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Logical Positivism is Sound

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Started: 5/11/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 354 times Debate No: 91070
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Standard rules; propose definitions and explicit rules if you like and I'll edit this.


I accept the challenge and look forward to an interesting debate.
Debate Round No. 1


What Logical Positivism Is

The particular formulation of Logical Positivism I will defend is that of its most prominent advocate, A. J. Ayer, though support will be found in Wittgenstein, who held essentially a positivistic attitude.

Logical Positivism divides propositions into two categories: cognitive and non-cognitive. Cognitive propositions have sense; they have meaning. Non-cognitive propositions are senseless. Cognitive propositions are divided further into two types: empirical and analytic.

Note: Positivism denies the idea of the synthetic a priori - if a proposition is a priori, it must be verifiable logically, not empirically, and thus cannot be contingent on any state of the world which logic Any proposition which is neither empirical nor analytic has no sense, and therefore can be neither true or false - it must be discarded out-of-hand.

The Verification Principle

For a proposition to have any meaning, it must picture something about the world (for, if not, on what else can meaning be based?). Propositions are, then, representations of the world, and are true or false depending on the accuracy of the representation.

Since representation requires a means of representation, and thus a common ground between it and that which is being represented, this means of representation supersedes any particular picture. Wittgenstein explains:

"The picture represents its object from without (its standpoint is its form of representation), therefore the picture represents its object rightly or falsely.

But the picture cannot place itself outside of its form of representation.

What every picture, of whatever form, must have in common with reality in order to be able to represent it at all"rightly or falsely"is the logical form, that is, the form of reality.

What the picture represents is its sense.

In the agreement or disagreement of its
sense with reality, its truth or falsity consists.

In order to discover whether the picture is
true or false we must compare it with reality

It cannot be discovered from the picture alone whether it is true or false." [Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus]

The best known formulation of this is the Verification Principle: the meaning of a proposition is its means of verification.

This is clear: if a proposition has meaning, it must represent the world, and therefore derives its truth value from this representation. If no representation takes place, no meaning exists. If a proposition's truth or falsity would correspond to two states of the world which are the same in every way, the proposition represents nothing in the world, and has no sense.

Positivists take an uncompromising stance against metaphysics and the mystical for this reason; *any* proposition which is not verifiable (which one cannot compare to reality) or purely logical is nonsense. Either it is purely logical, in which case it says nothing particular, or deals with matters-of-fact; no alternative is possible.

What would the world look like if it were true that murder is immoral? One cannot say. What would the world look like if there were something beyond it? One cannot say. Positivists echo Hume:

"If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

Wittgenstein makes clear the absurdity of positing things outside logic:

"Logic pervades the world: the limits of the world are also its limits. So we cannot say in logic, "The world has this in it, and this, but not that." For that would appear to presuppose that we were excluding certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case, since it would require that logic should go beyond the limits of the world; for only in that way could it view those limits from the other side as well. We cannot think what we cannot think; so what we cannot think we cannot say either." [Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 5.61]

And, with that, metaphysics has been removed.


By the late 1960s Logical Positivism (LP) had run its course and most philosophers, including its primary advocates from the Vienna Circle, recognized that it had been thoroughly refuted and almost universally rejected. Consequently, I consider my opponent's assertion that it is a sound philosophy to be an extraordinary claim that will require an extraordinary argument. He has accepted the Burden of Proof for this debate, so he must make an argument that proves LP is a sound doctrine.

He has chosen to defend the formulation of LP by, in his words, "its most prominent advocate, A. J. Ayer". I must respond by pointing out that in a 1970s interview AJ Ayer was asked to reflect on LP"s demise, and he claimed that LP"s "most important" defect "was that nearly all of it was false".

LP admittedly sprang directly from the interpretation of Wittgenstein"s Tractatus, but Wittgenstein rejected LP as a result of grossly misinterpreted the Tractatus, as has my opponent, ShabShoral (Shab), who states that "Wittgenstein makes clear the absurdity of positing things outside logic", follows with an out of context quote, and concludes "And, with that, metaphysics has been removed.".

This anti-metaphysic stance was practically the unifying theme of LP, and it was an astounding misread of the Tractatus. It is directly refuted by the entire second half of the book, in which Wittgenstein argues that there is a categorically different kind of truth from that which we can state in empirically or logically verifiable propositions. Wittgenstein protested against just this kind of nonsense throughout the Tractatus, arguing over and over that the propositions of natural science "have nothing to do with philosophy" (6.53); "Philosophy is not one of the natural sciences" (4.111); "It is not problems of natural science which have to be solved" (6.4312); "even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all" (6.52); "There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical" (6.522).

To win this debate, Shab must provide an extraordinary argument to prove that LP is sound, and unfortunately, in his initial attempt to support his claim he has called upon two philosophers who completely disagree with him. Shab will certainly need to do better than summoning the LP advocate who claimed "nearly all of it was false".

That said, I will address in detail, why LP is not sound.

LPs most fatal flaw is that it is self-refuting, the "Verification Principle" is its central proposition claiming that "only empirically verifiable statements have meaning", and yet, that proposition itself is not empirically verifiable, so by its own criteria, LP is meaningless. It attempted to equate "meaningful" and "empirically verifiable" without showing that they are in any way synonymous, and "meaninglessness" itself certainly isn't an observable property, hence, LP is logically inconsistent at its core.

The openly declared goal was to make philosophy and religion subordinate to the natural sciences, and to do so LP attempted to create a scientific language of pure Logic which could be applied to all areas of experience and discourse. It was attempting to establish the consistency and completeness of scientific truth as the "absolute truth" in all arenas. But it is clear that absolute truth is a matter of a particular system of thought, Wittgenstein himself held that all truth is "intersystematic", and one of their own, Kurt Godel, proved that no system of thought can be both consistent and complete, putting a bullet through Hilbert"s formalism as well as the associated formalism of LP. Godel proved that the ideal of LP is therefore impossible, which is to say that it is logically and scientifically impossible to devise a set of axioms from which all the phenomena of the external world can be deduced.

If true intelligence involves the ability to view and understanding widely different things from multiple different perspectives, an aptitude for grasping a wide range of truths, relationships, and meanings, and the capacity for abstract and symbolic thought. It follows logically that LP's contention that one can reduce reality to only one of its modes, to know it exhaustively in only one of its forms, is an unintelligent claim.

It is from these shaky foundations LP declared the fields of metaphysics and ethics to be meaningless, but scientifically speaking, the observational evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of people do find metaphysics and ethics to be extremely meaningful, LP was just wrong about what is meaningful.

LP claimed a proposition is meaningful, and thus capable of being true or false, if and only if, it is verifiable by sensory experiences, making sensory experience the sole measure of truth or certainty. In so doing LP ignores the fact that sensory experience is prone to bias, perceptual errors, that it can be "theory laden" and conceptually organized, making it a bad "starting point for certainty or truth".

Even if you remove the imperialistic goal of establishing science as "absolute truth" and consider LP to be nothing more than a demarcation point between science and other areas of knowledge, it still fails miserably.

Science is predominantly a matter of inductive reasoning, it fundamentally attempts to infer universal principles or scientific "laws" from specific instances, and yet, LP denies that universal principles are cognitively meaningful, which undermines the entire enterprise of science. Two hundred years before LP was even a thing, Hume showed that induction can never achieve certainty. Nevertheless, LP bypasses the "Problem of Induction" by simply elevating empiricism to the standard of truth and certainty without any logical justification.

Historically, Karl Popper successfully denounced LP's Verification Principle and replaced it with a principle of Falsifiability, in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" Thomas Kuhn showed science to be "paradigm dependent" rather than objective, and Willard Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" was the final nail in the coffin of LP. LP says we can circumscribe all of reality in a series of statements of empirical fact, clearly an untenable position in light of Quine's key observation that we fit theories holistically to data using various criteria like parsimony, elegance, data fit and so on to find the best theory. The individual statement is almost irrelevant, single statements are not verifiable or falsifiable, only theories as a whole are.

In the end, LP's not so hidden agenda is revealed to be nothing more than am unjustified attempt to arbitrarily eliminate from serious discussion entire areas of human experience, thought, and language.

It is self-evident that Mankind's journey and progress through time isn't over and I simply can't see any system of belief as complete and final, to do so would be to deny the possibility of progress.

The very division of knowledge into the distinct disciplines of Science, Philosophy, Religion, and Art implies that they are all incomplete and if we can't reconcile them intellectually, they are all equally false. Our current knowledge is partial, we are progressing towards truth and there is work to be done. The ability to unite the various fields of knowledge so that we may embody the perfect harmony of the universe in both body and soul resides within us. In accordance with my own personal understanding, I believe that is the task at hand.

I now challenge Shab to either conclusively refute my conclusion, or concede the debate.

1) Logical positivism

2) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

3) Wittgenstein,Tolstoy and the Folly of Logical Positivism
Debate Round No. 2


On Ayer

The ideas are what are being debated, and their rejection, no matter by who, holds no bearing on their truth.

On Wittgenstein

I find my opponent’s interpretation of Wittgenstein to be odd: Wittgenstein does not argue for the mystical being real. In fact, he proposes that “It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists” (6.44), which, according to his picture-theory of meaning, means that the proposition “The mystical exists” is strictly outside of the world, and therefore senseless.

He ignores 6.53:

“The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science—i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy—and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person—he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy—this method would be the only strictly correct one.”

Re: dividing philosophy and natural science: I don’t see the point here. Positivism’s main tenet requires such a division; philosophy deals with linguistic clarification, not matters-of-fact.

The Verification Principle’s “self-destruction”

My opponent mistakes the claims of LP: the VP is meant to be a criterion of meaning, not a normal proposition. AJ Ayer:

"Thus, while I wish the principle of verification itself be regarded, not as an empirical hypothesis, but as a definition, it is not supposed to be entirely arbitrary. It is indeed open to anyone to adopt a different criterion of meaning and so to produce an alternative definition which may very well correspond to one of the ways in which the word 'meaning' is commonly used. And if a statement satisfied such a criterion, there is, no doubt, some proper use of the word 'understanding' in which it would be capable of being understood. Nevertheless, I think that, unless it satisfied the principle of verification, it would not be capable of being understood in the sense which either scientific hypotheses or common-sense statements are habitually understood.” (Language, Truth, and Logic)
On Sense-Data

Here, my opponent claims that verification is impossible because sense experience is fallible, and prone to “perceptual errors.” However, if Positivism is true, it is nonsense to speak of fallible sense experience; on what basis can you say that a sensation comes, not from the world, but from outside it? If fallibility does not require sense-data to be based in the non-real, and in fact can hold even when sense-data corresponds to the real, the question of its usefulness as a concept is raised.

Since the Principle of Verification is epistemically primary, notions of fallibility must be based in it, making the idea of fallibility refuting its own basis absurd.

On Induction

Science is predominantly a matter of inductive reasoning, it fundamentally attempts to infer universal principles or scientific "laws" from specific instances, and yet, LP denies that universal principles are cognitively meaningful, which undermines the entire enterprise of science. Two hundred years before LP was even a thing, Hume showed that induction can never achieve certainty. Nevertheless, LP bypasses the "Problem of Induction" by simply elevating empiricism to the standard of truth and certainty without any logical justification.

Historical Refutations

My opponent lists a number of historical arguments against LP (Godel’s, Quine’s, Popper’s, etc.), but does not choose any to defend in the debate, instead opting to merely list names and vague descriptions of their theories. The closest thing to an argument is this: “The individual statement is almost irrelevant, single statements are not verifiable or falsifiable, only theories as a whole are,” which, by itself, is merely asserted – there is no reason to accept that individual statements are not verifiable except for the fact that my opponent says they are not, which is not compelling.

For me to be obligated to respond to any one of these theories, and for me to be able to (for I must know the exact arguments my opponent is depending on), he must present substantial formulations of their arguments, lest he make the mistake of substituting namedropping for debate.

On LP’s “narrowness”

A consistent thread of attack in this debate is that LP ignores certain aspects of reality, and, thus, should not be accepted. However, this seems to be a very flimsy reason to reject LP, for, if LP is true, its rejection of metaphysics, ethics, and all forms of pseudopropositions is also true. To say that they should be accepted anyway – for comfort, perhaps – precludes good philosophy; one cannot assume that certain fields have value when determining which arguments regarding their value to side with.


If LP follows, it must be accepted, no matter how that makes one feel. Sentimentality is not grounds for philosophical agreement or rejection.



On Ayer
Shab chooses AJ Ayer"s argument to defend and finds it irrelevant that in retrospect, AJ Ayer himself determined that "nearly all of it was false". I would never be so arrogant as to think that I understand AJ Ayer's ideas better than AJ Ayer, instead, we should consider AJ Ayer to be an expert on his own ideas; he is uniquely qualified to evaluate his ideas and therefore his complete refutation of LP is convincing.

On Wittgenstein
Shab finds my interpretation of Wittgenstein odd, I find his interpretation uninformed. His biographers describe a devout man of faith, a mystic who prayed and wrote about God, Ethics, and transcendence, he often spoke of becoming a Priest or a monk. Wittgenstein said the point of the Tractatus was ethical, and always maintained that that Ethics is transcendent, his friend and teacher, Bertrand Russell, said of him "he has become a complete mystic" and of the Tractatus, "I had felt in his book a flavour of mysticism". In the Tractatus he put forth a Metaphilosophy, by definition, just as Metaphysics transcends Physics, Metaphilosophy transcends Philosophy, it certainly isn't about rejection

Wittgenstein was a mystic and mysticism is predominantly characterized as "ineffable", his arguments about language and science were arguments about the limitations of language and science, about how they cannot adequately convey transcendent truths, they certainly weren't arguments for the subordination of Ethics, Metaphysics and Transcendence to science. To argue that Wittgenstein rejected these things is preposterous, it can only be done by one doesn't understand mysticism, ethics, metaphysics, Wittgenstein, and the meaning of the word "transcend".

While Shab rejects AJ Ayer's opinion of his own work as irrelevant, it's his use of Wittgenstein to "prove" LP that is irrelevant, Wittgenstein was not a Logical Positivist, he rejected LP fervently and refused to even meet with the Vienna Circle, it is disingenuous to put forth Wittgenstein as supporting a proof of LP.
I will further contend that if Shab's position requires he disagree with Ayer about Ayer, and Wittgenstein about Wittgenstein, then perhaps he should reconsider his position.

The Verification Principle's "self-destruction"
Shab responds to the self-refuting charge by claiming that the VP is a "definition" rather than an "empirical hypothesis", but a label doesn't change the fact that its content makes LP self-refuting, LP cannot be empirically tested, therefore by its own criterion, LP is meaningless.

I will accept Shab's contention that it is by definition that LP is self-refuting; Shab still hasn't met his BOP to demonstrate that LP is sound.

On Sense-Data
Here Shab claims I made a different argument than I did and therefore his response is a logically incoherent non-sequitur. The fact is, perception cannot provide us with the "absolute truth" about reality because it is contingent on state of mind and mood, and there are plenty of examples of false perception, mirage, hallucination, etc.

On Induction
Here Shab simply cut and pasted my argument against LP and did not respond to it. He either concedes the point or has just made a mistake, either way, my point stands unchallenged.

Historical Refutations
My opponent claims ignorance of the historical context in which John Passmore found LP to be "dead, or as dead as a philosophical movement ever becomes", then tries to shift the BOP to me by claiming I don't defend any of the arguments that historically "killed" LP. It's Shab that wants to resurrect a dead philosophical movement, and the BOP is on him to show it is sound; it is not on me to show why it is almost universally considered to be "dead".
I would expect my opponent to be familiar with at least the most significant historical developments regarding the subject matter he is debating. With an 8,000 characters limit, I can hardly "present substantial formulations" of all the commonly accepted theories and arguments that are seen to have historically buried LP.

Nevertheless, I will indulge my opponent with a brief explanation of how Godel's proof demolished LP. David Hilbert and Kurt Godel were members of the Vienna Circle, it was Hilbert's mathematical formalism that birthed LP, and it was Godel's Incompleteness Theorem that killed it, convincing even its most "prominent advocate" that "almost all of it was false".

The Circle extended Hilbert's mathematical formalism and attempted to create a new language of pure logic to predicate all experiences. LP was an axiomatic system that was reverse engineered from the scientific method. LP rejects any discipline that cannot be verified by the methods of science, and in so doing, it maintains that logic and science provide a consistent and complete accounting of reality in all its fullness.

Kurt Godel's Incompleteness Theorem is analytically perfect and rigidly deductive and therefore it is conclusive as far as LP is concerned. It states categorically that no axiomatic system can be complete without reference to a transcending system in which that system must be embedded. The representation of logic and science as a complete system that provides a comprehensive representation of reality has been proven logically and scientifically to be incorrect.

Godel proved the ideal of LP is therefore impossible, it is logically and scientifically impossible to devise a set of axioms from which all the phenomena of the external world can be deduced. He showed conclusively that LP's rejection of a transcendent reality was not valid; belief in a transcendent reality is logically and scientifically ,a more true representation of reality.

On LP's "narrowness"
My opponent states that "if LP is true, its rejection of metaphysics and ethics are also true" and then states that such circular reasoning is not valid, his circular argument only says "If LP is true, then LP is true", which is not valid. LP is "Scientism" plain and simple, it emerged when science was at its peak of materialistic and deterministic hubris; LP was a failed attempt to make the scientific method the measure of all truth.

Science reports what it discovers, scientism goes beyond the actual findings of science to deny that other approaches to knowledge are valid and other truths are true, which is not itself a scientific truth, and therefore LP's scientism is a contradiction. Science is a very powerful tool but its frame of reference is limited, it can only work with a certain aspect of reality, and that is a very sharply defined and delimited. Science handles quantities of nature, but the qualities of nature fall outside of its realm, what science cannot give us are values, meaning, purpose, and a vision in which everything coheres. Therefore, Science alone cannot give us a complete and consistent accounting of reality in all its fullness.

In the end, LP doesn't even support science adequately, all of science"s unifying theories postulate other dimensions that are in principle unobservable and which LP therefore rejects, Quantum Physics and most of Relativity Theory would not be possible under a LP framework of thought, Big Bang Theory would not hold, and Dark Matter and Dark Energy would be "meaningless" concepts, even science has outgrown the Procrustean straightjacket of LP.

Perhaps we should be thankful that science never really bought into LP's nonsense, if it did, scientific progress would come to a halt.

Shab's non-sequitur conclusion restates his "If LP is true, then LP is true" and then attributes the rejection of LP to "sentimentality" for what it rejects. On the contrary, as something of a philosopher of science, I am defending my beloved science from those who would pirate it for ideological ends.
AJ Ayer was correct about LP, "nearly all of it was false".

1) Vienna Circle:
2) Kurt Godel:
Debate Round No. 3


On Ayer

The only way Ayer would be “uniquely qualified” to establish the truth or falsehood of LP is if he had some unique insight into what LP is. My opponent obviously cannot say what this unique insight is; instead, he must resort to saying “Well, he originated it, so he must be the only one qualified to pass judgement on it!”

The absurdity of this is clear. Assume Ayer never renounced LP. Would my opponent accept, as my argument, that fact? After all, he is not privy to the “unique qualifications” that Ayer has – who is he to argue with the theory’s creator!

That he is not on the other end of this appeal to authority gives him no more warrant to use it.

Voters: If a mathematical theorem is discovered and proven, but the discoverer, after some bizarre change-of-faith, declares that it is, in fact, a mistake, is the proof thereby erased? Can a decree change what is the case? Any reasonable person knows the answer.

On Wittgenstein

I claimed that, to Wittgenstein, the proposition “The mystical/metaphysical/otherworldly exists” is incoherent. I have given primary source material showing that my opponent’s interpretation of the argument is incorrect.

The entire purpose of the Tractatus was to reach the final proposition: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.”

One cannot speak of the mystical: “and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to

demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions”

Therefore, one must remain silent.

So much for “Wittgenstein the Metaphysician”.

In addition, I have not once claimed that Wittgenstein was a logical positivist. What I have claimed is that the Tractatus holds valid arguments for logical positivism, via my use of them. Moreover, this debate is not over the Tractatus, and I never intended to make it so; the debate should be over the arguments I put forth, which just happened to be from the Tractatus.

My opponent, again, confuses making historical claims with engaging with the debate’s arguments themselves. These first two points are not even worth consideration by voters due to their irrelevancy.

The Verification Principle's "self-destruction"

The VP is not something that must be verified. It is a prerequisite for verification, and, therefore, meaning. Why accept it over anything else? Because anything else confounds all practical intuitions.

Rufolf Carnap clarifies the principle of weighing systems of thought: “To be real in the scientific sense means to be an element of the system; hence this concept cannot be meaningfully applied to the system itself […] For those who want to develop or use semantical methods, the decisive question is not the alleged ontological question of the existence of abstract entities but rather the question whether the rise of abstract linguistic forms or, in technical terms, the use of variables beyond those for things (or phenomenal data), is expedient and fruitful for the purposes for which semantical analyses are made, viz. the analysis, interpretation, clarification, or construction of languages of communication, especially languages of science.”

On Sense-Data

I have no idea why my opponent believes I responded to an argument he did not make.

He said: “LP ignores the fact that sensory experience is prone to bias, perceptual errors, that it can be "theory laden" and conceptually organized, making it a bad "starting point for certainty or truth".

My response was a direct counter to his point: “[O]n what basis can you say that a sensation comes, not from the world, but from outside it? If fallibility does not require sense-data to be based in the non-real, and in fact can hold even when sense-data corresponds to the real, the question of its usefulness as a concept is raised.

In other words, either the so-called faulty sense-data is of something non-real, in which case the question that must be answered is “what is sensed?”, or the sense-data is of the real, in which case there is absolutely no reason to call it faulty. Thus, the senses are infallible.

On Induction

My mistake here.

Ayer rejects the problem of induction on positivist grounds; since it has no possible solution (that does not rely on induction), it is not a real problem at all. Given this, induction is free to be held as valid if it works in practice, and science has shown that it does.

Language, Truth, and Logic:

"Thus is appears that there is no possible way of solving the problem of induction, as it is ordinarily conceived. And this means that it is a fictitious problem, since all genuine problems are at least theoretically capable of being solved: and the credit of natural science is not impaired by the fact that some philosophers continue to be puzzled by it."

Historical Refutations

The burden of proof is on me to defend LP, but, once I put forth my arguments (and I have), the BOP shifts to my opponent to refute them. He cannot merely give a list of names and expect his BOP to be fulfilled. If he cannot give arguments, not names of arguments in 8,000 characters or less, that is not my problem. As seen in this round, he obviously could have chosen particular arguments to explain in-depth; his opting not to last round should have no effect on my case.

Godel, Carnap, Logical Positivism

Rudolf Carnap bypassed Godel’s concerns completely by positing that inferences can be drawn from infinite premisses. Given that I cannot reproduce formal logic symbols on DDO, I have taken a picture of Carnap’s proof in Introduction to Symbolic Logic and its Applications:

Carnap invented the Omega-Rule (Carnap Rule), as shown above. Here is a short explanation in non-symbolic form:

On LP's "narrowness"

This entire section consists of my opponent asserting that there are things knowable beyond science, and LP’s failure to account for them is why it should be rejected. This is question-begging to the highest degree; I have given arguments as to why the “values,” “purpose,” and whatever else my opponent posits are nonsense. My opponent has done nothing to support them.

If it is established that 2+2 = 4, it is not a failure of arithmetic for it to label “2+2 = 5” as nonsense. It simply is the case that it is nonsense, regardless of the sentimentality my opponent clings to.


I have defended Logical Positivism, and this is an empirical truth. Voters must keep in mind that I have demonstrated the primacy of the Verification Principle over certain objections raised, and, in other sections, have shown that the objections are not substantiative at all, but rather merely name-dropping or question-begging.



On Ayer

Initially Shab claimed it was Ayer’s version of LP he would prove and even presented Ayer quotes to define what LP is, now he claims Ayer is not qualified to evaluate his own theory, saying “The only way Ayer would be “uniquely qualified” to establish the truth or falsehood of LP is if he had some unique insight into what LP is”. To establish Ayer as the authority who’s LP we would debate and then claim Ayer doesn’t know what LP is demonstrates a flagrant disrespect for logic and the voter. AJ Ayer was clearly a poor choice from the start, nevertheless Shab made an uninformed appeal to authority in Ayer’s name and when I respond by pointing out that his own authority asserted that LP was not sound, saying “nearly all of it was false”, he accused me of making an appeal to authority, this is hypocritical and a dishonest debate tactic, in no way should it be considered the least bit valid.

On Wittgenstein

Shab quotes the Tractatus to “prove” LP, and then claims I should not discuss the Tractatus in my counter because that isn’t what we are debating, nonsense, if he is going to try to use out of context quotes to claim that the Tractatus says something it didn’t say, then the onus is on me to counter that misrepresentation by providing the actual context in which those statements were made.

Shab is asking voters to consider his quotes of Ayer and Wittgenstein as relevant ,but to consider my counter to those claims as irrelevant, but it is certainly relevant to clarify the meaning of the quotes he used out of context and because he presented these two people’s work as providing proof of LP, it is very relevant to point out that they both completely disagree with Shab’s position.

The Verification Principle's "self-destruction"

Again, merely labeling the VP a definition “doesn't change the fact that its content makes LP self-refuting, LP cannot be empirically tested, therefore by its own criterion, LP is meaningless”. His BOP is not to prove the VP need not be verified, he must prove that LP is sound, and the fact remains that the VP, its core principle, makes “LP self-refuting”, and therefore, LP is not sound.

Shab also argues that the VP should be accepted because “anything else confounds all practical intuitions” which is a particularly bad argument because according to LP, “practical intuitions” are meaningless. Again, Shab refutes his own argument.

On Sense-Data

Again, Shab claims I argued something I didn’t argue, I’ve stated very clearly, twice now, that LP makes sensory experience the "starting point for certainty or truth" which is a flaw because sensory experience is prone to errors. Twice now he tries to distract from that point by claiming that I argued that sensations come “not from the world, but from outside it”, which of course has nothing whatsoever to do with what I actually said. I believe this disingenuous attempt to distract the voter away from my actual point speaks to its validity and we must presume that he doesn’t respond because he doesn’t have a valid response to give. Voters must certainly recognize that sensory experience is indeed “a poor starting point for certainty or truth”, this self evident fact remains unchallenged in the last round, so Shab has conceded this point.

He also ends with the statement, “the senses are infallible”, which is an absurd assertion; we all know just how often our senses can be subject to optical illusions, mirages, phantom sounds, emotion, mood, and a host of other things that lead to false perceptions. In fact, throughout this debate Shab has demonstrated how confirmation bias can cause him to misread what I have written providing an example of the fallibility of perception.

On Induction
In yet another “about face”, Shab begins with “Ayer rejects the problem of induction on positivist grounds” after earlier claiming Ayer didn’t even have insight into what LP is. If it is relevant that Ayer rejects the problem of induction on positivist grounds, then it is certainly relevant that Ayer rejects Logical Positivism because “nearly all of it is false”.

Shab's quote effectively concurs with my assertion that LP simply ignores the "Problem of Induction", which is not sound.

Historical Refutations

Shab attempts another distraction as I did in fact give an argument, it was an “explanation of how Godel's proof demolished LP”, I showed how “Godel's Incompleteness Theorem proved the ideal of LP is impossible”, and it IS his problem because a logically conclusive proof that LP cannot be sound irrefutably defeats his contention that LP is sound.

Godel, Carnap, Logical Positivism

First of all, Carnap’s recursive omega rule is an infinitary rule of inference, and as such, it cannot apply to LP’s formalization of Science because the physical existence of an actual infinity is logically incoherent, and even if it weren’t, by definition an actual infinity is not observable, even in principle, so it cannot be empirically valid. Shab obviously doesn’t understand his own attempt at an argument because that refuting point is clearly made in the link Shab provided as support. The paragraph he provided states that Carnap’s rule is “inadmissible within the structure of the formal theories of D. Hilbert”, and as we have seen, LP was a failed attempt to extend Hilbert’s formalism to Science, once again Shab provides a self-refuting reply.

Second, Shab stated that “Carnap bypassed Godel’s concerns completely” which is simply not true, and even if it were, it is just another distraction as he initially stated that we are debating AJ Ayer’s version of LP, not Carnap’s. My argument clearly demonstrates that Godel’s Theorem undeniably refutes AJ Ayers LP by proving it is not just unsound, but impossible.

Consequently, my point remains unchallenged and should be recognized as a valid refutation.

On LP's "narrowness"

Yet again Shab claims I made an argument that I did not make, he says I asserted that "there are things knowable beyond science and LP's failure to account for them is why it should be rejected". What I said in that section is that there are things knowable within science that LP would reject, much of our leading edge science is theoretically derived through LP rejected methods of inference and induction, one example given is the entire field of quantum physics, the standard model of particle physics is the most confirmed scientific theory of all time and yet, according to the tenets of LP, the standard model should be rejected as meaningless because it is not verifiable by sensory experience.


I’m not sure what debate Shab is referring to in his conclusion, it certainly isn’t this one.

In this debate, Shab accepted the BOP to prove LP was sound, he has not provided the requisite extraordinary argument, his arguments were often self-refuting, others involved out of context quotes of individuals that explicitly claimed LP was false. When I pointed this out he responded with the preposterous claims that AJ Ayer did not understand AJ Ayer’s work and Wittgenstein did not understand Wittgenstein’s work in a failed attempt to give the appearance of an argument. Shab begins with an uninformed appeal to the authority of both Ayer and Wittgenstein and later claims they were not authorities on the subject, two of the many contradictions demonstrating the lack of any logical foundation to his argument.

I provided a comprehensive set of logically valid refutations to LP and his responses amounted to series of distractions, misrepresentations, and disingenuous attempts to beg the question. Consequently, almost all of my refutations remain unchallenged and should therefore by accepted as valid.

In the end, it should be crystal clear to anyone reading this debate that Shab has not met the BOP to prove that LP is sound, on the contrary, LP was conclusively refuted.

The reasoned and logical response to this debate is to vote CON.

Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by Sidewalker 4 months ago
Nobody cares.
Posted by ShabShoral 5 months ago
Whooooops re: induction

Damn it
Posted by Sidewalker 5 months ago
"Unyielding monster just below the surface"?

Sheesh, are you talking about your naughty parts again?
Posted by dylancatlow 5 months ago
"No worries!"
"Either way's fine with me."

If only people knew the unyielding monster that lies just below the surface c:
Posted by Sidewalker 5 months ago
I'm addressing the Logical Positivism of the Vienna Circle, there is no synthetic apriori, the only statements that have meaning are either true by definition or verifiable through experience.

Everything that fell outside of the scientific method was nonsense.
Posted by dylancatlow 5 months ago
Sidewalker's definition of LP is not the one I'm familiar with. As I understand it, the verification principle asserts that meaningful propositions have to be verifiable *in some manner* -- not necessarily empirically. This distinction is crucial, as Sidewalkers' arguments don't make sense if LP permits logical analysis as well.
Posted by Sidewalker 5 months ago
That makes sense, I'll just accept in round 1...looking forward to a good debate.
Posted by ShabShoral 5 months ago
No worries!

Usually debates are structured so that round one is acceptances only, round two starts with pro's positive case and con's positive case (since I have the BOP, your round will probably just be counterarguments, since you don't have to propose another philosophy), round three is rebuttals, and round four is conclusions (no new arguments/arguments that haven't already been brought up).

I was planning on writing out my case without addressing your specific arguments in round two, and you would be able to give the arguments you gave in the thread in that round as well. If you would rather go first, you can post your argument in round 1 - I would just ask that you then waive your last round.

Either way's fine with me.
Posted by Sidewalker 5 months ago
ShabShoral, sorry for the delay on the debate, I got busy and by the time I got back from out of town I half forgot we were engaged and ready to debate this subject.

OK, so...I already have a dilemma here, this will only be my fourth debate ever so I'm not really sure what is really meant by "standard rules", I think I'm clear but want to make sure it's a fair debate. seems that if I start round one with my argument, that I will end up getting four rounds and you will only get three, are you OK with that or should I just accept for round 1? You've already seen my initial objections to LP, if I start in round 1 it will be the same argument you saw in the thread.

Another option is, since this debate began in a thread and we were at a point where you said you were preparing a response to my argument but would wait till our debate, I could use round one to restate my argument, your response, and my response to that,....I'd probably have to condense a little but I will certainly restate it as objectively as I can, maybe word for word works, in any event, then we can just make this a continuation of the arguments already made.

It's your call, do you want me to:
1) Start round 1 with my argument (and get an extra round).
2) Just accept in round 1.
3) Restate the forum exchange up to the point when we decided to formally debate.

Let me know how to begin and I'll get to it.
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