Why the attempt to bury metaphysics failed

The metaphysics of logical positivism

Logical positivism famously dismissed metaphysics as meaningless. It failed to satisfy the verification criterion, according to which for any statement to be meaningful, it has to be able to be verified empirically. As positivists like A.J. Ayer argued, there are no facts that can verify metaphysical theories like idealism and realism, one way or another. This influential critique was responsible for the dismissal of metaphysics in analytic philosophy for decades. But instead of successfully burying metaphysics, logical positivism in fact ends up espousing a metaphysics of its own, argues Giussepina D’Oro.


This is the 8th installment in our series The Return of Metaphysics, in partnership with the Essentia Foundation

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Recardo Moreno 26 October 2022

This was frustrating to read. In the beginning of the damn article it cites the actual purpose of Logical Positivism, which is to dispense with wasteful & specious nonsense. If our musings are not anchored to reality in some small way, through the thinnest of tethers of evidence, then EVERYTHING which comes from such musings are nonsense and can be treated as such! To do otherwise is to open ourselves to a literal INFINITE Hall of absurd ideas, all of which have equal footing to waste our entire LIVES by their volume of time taken from us. The anchor to reality is what protects us from nonsense.

Here is the acknowledgement of the purpose of Logical Positivism from the beginning of the article:
"logical positivism mounted one of the most scathing attacks on the very idea that the nature of reality could be known by reflection alone, a priori, from the so-called philosophical armchair. Logical positivism sought to put an end to what it regarded to be irresolvable metaphysical pseudo-disputes by arguing that genuine knowledge claims must be verifiable, that there must be, at least in principle, evidence that can be cited to determine whether a claim is true or false. Claims which cannot be found to be either true or false in this way, the argument goes, express meaningless propositions, and the treatises in which they are contained should be confined to the flames, just as Hume suggested."

AAAAAaand here is the wasteful reading which suddenly COMPLETELY forgets what was just cited in the beginning of the article:
"The demand that knowledge claims should be verifiable, that there must be evidence that can be provided to substantiate one’s views, seems to be reasonable enough; rejecting it would lead to a form of dogmatism. But what the logical positivists also assumed is that the criterion of verification that belongs to the empirical sciences is a universal criterion of meaning, not a domain-specific criterion that merely determines what does and does not count as a genuine scientific hypothesis. They uncritically extended the criterion of verification which governs empirical enquiry to all claims (bar tautologies) rather than acknowledging it as a heuristic principle of scientific enquiry."

We do not suddenly place Logical Positivism ONLY as a tool for Scientific inquiry which has no place in other endeavors of knowledge. It is a general shield which should be placed into EVERY consideration as a failsafe against lost time of thought and, just as important, against ignorance. The simple phrase "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" shows that it's safe to make small assumptions about things for efficiency sake, but the more impactful a claim, the stronger it's tether to reality should be.

The best example of Logical Positivism helping mankind IMO is Special Relativity and General Relativity. Einstein held one empirical truth constant about the nature of the Universe, that the Speed of light is constant from ALL reference frames. From this empirical VERIFIABLE truth, he can then make all manner of implications and logical steps to unravel the nature of the fabric of reality itself. Such awe-inspiring truth is impossible without that initial tether to reality, evidence.