Johnson, Alexander Bryan

Johnson, Alexander Bryan,

1786–1867, American philosopher and semanticist, b. Gosport, England. He immigrated (1801) to the United States and eventually became a wealthy banker in Utica, N.Y. Johnson anticipated many of the concerns of logical positivismlogical positivism,
also known as logical or scientific empiricism, modern school of philosophy that attempted to introduce the methodology and precision of mathematics and the natural sciences into the field of philosophy. The movement, which began in the early 20th cent.
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 and modern linguistic philosophy, but his views were ignored in his lifetime and were lost sight of for nearly a century. He held that a statement meant, for a speaker, whatever evidence he adduced or could adduce in its support: Language does not explain the world, rather the world explains language. He showed that many philosophical problems were the result of projecting distinctions of language onto nature, resulting in confusion. In addition to his philosophical works he wrote on politics, economics, and banking. His books included The Philosophy of Human Knowledge; or A Treatise on Language (1828), Religion in its Relation to Present Life (1841), The Philosophical Emperor (1841), and The Meaning of Words (1854).

Bibliography

See Centennial Conference on the Life and Works of Alexander Bryan Johnson, ed. by C. L. Todd and R. T. Blackwood (1969).

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Johnson, Alexander Bryan

(1786–1867) philosopher; born in Gosport, England. Emigrating and settling in Utica, N.Y., in 1811, he became an industrialist and banker, while writing philosophic works that anticipated aspects of 20th-century analytic philosophy, as in The Philosophy of Human Knowledge (1828). He also wrote on political and economic topics.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.