This edited collection covers Friedrich Waismann's most influential contributions to twentieth-century philosophy of language: his concepts of open texture and language strata, his early criticism of verificationism and the analytic-synthetic distinction, as well as their significance for experimental and legal philosophy. In addition, Waismann's original papers in ethics, metaphysics, epistemology and the philosophy of mathematics are here evaluated. They introduce Waismann's theory of action along with his groundbreaking work on fiction, proper names and Kafka's Trial. Waismann is known as the voice of Ludwig Wittgenstein in the Vienna Circle.
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The most distinctive doctrine of the logical positivists was that for any sentence to be cognitively meaningful it must express a statement that is either analytic or empirically verifiable. It was allowed that sentences may have "emotive," "imperative," and other kinds of meaning for example, "What a lovely present! But — leaving aside sentences expressing analytic statements — for a sentence to have "cognitive," "factual," "descriptive," or "literal" meaning for example, "The sun is 93 million miles from the earth" it was held that it must express a statement that could, at least in principle, be shown to be true or false, or to some degree probable, by reference to empirical observations.
The iconoclasm of the logical positivists was based on this criterion of meaning, for according to the verifiability principle a great many of the sentences of traditional philosophy for example, "Reality is spiritual," "The moral rightness of an action is a nonempirical property," "Beauty is significant form," "God created the world for the fulfillment of his purpose" must be cognitively meaningless.
Hence, like Ludwig Wittgenstein in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus , they held that most of the statements to be found in traditional philosophy are not false but nonsensical. The verifiability principle, it was maintained, demonstrates the impossibility of metaphysics, and from this it was concluded that empirical science is the only method by which we can have knowledge concerning the world.
The verifiability principle stands historically in a line of direct descent from the empiricism of David Hume , J. Mill, and Ernst Mach.
It has some affinities with pragmatism and operationalism, but it differs from them in some important respects. Pragmatism, as presented by C. Peirce, William James , and John Dewey , is the view that the "intellectual purport" of any symbol consists entirely in the practical effects, both on our conduct and on our experiences, that would follow from "acceptance of the symbol. Operationalism, as held by P. Bridgman and others, is the view that the meaning of a term is simply the set of operations that must be performed in order to apply the term in a given instance.
Thus, according to this view, the meaning, or rather a meaning, of the term length is given by specifying a set of operations to be carried out with a measuring rod. Moritz Schlick and other logical positivists sometimes said that the meaning of a sentence is the method of its verification.
But, unlike the advocates of operationalism, they meant by "the method of verification" not an actual procedure but the logical possibility of verification. Ayer, and other logical positivists in numerous publications.
The controversial questions concerning the principle are: 1 What is it to be applied to — propositions, statements or sentences? In some of the earlier formulations of the verifiability principle it is presented as a criterion for distinguishing between meaningful and meaningless propositions. However, in an accepted philosophical usage, every proposition is either true or false, and hence a fortiori a proposition cannot be meaningless. To meet this point some of the later exponents of the principle say that a grammatically well-formed indicative sentence, whether it is cognitively meaningful or not, expresses a "statement"; the term proposition is retained for what is expressed by a cognitively meaningful sentence — that is, propositions are treated as a subclass of statements.
The verifiability principle is then presented as a criterion for distinguishing between meaningful and meaningless statements. This procedure, however, presupposes a usage for "cognitively meaningful sentence," and indeed it is sentences that are normally said to be meaningful or not. Consequently, in still other formulations the principle is presented as applying directly to sentences; the objection to this is that sentences are not normally said to be true or false, and hence they are not said to be verifiable or falsifiable.
In order to meet these difficulties, sentences, statements, and propositions may be distinguished in the following way: A sentence, as we shall understand it, belongs to a particular language, it is meaningful or not, but it is not properly said to be true or false, or to stand in logical relations to other sentences, or to be verifiable or falsifiable.
A statement is what is expressed in certain circumstances by an indicative sentence, and the same statement may be expressed by different sentences in the same or in different languages; a statement is properly said to be true or false, it does stand in logical relations to other statements, and it is verifiable or falsifiable. What can or cannot be said of statements applies equally to propositions, except that a proposition cannot be meaningless, that is, it cannot be expressed by a meaningless sentence.
For convenience we shall sometimes speak of sentences as being verifiable or not, and of statements as being meaningful or not. But, more strictly, we shall understand the verifiability principle as claiming that the cognitive meaning or meaningfulness of a sentence is to be determined by reference to the verifiability or falsifiability of the statement expressed by the sentence.
The earliest presentations of the verifiability principle identified the meaning of a sentence with the logical possibility of verifying the corresponding statement, and apparently, in the last analysis, with the occurrence of certain experiences. This has some initial plausibility in the case of "empirical sentences," that is, sentences containing, apart from nondescriptive expressions, only empirical predicates for example, "red," "round," "middle C".
An empirical predicate is, by definition, one that stands for a property that can be observed or experienced. Consequently, in the case of such a sentence as "This is red," there is a natural tendency to say that the meaning of the sentence is given by the experience that would verify it. The meaning is understood by anyone who can use the sentence for the purpose of identifying red objects when he sees them and cannot be understood by anyone who cannot identify red objects. It might be argued that a congenitally blind person could be said to understand the sentence "This is red" if he were able to identify red objects in some other way, by touch, for example.
But in that case, an early adherent of the verifiability principle might reply, the predicate "red" has, for the person in question, not a visual but a tactual meaning. Our ability to understand empirical predicates, he might say, is plainly restricted by our capacity for sensory discrimination. It may be fairly objected, however, that this argument rests on the ambiguities of the words meaning, stands for , and designates ; for example, the sense in which a term may be said to have a "tactual meaning" if it designates something tactual is not the sense in which a sentence may have a "cognitive or factual meaning.
And finally, if the meaning of a sentence were identified with the experiences of a particular person, the verifiability principle would result in a radical form of solipsism. To meet these objections some other early formulations of the principle identified the meaning of a statement with that of some finite conjunction of statements directly reporting empirical observations.
As will appear in more detail later, there are two main replies to this: 1 there are many types of statement whose meaning is not equivalent to that of any finite conjunction of observation statements, and 2 to identify the meaning of one statement with that of another is simply to say that the two statements have the same meaning, and this is not to explain or to give the meaning of the original statement.
For the foregoing reasons, it cannot be held that the verifiability principle is a criterion for determining the meaning of any particular sentence. In its later formulations it is presented simply as a criterion for determining whether a sentence is cognitively or factually meaningful.
In their early formulations Waismann, Schlick, and others held that the cognitive meaning of a sentence is determined completely by the experiences that would verify it conclusively.
According to Waismann, for example, in "Logische Analyse des Wahrscheinlichkeitsbegriffs," "Anyone uttering a sentence must know in which conditions he calls the statement true or false; if he is unable to state this, then he does not know what he has said.
A statement which cannot be verified conclusively is not verifiable at all; it is just devoid of any meaning. The principal objections to this requirement are: 1 a strictly universal statement, that is, a statement covering an unlimited number of instances for example, any statement of scientific law , is not logically equivalent to a conjunction of any finite number of observation statements and hence is not conclusively verifiable; 2 any singular statement about a physical object can in principle be the basis of an unlimited number of predictions and hence is not conclusively verifiable; 3 statements about past and future events, and statements about the experiences of other people, are not conclusively verifiable; 4 even if an existential statement for example, "Red things exist" or "At least one thing is red" is verifiable in the required sense, its denial cannot be verifiable in this sense, for its denial for example, "Red things do not exist" or "Everything is nonred" is a strictly universal statement.
Hence, the requirement of strong verifiability would have the strange consequence that the denial of an existential statement would never be meaningful, and this would involve the rejection of the fundamental logical principle that if a statement S is true, then not- S is false, and that if S is false, then not- S is true; 5 if a statement S is meaningful by the present requirement and N is any meaningless statement, then the molecular statement S or N must be meaningful; 6 the present requirement presupposes that observation statements are conclusively verifiable, for unless this is so, no statement at all, not even a statement that is logically equivalent to a finite conjunction of observation statements, will be conclusively verifiable — or cognitively meaningful.
It was sometimes suggested that conclusive falsifiability rather than conclusive verifiability should be the criterion of a cognitively meaningful statement. The criterion of conclusive falsifiability says, in effect, that a statement S is meaningful if and only if not- S is conclusively verifiable. Consequently, objections analogous to those already considered still apply: 1 existential statements are not conclusively falsifiable, for if S is an existential statement, not- S is a strictly universal statement; 2 even if a universal statement is conclusively falsifiable, its denial is not conclusively falsifiable, since its denial is an existential statement.
To escape from this circle it would be necessary to have a different and independent criterion of significance for either universal or existential statements; 4 if S is meaningful by the present requirement and N is any meaningless statement, then S and N must be meaningful; 5 again, the present requirement presupposes that basic observation statements are conclusively verifiable.
To meet the preceding difficulties the later formulations of the verifiability principle require of a meaningful statement that it should be related to a set of observation statements in such a way that they provide not conclusive verifiability but simply some degree of evidential support for the original statement.
This was sometimes called the requirement of "weak verifiability. A formulation of this kind was given by Ayer in the first edition of Language, Truth and Logic He held that a statement is verifiable, and hence meaningful, if one or more observation statements can be deduced from it, perhaps in conjunction with certain additional premises, without being deducible from these other premises alone.
The qualification concerning additional premises is introduced to allow, among other things, theoretical statements in science to be verifiable. But this formulation, as Ayer recognizes in the second edition of his book, permits any meaningless statement to be verifiable.
For if N is any meaningless statement and O some observation statement, then from N together with the additional premise if N then O the observation statement O can be deduced, although O cannot be deduced from the additional premise alone. To meet objections of this kind Ayer introduces a number of conditions; he says 1 "a statement is directly verifiable if it is either itself an observation-statement, or is such that in conjunction with one or more observation-statements it entails at least one observation-statement which is not deducible from these other premises alone," and 2 "a statement is indirectly verifiable if it satisfies the following conditions: First, that in conjunction with certain other premises it entails one or more directly verifiable statements that are not deducible from these other premises alone; and secondly, that these other premises do not include any statement that is not either analytic, or directly verifiable, or capable of being independently established as indirectly verifiable.
These conditions are designed inter alia to prevent obviously meaningless statements from being verifiable simply by occurring as components of verifiable molecular statements as in the objection to the requirement of strong verifiability see above , and the objection to the requirement of conclusive falsifiability. The conditions are, however, insufficient for this purpose. As Hempel remarks, according to the present formulation if S is meaningful, then S and N will be meaningful, whatever statement N may be.
And Alonzo Church has shown that given any three observation statements O 1 , O 2 , and O 3 , no one of which entails either of the others, and any statement N , it is possible to construct a molecular statement from which it follows that either N or not- N is verifiable. Difficulties of the kind raised by Hempel and Church obtain when a component of a molecular statement is superfluous as far as the verifiability of the molecular statement is concerned, that is, when the inclusion or exclusion of the component makes no difference to the verifiable entailments of the molecular statement.
To eliminate components of this kind, R. Brown and J. Watling have proposed that for a molecular statement to be verifiable, either directly or indirectly, it must contain "only components whose deletion leaves a statement which entails verifiable statements not entailed by the original statement, or does not entail verifiable statements entailed by the original statement.
The intention of these stipulations is to ensure that a meaningless statement cannot occur as a component of a verifiable molecular statement and derive verifiability from the statement in which it occurs. In two important articles titled "Testability and Meaning" — , Carnap distinguished the testing of a sentence from its confirmation; a sentence is "testable" if we know of a particular procedure for example, the carrying out of certain experiments that would confirm to some degree either the sentence or its negation.
A sentence is "confirmable" if we know what kind of evidence would confirm it, even though we do not know of a particular procedure for obtaining that evidence. Carnap considers four different criteria of significance — complete testability, complete confirmability, degree of testability, and degree of confirmability. All of these exclude metaphysical statements as being meaningless. The fourth criterion is the most liberal and admits into the class of meaningful statements empirical statements of the various kinds that were excluded by the requirement of conclusive verifiability or the requirement of conclusive falsifiability.
Each of Carnap's criteria determines a more or less restrictive form of empiricist language, and this, according to his view, is the same thing as a more or less restrictive form of empiricism. Carnap is largely concerned in these articles with giving a technical account of the formal features of such languages. One of the most serious difficulties he encounters is that of giving a satisfactory account of confirmability. His procedure is, in effect, to regard as cognitively meaningful all and only those statements that can be expressed in a formalized empiricist language.
Similarly, Hempel, in his article "Problems and Changes in the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning" , discussed the proposal that a sentence has cognitive meaning if and only if it is translatable into an empiricist language.
A formalized language is characterized by enumerating the formation and transformation rules of its syntax and the designation rules for the terms of its basic vocabulary. An empiricist language is one in which the basic vocabulary consists exclusively of empirical terms.
As Hempel explains, dispositional terms may be introduced by means of "reduction sentences," and the theoretical constructs of the more advanced sciences for example, "electrical field," "absolute temperature," "gravitational potential" can be accommodated by allowing the language to include interpreted deductive systems.
Hempel claims for his criterion that it avoids many of the difficulties of the earlier formulations of the verifiability principle. The logic of a formalized language may ensure that no universal or existential statement is excluded from significance merely on account of its universal or existential form and also that for every significant statement its denial is also significant.
The vocabulary and syntax of a formalized empiricist language ensures that no meaningless statement will be admitted as significant, even by occurring as a component of a verifiable molecular statement.
Nevertheless, leaving purely formal objections aside, the main difficulty of both Carnap's and Hempel's treatment of the verifiability principle is that of giving an adequate characterization of an empiricist language. An "empirical term" or an "observation predicate" is one that designates a property that is in principle observable, even though in fact it is never observed by anyone. But if the property has never in fact been observed, how are we to know that it is observable?
It may be said that a basic observation statement " Pa ," asserting that an object a has the observable property P , is meaningful only if the experiences that would verify the statement could occur. But "could" here cannot mean "factually could," since we can speak meaningfully of occurrences that are factually impossible. Apparently what is meant is that the experiences in question must be logically possible. But then it seems that the only sense that can be given to saying that the experiences are logically possible is that the statement " Pa " is contingent.
However, in " Pa " the object a is simply named or referred to, and the property P ascribed to it — and it seems that every statement of this form must be contingent. Thus, unless a further explanation of the expression "observation predicate" is forthcoming, we have no way of distinguishing between those basic observation statements that are meaningful and those that are not. Schlick, in an early article titled "A New Philosophy of Experience," claimed that to understand a proposition we must be able to indicate exactly the particular circumstances that would make it true and those that would make it false.
An obvious objection to this view is that sense experience is essentially private, and hence apparently the cognitive meaning of every statement must be essentially private. Schlick attempted to avoid this objection by distinguishing between the content and form of experience. The content, he said, is private and incommunicable — it can only be lived through. But the form of our experiences, he claimed, is expressible and communicable, and this is all that is required for scientific knowledge.
He is best known for being a member of the Vienna Circle and one of the key theorists in logical positivism. He was a reader in philosophy of science at the University of Cambridge from to , and lecturer in philosophy of mathematics at the University of Oxford from until his death. He died in Oxford. Intermittently, from until , Waismann had extensive conversations with Ludwig Wittgenstein about topics in philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of language.
The most distinctive doctrine of the logical positivists was that for any sentence to be cognitively meaningful it must express a statement that is either analytic or empirically verifiable. It was allowed that sentences may have "emotive," "imperative," and other kinds of meaning for example, "What a lovely present! But — leaving aside sentences expressing analytic statements — for a sentence to have "cognitive," "factual," "descriptive," or "literal" meaning for example, "The sun is 93 million miles from the earth" it was held that it must express a statement that could, at least in principle, be shown to be true or false, or to some degree probable, by reference to empirical observations. The iconoclasm of the logical positivists was based on this criterion of meaning, for according to the verifiability principle a great many of the sentences of traditional philosophy for example, "Reality is spiritual," "The moral rightness of an action is a nonempirical property," "Beauty is significant form," "God created the world for the fulfillment of his purpose" must be cognitively meaningless. Hence, like Ludwig Wittgenstein in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus , they held that most of the statements to be found in traditional philosophy are not false but nonsensical.