verification principle

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verification principle

the criterion of SCIENCE proposed by Logical Positivists (see POSITIVISM) that to be accepted as 'scientific’ a proposition must be ‘verifiable’. Problems with the concept of VERIFICATION (e.g. we can never establish with certainty universal propositions, such as ‘all swans are white’, since we can never know future cases) have led some theorists (notably POPPER) to suggest that this must be replaced as the criterion of scientific statements by the conception of ‘falsifiability’, since a single contrary instance (e.g. a single instance of a ‘black swan’) will falsify a universal proposition (see FALSIFICATION AND FALSIFICATIONISM). Because it is also proposed by Logical Positivists as a criterion of‘meaningfulness’, a further criticism of the verification principle is that it leaves utterly unclear the status of the principle, which is itself unverifiable -the so-called ‘paradox’ of Positivism.
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The author demonstrates how later developments in formal epistemology, philosophy of science, and logic can contribute to solving some of the problems of verificationism in philosophy, arguing for a weak form of verificationism called minimal verificationism.
As he admits, though, in Reason, Truth, and History he was already aware of such danger, and thus, in that book he defined "an intersubjective notion of truth in terms of verification ("justification") thus: S is true if and only if believing S would be justified if epistemic conditions were good enough." (Putnam 2012: 79) But, as the criticism goes, according to this sort of verificationism, understanding a sentence amounts to understanding a counterfactual that confirms it:
The mainstay of the paper is formed by an analysis of Quine's attack on meanings, propositions, and analyticity, his views concerning the empirical status of logical principles, his web-of-belief-type metaphors, and his holistic verificationism. The paper generates insights about the Quinean position on the concept of analyticity, Quine's account of the acquisition of fully referential language, his rejection of an epistemologically grounded distinction between the analytic and the synthetic, and his views on the shortcomings of the notion of meaning.
In some of its most exemplary forms, this is the project of a kind of limitative policing of the sayable; the verificationism of Carnap and Ayer is a prime example.
This conclusion is similar to that of Quine (1953), though our argument is based simply on our fallibility and does not assume verificationism, radical meaning scepticism, or holism.
The twentieth century, however, produced a philosophical tradition that shaped our thinking about science around a particular theory of meaning and truth known as verificationism, the hallmark of logical-positivism.
One of Nelson's most helpful (if brief) discussions is on the "Failure of Logical Positivism" and its replacement today with an operative neo-positivism that retains positivism's classic hostility toward religious modes of knowing while embracing more fulsome discussion of core assumptions and blending elements of classic empirical verificationism with broader methods for ascertaining scientific validity (Nelson, this issue).
It is equally curious that he should go on to assert blithely that empirical evidence is unable to point to anything beyond nature, as if verificationism had never been discredited.
But verificationism is not really to our purpose in the present essay since it would be quite consistent with holding--what is perfectly plausible--that psychological truth cannot outrun verifiability (by all subjects, in principle) to think of the psychological in an intuitively realist way, as an objective domain to which best opinions faithfully correspond.
(6.) See DON HERZOG, WITHOUT FOUNDATIONS: JUSTIFICATION IN POLITICAL THEORY 110-217 (1985) (comparing utilitarianism and pragmatism in political theory); RICHARD RORTY, PHILOSOPHY AND THE MIRROR OF NATURE 306-11, 336-38 (1979) (giving a pragmatic critique of verificationism).
This is Heyting's defence of verificationism, arising from the constructive standpoint:
(1.) I hope the reader will not assume that this asserts any sort of verificationism, for one might know what it means for a proposition to be true without knowing how to reach the circumstances in which they are seen to be true, or, in conceptual matters, to rehearse them.

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