metaphysics. He wrote that originally Ayer was not a member of the Vienna circle. But he read their work and introduced logical positivism to the English speaking world with the publication of his very polemical little book, language, truth and logic6.
 Iroegbe, in metaphysics: the kpim of philosophy discussed Ayer under five sub-headings. He noted first that logical positivism was the background of Ayer philosophy. For the logical positivist, Iroegbu says, philosophy is not a theory but an activity. Its role is to clarify the meaning of proposition.
    Secondly, Iroegbu observes that verifiability criterion leaves us with very clear rule of testing cognitively significant proposition. The verification principle itself, could be said to be strong or weak.
    Thirdly, Iroegbu continues, when verifiability criterion is applied to metaphysical proposition, the result will either be that, the statements are trivially analytic or outright nonsensical.
    Fourthly, the problem that Ayer found with metaphysical statement is what he calls ontological fallacy. This for Ayer means the use of grammar in such a manner that logical statements are taken as existential or ontological. So metaphysics is mistaken in that it ascribes existence to imaginary objects that cannot be instantiated. For example when metaphysician says unicorns are fictitious, there is an error of ontology because unicorn does not really exist. Furthermore, Ayer says that the statements: God is perfect being is fallacious. The reasoning of Ayer here is that God cannot be verified. So how then do we apply perfection to him. After all, kant had said earlier that perfection is not a predicate.
    Finally, Ayer dismissed metaphysics as nonsense. Ayer, says Iroegbu, assigns new role to philosophy. The proper function of philosophy is not to postulate doctrine or proposition. Its role is critical. By critical, Ayer, is saying that the role of philosophy is clarification, analysis and explanation of proposition that are made about reality. Philosophy is there to explain the meaning of statement and terms that are used by scientist which are unclear. Iroegbu concluded his writing on Ayer by criticizing verification principle7.
Another important book that will be used in this research is Socrates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy. This book was authored by Samuel Enoch Stumpf  and James Fieser. Chapter seventeen of this book addressed analytic philosophy. Within the chapter, Ayer Verification principle is discussed. According to this work, verification principle was motivated by David Hume’s empirical tradition that involved strict criteria of meaning as contained in Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.
Another personality that motivated the verification principle is Auguste Comte. These personalities were disposed to reject metaphysics as outdated by science.
    The book Language, Truth and Logic was written by Alfred Jules Ayer. The book will be used in this research. In the book Ayer define the principles of verification. The book dismisses metaphysics, religious language, and ethics as meaningless. The reason here for Ayer is that, for a statement to be meaningful, it must either be analytic or synthetic.
    Ethical statement like “killing is bad” merely expresses an emotion. It cannot be verified. So it has no meaning for Ayer.
    When metaphysician says God exist, they are committing ontological fallacy because they are using grammar in such a way that logical statement are treated as existential or ontological. So metaphysics is nonsense!8
    In voyage of Discovery: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy, W.F. Lawhead discussed verifiability principle. This principle was developed, Lawhead  says, as a tool used by logical positivists to determine cognitively meaningful statement.
    The book define  verifiability principle thus: a factual statement is meaningful if it can be verified in experience.
    The book surveys how the logical positivists modified this statement from time to time. The modification was warranted by the obvious pitfall in the theory.
    Furthermore the book shows how the verifiability principle affected metaphysics, ethics, and religious statement. To make a statement about God for example is meaningless because God cannot be verified empirically. There is nothing that correspond to the idea of God in our experience. In ethics, the theory of Ayer came to be known as emotivism. This is the theory that says that ethical statements merely expresses emotions. Verification principle therefore is not about truth but about meaning9.
    The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy by Simon Blackburn is an important book that will be used extensively in this research. The book contains articles on the different aspect of Ayer verifications. It has article on Ayer biography in which the book summarizes Ayer’s life from birth to death. It also features article on verification principle and logical positivism. This book will be used in this research10.
    Another useful book in this research is philosophy History and problems by Samuel Enoch Stumpf. In chapter twenty-four of the book, analytic philosophy is explained. The dominant movement of philosophical activity in the contemporary English speaking world is known as analytic philosophy.
    According to Stumpf the central issue in analytic philosophy is what they teach about the role of philosophy. For them the role of philosophy is to explain and not to postulate doctrine. So in that way the goal of philosophy is meaning and not truth.
    The scientist have already found out everything there is about reality and the world. There is nothing left for philosopher to uncover. But the scientist used ambiguous and misleading expressions. It is the work of philosophers to make clear these ambiguous statements by the scientist. So it was assumed that rigorous linguistic analysis could prevent the use or abuse of language in manner that would cause us, as A.J. Ayer said, to draw false inference or ask spurious questions, or make nonsensical assumptions’.
    The worry of Ayer is that we use proposition about nation as though nations were persons and we use the word Is in relation to things whose existence we could not possibly want to infer.
    Stumpf continued to analyse how the principle of verification was divided into direct verification and indirect verification. This was with specific reference to Rudolph Carnap contribution to verification. As verification principle was criticized. Carnap decided to shift his ground from verification to confirmation, why did Carnap shift ground? Stumpf answered as follows “Carnap agreed that if verification is taken to mean a complete and definitive establishment of truth the laws of science could never be verified. The number of instances to which the laws, say of biology or physics apply is infinite. And if strict verification is required personal observation of every instance then obviously there could not be verification as so defined”11.
Endnotes
A.R. Lacey, A Dictionary of Philosophy, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976). p. 66.
P. Edward and A. Pap, (eds), A modern introduction to Philosophy, (London: The free press, 1965).p. 631.  
J. Omoregbe, Ethics: A Systematic and Historical Study, (Lagos: Joja publishers Ltd, 1989). p. 341.
R.H. Popkin and A. Stroll, Philosophy, (Johannesburg: Reed Educational and Professional publishing Ltd, 1998). pp. 347-348.
J. Omoregbe, A Philosophical Look At Religion (Lagos: Joja publisher Ltd, 1989), p. 179-185.
___ Metaphysics without Tears: A Systematic and Historical Study, (Lagos: Joja publishers Ltd, 1989), pp. 127-129.
P. Iroegbu, Metaphysics: The Kpim of Philosophy, Cowerri: International Universities Press, Ltd, 1995), pp. 234-250.
S.E. Stumpf, J. Fieser, Socrates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy, (Boston: McGraw Hill, 1966). pp.426-427.
Alfred Jules Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1964). p.601.
W.F. Lawhead, Voyage of Dictionary: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. (Australia: Wadsworth, 2002). p.341.
S. Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). p.81.
S.E. Stumpf,  Philosophy: History and Problems 4th ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1971). p.531.

ALFRED JULES AYER’S VERIFICATION PRINCIPLES: AN EVALUATION
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Type Project
Department Philosophy
Project ID PHI0139
Price ₦3,000 ($9)
Chapters 4 Chapters
No of Pages 73 Pages
Methodology Descriptive
Reference YES
Format Microsoft Word

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    Details

    Type Project
    Department Philosophy
    Project ID PHI0139
    Price ₦3,000 ($9)
    Chapters 4 Chapters
    No of Pages 73 Pages
    Methodology Descriptive
    Reference YES
    Format Microsoft Word

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