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Verifiability

  • William Todd

Abstract

The image theory having heen stated we will now compare it to the verifiability theory of meaning as stated by Ayer in Language, Truth, and Logic.1 In the first place there is a basic ambiguity in Ayer’s state­ment of the theory. It can be viewed as a general method for deciding what a statement means, if anything, or it can be viewed as a criterion for deciding whether a statement has any meaning on the assumption that its intended meaning is perfectly clear. In this book Ayer in fact proceeds in the second way. When dealing with metaphysical and theological statements he assumes that their intended meaning is such as to exclude any possibility of their being verified.2 According to the verifiability theory it then follows that if the intended meaning is the only meaning they have, then they have no cognitive meaning at all. However, the people who assert these statements often do take certain facts about the world to be evidence for their assertions; thus on the verifiability theory these metaphysical and theological statements will have a meaning even though it is quite different from the intended meaning in that those who make these assertions are in fact only making empirical assertions about the physical world. Thus to be plausible the verifiability theory must be construed not just as a crite­rion of meaning but as a general method of determining the meaning of any utterance. If it is treated solely as a criterion, theological state­ments which can be verified in part empirically will be meaningful and will not be reduced to empirical statements. It should be noted that the image theory stated above is both these things; it first gives general rules for determining the meaning of any expression and the expression has meaning if and only if a meaning is found in this way.

Keywords

Physical World Image Theory Ethical Judgment Intended Meaning Sense Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Todd
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CincinnatiUSA

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