2. What is Logical Empiricism?
Empiricism = theory of knowledge that
asserts that knowledge comes only or
primarily from sensory experience
• Etymology = English term "empiric" derives
from the Greek word ἐμπειρία, which is
cognate with and translates to the Latin
experientia, from which we derive the word
"experience" and the related word
3. What is Logical Empiricism?
Also known as logical positivism or logical
neopositivism or scientific philosophy
A philosophic movement rather than a set
of doctrines that flourished in the 1920s
and 30s in several centers of Europe and
in the 40s and 50s in the US
Regards science as the only source of
knowledge and claims metaphysics is
4. What is Logical Empiricism?
Group's common concern: scientific
methodology & important role that
science could play in reshaping society
Logical empiricists wanted to find a natural
& important role for logic and mathematics
Logical empiricists wanted to find an
understanding of philosophy according to
which it was part of science
Philosophy in the 1900s – one of the 5
4. Logical Empiricism or Logical Positivism
5. Philosophical Analysis
Positivism – variation of the philosophical
theory called empiricism
Characteristic theses of positivism:
1) science is the only valid knowledge;
2) philosophy does not possess a method
different from science;
3) the task of philosophy is to find the general
principles common to all the sciences and to use
these principles as guides to human conduct &
as basis of social organization
This theory states that all knowledge is
based on experience.
1) Positivism of Auguste
Comte (1800s) – argued
that societies progress from a theological
stage to a metaphysical one, then to a
scientific stage wherein the positivistic,
scientific outlook and method are
2) Logical positivism – originated during
1920s in a group of philosophers called
the Vienna Circle
der Wiener Kreis
Also known as
Ernst Mach Society
(Verein Ernst Mach)
9. Members of the Vienna Circle:
1. Gustav Bergmann 8. Richard von Mises
2. Rudolf Carnap 9. Marcel Natkin
3. Philipp Frank 10. Otto Neurath
4. Hans Hahn 11. Olga-Hahn
5. Tscha Hung 12. Theodore
6. Victor Kraft 13. Rose Rand
7. Karl Menger 14. Friedrich Waismann
Academic: (1) Steady departure of various
sciences from philosophy to form
autonomous disciplines; (2) developments
in the sciences themselves, esp. the rise
of non-Euclidean geometries in
mathematics & establishment of relativity
theory in physics → Kantianism: we could
not represent the world except as a
Euclidean structure & Euclidean geometry
was, a priori, a permanent feature of any
Relativity theory → Einstein: physical
science best described as a non-
Euclidean manifold of non-constant
World War I = unmitigated disaster for
central Europe; economic turmoil of the
20s; political upheavals of the 30s
Cultural changes in the arts, like paintings,
music & architecture & even more
importantly, in new modes of living
People were enslaved by unscientific,
metaphysical ways of thinking, e.g. in
theology, in racial hatreds, conceptions of
property, in traditional ideas about the
“proper” roles of men & women in society
Essential 1st step in reforming society &
emancipating humankind = articulate
scientific methods & a scientific
conception of philosophy
Problem: to specify the form of proper
inferences, the form of an appropriate
confirmation relation, and/or the structure
of good reasons
The right tool: logic
Logic, like the empirical sciences, was
progressive and could be approached
cooperatively by more than one
15. Influence of Bertrand Russell
tried to formulate &
associated w/ belief,
knowledge, and truth
his original interest in
philosophy rose out of
the desire to discover
“would provide any
defence for anything that
could be called religious
belief, however vague”
16. Influence of Bertrand Russell:
He also wanted to persuade himself that
“something could be known, in pure
mathematics if not elsewhere.”
Fundamental principle: “view the world
from the point of view of the here and
now, not with that large impartiality which
theists attribute to the Deity.”
17. Proponents of Logical Empiricism
1. Hans Hahn (1879
bringing Schlick in
Vienna in 1922 &
was called “the
actual founder of
the Vienna Circle”
2. Moritz Schlick (1882 –
1936): one of the first
philosophers to write
relativity theory; work
ranges on space &
time to gen.
Epistemology & ethics;
assassinated by a
deranged student in
19. 3. Otto Neurath (1882
of science &
20. championed 'the
scientific attitude' &
the Unity of Science
denied any value to
philosophy over &
above the pursuit of
work on science,
within science & for
Science in every
sense=a social &
Otto Neurath: Maverick leader of the Vienna
21. 4. Alfred Jules (A.J.) Ayer (1910 –
English philosopher in the
tradition of British
Visited the Vienna Circle in
His book Language, Truth,
and Logic (1936) was a
best seller after WWII &
positivism to many English
22. members of the Vienna
work: The Logic of
Claimed to have
5. Karl Popper (1902
– 1994): Born in
Vienna & with a
doctorate there, he
24. born into an immensely
wealthy Viennese family
studied at Cambridge
from 1911, where he
formed friendships w/
Russell, Keynes & Moore
influential on many
does not seek to solve or
problems but asks in
what senses these are
problems and questions
▪ claims that philosophical
questions are not genuine
questions but puzzles
which need to be
dissolved rather than
▪ The puzzles arise from
the forms of statements
made in ordinary
language, w/c in turn
arise because we are
dominated by certain
“Pictures” of every noun
correlated w/ some
visible or ethereal
substance; of private
thoughts & feelings
imprisoned in the body
like genii in a bottle. One
breaks the spell of such
pictures by showing how
variously most words are
actually used &
sometimes by inventing
“language games” to
suggest other possible
• Philosophy gives no
information about the
world. It is a way of
clarifying propositions that
claim to report facts of the
• Philosophy: not a theory,
but an activity
• “What we are looking for
is not hidden, but before
our very eyes. We must
learn to examine the
actual use of words in
• Logical Positivism shows the profound
influence of the achievements of science
and mathematics, particularly with respect
to their continuous improvement in
method and the application of this method
in some form to other aspects of behavior.
Logical empiricism is a philosophy that
combines empiricism – the idea that
observational evidence is indispensable for
knowledge – with a version of rationalism
incorporating mathematical and logico-linguistic
constructs and deductions of
epistemology. It may be considered as a
type of analytic philosophy.
28. Verifiability Theory of Meaning
Every claim, every declarative sentence,
falls into one of three categories:
1. Either it is true or false by logic or
2. It is an empirical claim that is in principle
verifiable or falsifiable via empirical
3. It is meaningless. (Or it could be reducible
to one of these, or be a combination of
29. Verifiability Theory of Meaning
Examples of sentences that are true or
false by logic or definition:
1. That bachelor is married.
2. All triangles have three sides.
3. Fred is from the planet Epticon and it is
not the case that Fred is from the planet
30. Verifiability Theory of Meaning
Example of an empirical claim that is in
principle verifiable or falsifiable via
“Julius Caesar weighed more at noon twelve
days after his 22nd birthday than he did at
noon thirteen days after his 22nd birthday.”
31. Verifiability Theory of Meaning
Example of a meaningless sentence:
“Tuesday weighs more than the square root
32. 2. Positivists tend to regard the primary task of
philosophy to be the clarification of language,
through a process of logical analysis.
Such analysis leads them to accept another kind
of statement as cognitively significant, namely,
those called tautological. Example: “A is A.” “A
brown cow is a cow.”
3. Positivists consider any questions that cannot
be answered by their methods to be meaningless,
and therefore they assert that all questions
incapable of empirical verification, primarily those
of metaphysics, theology, and so on, are
33. Basic Tenets
1. Logical positivists were all interested in
science and skeptical of theology and
2. They propose that all knowledge is based
on logical inference from simple “protocol
sentences” grounded in observable facts.
3. Many endorsed forms of materialism,
metaphysical naturalism, and empiricism.
34. Basic Tenets
4. Verifiability criterion of meaning, or
verificationism: a proposition is “cognitively
meaningful” only if there is a finite procedure for
conclusively determining its truth.
intended consequence: metaphysical, theological,
and ethical statements fail this criterion, and so
are not cognitively meaningful.
5. commitment to Unified Science – the
development of a common language or, in
Neurath's phrase, a “universal slang” in which all
scientific propositions can be expressed.
35. Influence of Logical Positivism
1. Logical positivism was essential to the
development of early analytic philosophy.
The term subsequently came to be almost
interchangeable with “analytic philosophy”
during the 1st half of the 20th century.
2. ...immensely influential in the philosophy
of language and represented the dominant
philosophy of science between WWI & the
3. ...influenced Bengali Philosophy,
Drishtantoism, till the present.
▪ Early critics said that its basic tenets could not
themselves be formulated consistently. The verifiability
criterion of meaning did not seem verifiable; but neither
was it simply a logical tautology, since it had implications
for the practice of science and the empirical truth of other
statements. This presented severe problems for the
logical consistency of the theory.
▪ Another problem was that, while positive existential
claims (“there is at least one human being”) and negated
universal claims (“not all ravens are black”) allow for
obvious methods of verification (find a human or a non-black
raven), negative existential claims and positive
universal claims do not allow for verification.
▪ Universal claims could apparently never
be verified.* This resulted in a great deal of
work on induction, probability, and
“confirmation,” which combined verification
38. Educational Implications
Logical positivism is a philosophical system
and not a theory of education. In philosophy
its contribution is particularly notable in the
field of epistemology. Therefore, its
implications are particularly important in
teaching methods and the methods of
communicating knowledge in education.
The following are the important implications
of logical positivism in the field of education.
39. Educational Implications
1. Aims of education.
to distinguish between sense and nonsense, knowledge
and ignorance, meaningful and meaningless propositions.
It aims at propagation of scientific knowledge. It seeks to
base the entire educational process on intelligence and
reasoning. It lays emphasis upon objective knowledge as
Thus, its aim is precisely the opposite of existentialism.
Knowledge, according to it, is empirical. The educational
system should be based upon reliable and verified
knowledge. Verification is through the practical
consequences. Thus, logical positivists advise the use of
utilitarian criterion in knowledge. Education aims at
creating critical and scientific attitude. This is possible
by training in language.
40. Educational Implications
2. Educational method. = both logical and positive
The teacher should himself analyze propositions in
knowledge and check their verification.
His approach should be strictly scientific and objective.
He should adopt educational methods verified by
He should test hypotheses and assumptions in every field
He should develop the power of reasoning.
He should train the student in logical thinking.
He should have a sense of purpose everywhere and reject
everything which cannot be verified.
41. Educational Implications
3. Curriculum. The logical positivist rejects metaphysics, religion, and
all such knowledge which may not be verified.
Language and grammar, besides logic, find central place in
logical positivist curriculum.
The training in analysis of language is necessary for every
student. It is only analysis which leads to clarity of thought.
Religious, moral and spiritual education have no place in
Sciences occupy a prestigious place in it.
It rejects self-criticism everywhere. All criticism must be objective.
Science and scientific research, both theoretical and practical,
should be encouraged by the universities.
The students should develop constructive imagination.
42. Educational Implications
4. School organisation. Logical positivists believe in scientific
The school should be managed by the students as much as
by the teachers.
The school organisation should be based upon functional
efficiency, utilitarianism and humanism. Humanism
considers everything relative and nothing absolute. So,
innovations should be encouraged in place of conformity
Educational process should be confined to the realm of
Only objective knowledge should be propagated.
Only logical definitions should be accepted.
Only valid interpretations should find currency.
43. Contributions of Logical Positivism
In the final analysis, the contribution of logical positivism is
the evolution of the philosophy of language and a
principle of verification.
Logical positivists develop a scientific theory of truth. They
reject everything which may not be verified. The task of
philosophy, according to logical positivism, is to work as a
science of sciences.
Thus, logical positivists act as catalysts. They downright
reject all confused and unverified beliefs, hypotheses and
44. Contributions of Logical Positivism
Logical positivist method is not only useful in the field of
philosophy but also in the field of sciences. Scientists
present a theory after prolonged observation and
experimentation, gathering the data, classification,
generalization and verification.
The presentation of theory, however, should be strictly
according to rules laid down by logic and grammar.
Without this method, scientific knowledge will not be
valid and no valid implications may be deduced from
it. This training is necessary for all the students. This
training is also necessary for teachers and researchers.
45. Contributions of Logical Empiricism
Logical positivists have sought to remove confusions and
indefiniteness in every field of knowledge. They are
against all verbosity and verbal tricks.
The movement started as an examination of empirical
It condemned the traditional role of philosophy and
allotted new functions to it.
It made philosophy concur to science. According to it
what grammar is to language, philosophy is to
46. Contemporary Status within
▪ Key tenets of logical positivism, including its atomistic philosophy of
science, the verifiability principle, and the fact-value distinction,
came under attack after WWII by philosophers such as Nelson
Goodman, Quine, J.L. Austin, and Peter Strawson. Nicholas G.
Fotion comments that, “By the late 1960s it became obvious that the
movement had pretty much run its course.” Most philosophers
consider logical positivism to be “dead, or as dead as a philosophical
movement ever becomes.” (John Passmore)
▪ By the late 1970s, its ideas were so generally recognized to be
seriously defective that one of its own main proponents, A.J. Ayer,
could say in an interview: “I suppose the most important
[defect]...was that nearly all of it was false.”
▪ It retains an important place in the history of analytic philosophy as
the antecedent of contemporary philosophies, such as Constructive
empiricism, Positivism and Postpositivism.
“The story of twentieth-century philosophy is very
largely the story of the notion of sense or
meaning…meanings are what the members of the
Vienna Circle proffered a general litmus-paper for;
meanings are what the Tractatus, with certain
qualifications, denies to the would-be propositions
both of Formal Logic and of philosophy; and yet
meanings are just what, in different ways,
philosophy and logic are ex officio about.” – Gilbert Ryle,
The Revolution in Philosophy, Macmillan and Co., Ltd, London. 1956, p.8
The demonstration that non-Euclidean pure geometrical structures were as consistent as Euclidean ones and that spaces can indeed be represented as a non-Euclidean manifolds were one half of the problem...Plainly Euclidean geometry was not a feature of any future physics. Modern mathematical logic also posed a problem for other Kantian claims, but not in the same wrenching way.