logical positivism

<epistemology, philosophical movement> Logical positivism is a movement in 20th century philosophy that originated as a reaction against nineteenth-century idealism. The word logical in the name refers to the belief that logic is all-important for philosophy (thus this movement is a sort of logicism), while "positivism" here is really a certain form of empiricism which claims that empiricism is the whole of philosophy and that there is no validity to anything which could be called conceptual experience or conceptual insight. The movement is also a form of conventionalism, since its adherents hold that things are true only by convention. Logical positivists denigrate or ignore ethics, and some have even gone so far as to say that all values are merely expressions of emotion (see emotivism). Thus the logical positivists, while holding a deep respect for reason in the limited context of logic and mathematics, have had such a limited view of what reason is (a process of contraction started by Kant) that they have ended up holding some extremely subjectivistic views, especially in ethics. (References from logicism, nominalism, positivism, and scholasticism.)

[The Ism Book]

<philosophical terminology> twentieth-century philosophical movement that used a strict principle of verifiability to reject as meaningless the non-empirical statements of metaphysics, theology, and ethics. Under the influence of Hume, Russell, and the early Wittgenstein, the logical positivists regarded as meaningful only statements reporting empirical observations, taken together with the tautologies of logic and mathematics. Prominent logical positivists included members of the Vienna Circle and Ayer. Recommended Reading: A. J. Ayer, Logical Positivism (Free Press, 1966); Michael Friedman, Reconsidering Logical Positivism (Cambridge, 1999); and Science and Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: Basic Works of Logical Empiricism, ed. by Sahotra Sarkar (Garland, 1996) - Vol. 1: The Emergence of Logical Empiricism: From 1900 to the Vienna Circle, Vol. 2: Logical Empiricism at Its Peak: Schlick, Carnap, and Neurath, Vol. 3: Logic, Probability, and Epistemology: The Power of Semantics, Vol. 4: Logical Empiricism and the Special Sciences: Reichenbach, Feigl, and Nagel, Vol. 5: Decline and Obsolescence of Logical Empiricism: Carnap vs. Quine and the Critics, and Vol. 6: The Legacy of the Vienna Circle: Modern Appraisals.

[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]

<2002-01-23>

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Nearby terms: logical empiricist « logical form « logical implication « logical positivism » logical relation » logical validity » logic gate