Explain the Verification Principle and the Challenges

Explain the verification principle and the challenges (consider whether Ayer’s response to the verification principle is sufficient) – Explain the falsification principle and challenges

The Verification Principle was founded by the logical positivist movement which was highly supported by the philosophical group the Vienna Circle. They created a principle that suggested that a statement was only ever meaningful if it was able to be verified by an actual personal experience.

There was an exception to this principle which was a tautology; a statement which is logically true by definition (e.g. a triangle has three sides). For this reason they denied any statements that concerned metaphysics or religion. * Too rigid – can’t make statements about history

* Scientific laws become meaningless – such as gravity’s consistency on Earth * Swinburne: universal statements can’t be verified – such as all ravens are black * Expressions of views on topics such as Art are meaningless

* States that we do not conclusively prove something by a direct observation, in order for a statement to be meaningful we need to suggest how it could possibly be verified – ‘there are mountains on the far side of the moon’, if we were to orbit the moon we’d be able to check upon the truthfulness of the statement *

Thought to be an improvement of the strong and strict verification principle: applying the principle only to cases that we can directly verify by experience would be limiting, allows us to make statements about the past and emotions and predictions in science

* John Hick questioned whether the verification principle renders religious statements meaningless – two travellers down a long road and arguing whether it leads to a celestial city, just as with God and heaven, the walkers can verify at the end of the journey (eschatological verification) * The verification principle is unverifiable in itself

* A principle for assessing whether statements are genuine scientific assertions by considering whether any evidence could ever disprove them

* Origins with Popper’s philosophy of science: any theory that is impossible to disprove is no valid theory at all

* Flew applied it to religion – the gardener analogy – believed religious believers shift so much that their claims are so watered down that they’re barely statements (‘death of a thousand qualifications) – what would have to happen to disprove God’s existence

* Hare believed that religious beliefs are basic beliefs that are not verifiable or falsifiable and are unaltered despite empirical evidence

* Mitchell argued that religious believers aren’t blind to the problems of faith – they recognise certain evidence can count against belief in God – believe that religious belief does have some grounding in reason

What do you think?

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