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verification principlethe 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.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000