Logical empiricism 2016

Written by Erkki Hartikainen
Published 1/1/2016
Free book, no copyright


  1. Logical empiricism 2016
  2. Contents
  3. Logic math symbols table
  4. Assassination of Moritz Schlick
  5. Moriz Schlick's article Meaning and verification
  6. Verication and falsification
    1. Verificationism (also known as the Verifiability)
    2. Verification in model theory today
    3. Real content of sentence
    4. Burden of proof
  7. Existence
    1. Definition of the existence
    2. Rule of Existential Generalization (EG)
    3. Distinguishable questions about existence are
  8. Philosopher's conceptions about existence
    1. Trouble with Santa Claus
    2. Ontological argument
    3. No deductive proof for the existence of the gods is possible
  9. Definitions in general
  10. Explanations
  11. Questions
  12. Name-relation
    1. Introduction
    2. Proper names
    3. Common names (universals)
  13. Some symbols of the logic
  14. Elimination of quantors
  15. Restricted quantifier
  16. Some formalisms of the logic
    1. Classical logic
    2. Intuitionist Logic
    3. Nelsons strong negation
  17. Restricted quantifier
  18. The solution of the raven paradox
  19. The solution of the liar paradox
  20. Eino Kaila
  21. Empiricism and the conception of the reality
    1. Is the philosophy empirically empty?
    2. Philosophy in the society
    3. Coarsenings and conception of reality
    4. Conception, not worldview
  22. The Vienna Circle, comments by Erkki Hartikainen
  23. The Scientific Conception of the World
  25. The Scientific Conception of the World: The Vienna Circle'
  27. Historical Background
  28. Sensualism
    1. Definitions
    2. Formal languages
  29. The definition of the truth
  30. Truth, non-empirical
    1. David Hume on the non-empirical truth
  31. Truth, empirical
    1. Methods to justificate the non-empirical truth
    2. There are different opinions
    3. David Hume on the empirical truth
    4. Correspondence theory
      1. Definition
      2. Consider the proposition that snow is white
      3. Critic of the correspondence conception
      4. Massimo Pigliucci says
    5. Coherence theories
      1. Introduction
      2. Constructivist theory
      3. Consensus theory
    6. Pragmatic theory
    7. Minimalist (deflationary) theories
      1. Introduction
      2. Performative theory of truth
      3. Redundancy and related theories
      4. Prosentential Theory
    8. Pluralist theories
    9. Some remarks
      1. Truth of the logical empirism
      2. Truth in independence friendly logic
      3. Game theoretical truth
    10. Most believed theories
    11. Formal theories
    12. Truth in mathematics
      1. Two main approaches
      2. Hintikkas IF-logic
    13. Semantic theory of truth
    14. Kripke's theory of truth
    15. Critics of Kripke
    16. Religious opinions of Kripke
  32. The knowledge
    1. Dictionary definition of know
      1. Transitive verb
      2. Intransitive verb
    2. Dictionary definition of knowledge 
    3. Knowledge in cybernetics
    4. Gettier Counterexamples
      1. Edmund Gettier
      2. Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?
      3. 1
      4. 2
      5. 3
      6. CASE I
      7. CASE II
      8. NOTES
      9. Structure of Gettier counterexamples
      10. Responses to Gettier
    5. Are the concepts belief and justification concepts of the philosophy
    6. Fallibilism
      1. Poppers fallibilism
      2. Critical rationalism
      3. The first premise of the critical rationalism
      4. The Problem with 'The Problem'
      5. Poppers Kantian premise
      6. A Fundamental Difficulty
      7. Objectivity
      8. Language difficulties
      9. Problems in practice
      10. Refutablity as a criterion of the demarcation
      11. Popper's via negativa
      12. Truth, facts and realism
      13. Definition and contradiction
      14. Poppers three world theory
      15. Problems
      16. Popperian Idealism
      17. Established theories
      18. The ultimate test
      19. Kinds of fallibilism
      20. Fallibilism and mathematics
    7. Our conlusion
  33. Metaphysics
    1. New name for the philosophy
    2. The metaphysics an the theology are growing
      1. Definition of the metaphysics
      2. Use of the word metaphysics
    3. Phenomenalism
    4. Realism, introduction
    5. The naive realism
      1. Definition
      2. Supporters
      3. Different conceptions
    6. The scientific realism
      1. Definition
      2. Supporters
      3. Different conceptions
    7. The neorealism
      1. Definition 
      2. Supporters
      3. Different conceptions
    8. The critical realism
      1. Definition
      2. Supporters
      3. Different conceptions
    9. Conclusions
      1. Naive realism
      2. The scientific realism
      3. Neorealism
      4. Critical realism
      5. No academic conception of realism is complete
  34. Non-eliminative non-reductive materialism
    1. My own conception of realism
      1. Phenomenalism
      2. What is wrong with the  phenomenalism
      3. Extension of the phenomenalism: materialism
      4. Epiphenomenalism explained
      5. Animal Choices
      6. Some Objections to Epiphenomenalism
    2. The external reality
    3. Defence of materialism
    4. Mechanical perceiving
    5. Matter and the mind
    6. What is the property dualism
    7. The mind-body problem
    8. How the reality looks to the property dualist
    9. Against property dualism
  35. Manifesto (continued)
  36. The philosophical empiricism is practically dead in the universities of the world
  37. Manifesto (continued)
  38. Scientific reality conception is almost dead in Russia now
  39. Manifesto (continued)
  40. Adolf Hitler was catholic cristian
  41. Manifesto (continued)
  42. There is no purpose in the world
  43. Manifesto (continued)
  44. Religious teaching in the schools of Europe
  45. Manifesto (continued)
  46. Concept of the matter
  47. Manifesto (continued)
  48. Logical empiricism is not epistemology
  49. Manifesto (continued)
  50. Axiomatic geometry
  51. Manifesto (continued)
  52. Hume's guillotine
  53. Locical empiricism is a kind of empiricism
  54. Manifesto (continued)
  55. Definition of the truth in logic
  56. Manifesto (continued)
  57. The Circle around Schlick
  58. There are norms in logical empiricism
  59. Manifesto (continued)
  60. Mind Theories
    1. The Mind as Immaterial
    2. The mind as a Material
    3. There is no problem with the substances
  61. Properties (attributes)
    1. Different classes of attributes
    2. Problems of attributes
  62. There is no problem between facts and values
  63. Manifesto (continued)
  64. No theogoly necessary
  65. Manifesto (continued)
  66. Scientific conception of reality
  67. Manifesto (continued)
  68. Importance of natural sciences
  69. Manifesto (continued)
  71. Neutral system of formulae
  72. Manifesto (continued)
  73. Experience forms a complex network
  74. Manifesto (continued)
  75. Is a man the measure of all thing
  76. Manifesto (continued)
  77. Clarification of concepts
  78. Manifesto (continued)
  79. Elements of Analytic Philosophy
  80. Manifesto (continued)
  81. The emotive meaning
  82. Manifesto (continued)
  83. Manifesto (continued)
  84. Some conceps of Immanuel Kant
  85. Quine's views on the a priori and analytic
    1. Introduction
    2. What is the synonym
    3. Formal synonymy
    4. Interpretations and Quine
    5. Interpretations and Quine
  86. Critic against Quine, Putnam, Kripke and Hintikka
    1. Are the genes the proper names of the individuals?
    2. Identical ships
    3. My conlusions
    4. We have much of definitions in mathematics
  87. Against analytic philosophy
  88. Manifesto (continued)
  89. Manifesto (continued)
  90. External reality
    1. We cite Hans Reichenbach
    2. We cite truthpizza
    3. Meaningless or useless
    4. Realism
    5. Unrealism hypothesis
      1. 1. Evil demon
      2. 2. The Dream Hypothesis
      3. “3. The Brain in a Vat” Argument
      4. 4. I do not exist
    6. Simplicity
    7. Simple arithmetic
    8. Simplicity and unrealism hypothesis
  91. Manifesto (continued)
  92. Intuition
  93. Manifesto (continued)
  94. Experimental truth
  95. Immediately given
  96. Manifesto (continued)
  97. Causality
    1. No consensus
    2. Causal system
    3. Catholic christian Elizabeth Anscombe on causation
      1. Anscome's definition of the causality
      2. David Hume's conception of necessity
    4. Common sense causality
      1. Types of causal patterns
      2. Linear Causality
      3. Domino Causality
      4. Cyclic Causality
      5. Spiraling Causality
      6. Relational Causality
      7. Mutual Causality
    5. Game Theory by Probable Causation/Influence
    6. The causal loop
    7. Top-down causality
  98. Manifesto (continued)
  99. Subjectively experienced qualities
  100. Manifesto (continued)
  102. Foundations of Arithmetic
  103. The truth of the axiomatic system
  104. Calculus which is simpler than the mathematics
  105. Binary numbers as a calculus
  106. Contradictions are not allowed in the calculus
  107. Decidability of the calculus
  108. Independence of the calculus
  109. Rudophs Carnap's concept of calculus
  110. Manifesto (continued)
  111. Foundations of Physics
  112. Time and space
    1. Time and space in physics
    2. Time in the philosophy
  113. Materialist ontology
    1. Introduction
  114. Manifesto (continued)
  115. Foundations of Geometry
  116. The truth of the axiomatic geometry
  117. Manifesto (continued)
  118. Problems of the Foundations of Biology and Psychology
  119. Foundations of the Social Sciences
  121. Members of the Vienna Circle
  122. Those sympathetic to theVienna Circle
  123. Leading representatives of the scientific world-conception
  124. The pamplet Wissenschaftliche Weltauffssung
  125. Note
  126. Cybernetics
  127. Fundamental questions, cybernetic answers
    1. What is?
    2. Why is there something rather than nothing?
    3. Why is the world the way it is?
    4. Where does it all come from?
    5. Where do we come from?
      1. Evolution
      2. Thinking
    6. Who are we?
    7. Where are we going to?
    8. What is the purpose of it all?
    9. Is there a God?
    10. What is good and what is evil?
    11. What is truth?
    12. What is consciousness?
      1. Conscious
      2. Consciousness
      3. Cybernetic explanation of consciousness
    13. Do we have a "free will"?
    14. How should we act?
    15. How can we be happy?
    16. Why cannot we live forever?
    17. What is the meaning of life?
  128. The Meaning
    1. Meaning of the meaning
    2. Meaning as purpose or meaning as sinificant
      1. Purpose
      2. Signifigance
  129. The Meaning of Life
    1. Definitions
    2. Kurt Baier and the meaning of the life
    3. Julian Baggini and the meaning of the life

Logic math symbols table

Symbol Symbol Name Meaning / definition Example
· and and x · y
^ caret / circumflex and x ^ y
& ampersand and x & y
+ plus or x + y
reversed caret or x y
| vertical line or x | y
x' single quote not - negation x'
x bar not - negation x
¬ not not - negation ¬ x
! exclamation mark not - negation ! x
circled plus / oplus exclusive or - xor x y
~ tilde negation ~ x
equivalent if and only if (iff)  
equivalent if and only if (iff)  
for all    
there exists    
there does not exists    
because / since    

Assassination of Moritz Schlick

With the rise of the Nazis in Germany and the Austrofascism in Austria, many of the Vienna Circle's members left for America and the United Kingdom.


Moritz Schlick.
Schlick, however, stayed on at the University of Vienna. When visited by Herbert Feigl in 1935, he expressed dismay at events in Germany.

On June 22, 1936, Schlick was ascending the steps of the University for a class when he was confronted by a former student, Johann Nelböck, who killed Schlick with a pistol.

The court declared Nelböck to be fully compos mentis, he confessed to the act, was detained without any resistance, but was unrepentant. The delinquent used the judicial proceedings as a chance to present himself and his ideology in the public.

He claimed that Schlick's anti-metaphysical philosophy had "interfered with his moral restraint".

In another version of the events, the murderer covered all political causes up and claimed, that he was motivated by jealousy over his failed attachment to the female student Sylvia Borowicka, leading to a paranoid delusion about Schlick as his rival and persecutor.

Nelböck was tried and sentenced, but the event became a distorted cause célčbre around which crystallized the growing nationalist and anti-Jewish sentiments in the city. (The fact that Schlick was not Jewish did not seem to matter to propagandists capitalizing on the crime.)

After the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938 the assassin was released on license after serving 2 years of a 10 year sentence.

Moriz Schlick's article Meaning and verification

Moriz Schlick's article of meaning and verification was presented in Paris in 1935 (“Wahrheit und Bewährung”, Actes du Congres Internationale de Philosophie Scientifique, Sorbonne, Paris 1935).

We are using an article “Truth and Confirmation” in Feigl and Sellars, 1949, pp. 146-170.

The book of Feigl and Sellars shoes the strong opposition against Sclick. First attack is the article Mssrs. Shclick an Ayer on Immortality by Virgil C. Aldrich (pp.171-181) and the second attack The Scientific World Perspective by Kasimir Adjukiewicz (pp. 182-188).


Jaakko Hintikka.

Professor Jaakko Hintikka (Boston) says in his article that the fall of the logical empiricism was an affair of the cold war (Hartikainen, Erkki, Kiiskinen, Kyösti & Rastas, Jussi (editors.): Suomalaisen filosofian ’enfant terrible’: Kriittinen ajattelija ja tiedepoliittinen keskustelija: Juhlakirja tohtori Pertti Lindforsin 75-vuotispäivänä: Monitieteinen antologia).


I became the supporter of the logical empiricism when I was listening the lectures of Oiva Ketonen 1960s.

The members of the Vienna Circle tried to conduct philosophy on the model of
natural science.

They called their approach “logical empiricism.”

One of the doctrines of the logical empiricists was that the meaning of a sentence is to be found entirely in the conditions under which it could be verified by some possible experience.

Metaphysical sentences were taken by the logical empiricists to be unverifiable and therefore meaningless.

Logical empiricism was adopted by philosophers outside the Circle itself, most notably, Hans Reichenbach in Berlin.


A. J. Ayer.
It was popularized in English by A. J. Ayer’s
Language, Truth, and Logic (1936).

We will correct the sentence in Manifesto of Vienna Circle

Rather than worrying about whether they are true or false, we might do best to regard them as meaningless until such time as someone clarifies them in such a way as to imply some consequences.

to the form

Rather than worrying about whether they are true or false, we might do best to regard them as useless until such time as someone clarifies them in such a way as to imply some consequences.

Verication and falsification

Verificationism (also known as the Verifiability)

Criterion of Meaning or the Verification Principle is the doctrine that a proposition is only cognitively meaningful if it can be definitively and conclusively determined to be either true or false (i.e. verifiable or falsifiable).

It has been hotly disputed amongst verificationists whether this must be possible in practice or merely in principle. 

A J Ayer proposed two types of verification—strong and weak—while weak verification would be obtainable when a proposition is rendered probable. Meanwhile, Carnap sought to axiomatize a universal law's probability as a "degree of confirmation".

Sentences can be verified in various means. The simplest form of verification i through direct observation; but only a narrow group of sentences is thus verifiable , such as "it rains" or "Peter is taller than Paul"......

Other sentences can not be directly verified.

1951. Hans Reichenbach: The Rise of Scientific Philosophy. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01055-0, p. 257.

As we will see below the word "meaning" has many meanings. We will not use the word "meaning" when we are speaking of verification.

The word verification has its origin in the latin word "verus", 'true'.

There is no consensus of the meaning of the concept "verification".

We redefine the concept of verification:

The verification of the assertion is a process to decide the truth value of the assertion.

It is very difficult to determine the truth value of an assertion if we do not understand the meaning on the assertion.

The contemporary logical empiricism says that the verification of different things is very important.

The complete verification is possible only in non-empirical cases (definitions, logic, mathematics, etc).

Verification in model theory today

The process of determining that a model implementation accurately represents the developer’s conceptual description of the model.

Real content of sentence

Empirical sentences must follow.

Burden of proof

Burden of proof is a duty of affirmatively proving asserted a fact or facts on reality.
Values and norms are not true or false.


Definition of the existence

There is no agreement of the definition of the existence.

Only intelligent animals can use such concepts as the existence.

For example a dog can remember that it has a ball which is under a sofa.

Very often the existence is associated to the perception and to the memory of the animal.


The word "exist" on not very old. An old English phrase "there is" was used instead of the latin word "exist". In German the phrase "Es gibt" (is found) was used instead of "existieren". In Swedish the phrase "Det finns (is found) was used instead of "eksistera".

The philosophers are arguing to earn money.

Rule of Existential Generalization (EG)

What this rule says is that if there is some element c in the universe that has the property P, then we can say that there exists something in the universe that has the property P.

∃x (….x….)

For example the statement "if everyone is happy then someone is happy" can be proven correct using this existential generalization rule.

Distinguishable questions about existence are

  1. What exists?
  2. What sorts of things exist?
  3. What is the concept of existence?
  4. What is the nature (if anything) of existence?

Philosopher's conceptions about existence

Two most famous views of the philosophers about existence are

1.     The Property View: existence is a property, and the surface grammar of a positive existence attribution captures the logical (‘real’) grammar of the attribution.

Compare:  ‘John is bald’, and ‘John exists’.   In both cases, the truth-maker for the claim will be the fact that the object denoted (i.e., John) has the property attributed by the predicate (in the 1st case the property of being bald; in the 2nd case, the property of existence).

2.     The Quantifier  View: the logical grammar of existence claims is not their surface grammar.  “Exists” is not a predicate, and so existence is not a property.  “Exists” is a quantifier, meaning roughly “at least one”.  The truth maker of “John exists” is simply John.   The logical grammar of “John exists” is rendered roughly as “There exists an x such that x is numerically identical to John”, or in Standard Logical notation: ∃x(x = John).

Trouble with Santa Claus

Both of the Quantifier and Property views have trouble dealing with true negative existential claims, like “Santa Claus does not exist”.  

We are now in a position to be more explicit about the problem that true negative existential claims raises for both the Property View and the Quantifier View.  We will focus here just on true negative singular existential claims.  Here are some examples of such claims:

1.     Santa Claus does not exist.

2.     The tooth fairy does not exist.

3.      A perfect performance does not exist.

4.     It does not exist (referring back to a perfect performance).

5.      This does not exist. (pointing, say, at an hallucination, that one is aware of having at the time, of a pink elephant).

The Property View holds that existence is a property.  But it may hold either that non-existence is also a property just like existence, or not.  Let us take these in turn.

If non-existence is a property, then the truth of the negative existence claim requires that there be an object which is the bearer of the property, ‘not-E’, of non-existence.  But of course that is precisely what the claim is denying. If the object is identified with a proper name, as in sentence 1 above, then the logical grammar of the sentence will be ‘not-Ea’, i.e., a has the property of non-existence.  EG applies to such sentences, yielding (Ǝx)not-Ex., which says that there exists an x that does not exist., an evident contradiction.   

t does not exist., an evident contradiction.   

On the other hand, if non-existence is not a property, than according to the Property View, the true negative existence claim is merely a denial of the existence claim , of the form ‘not(Ea’).  No matter, though, EG still gives us the same contradiction.

Solution:  Reject EG and embrace non-existent objects.  So, e.g., there is a Santa Claus (and that is to whom we are referring) but he doesn’t exist.  If Fa, then something is F, but that does not imply that it exists.

[Note:  There is actually an independent reason, that Garrett does not mention, for invoking non-existent objects, if you hold the property view; cf. Penelope Mackie’s nice entry on “Existence”  in  the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy:  doing so makes positive existence claims less trivial seeming: we talk about lots of things, but only some of them exist. ]

The Quantifier View holds that existence is not a property  (or at least not a property of objects, though on a version of the Quantifier View mentioned but not endorsed by Garrett, it is a property of properties).  But consider the claim “Adam does not exist”.  Its logical grammar, according to the Quantifier View, is ~(Ǝx)x =a, where ‘~’ stands for negation.  A problem is that EG still yields the contradiction:  (Ǝy)~(Ǝx) x = y, which says roughly that there exists something y which is numerically identical to something x which does not exist!

Solution: Deny that any singular terms occur in the logical grammar of a natural language: no names, no definite description, no indefinite descriptions, no pronouns, no demonstratives; at least not as singular terms.  So then the problem the problem of true negative existentials (at least for singular ones) cannot arise.  Everything legitimately expressed (i.e., in real grammar not surface grammar) by a singular existential claim will be expressed in terms just of predicates, quantifiers, and identity. 

Indefinite descriptions are the easiest to dispose of.  Sentence (3) above  becomes ~(∃x)(x is a performance and x is perfect).  Definite description require a second kind of quantifier, ‘(x)’ which reads “For all x”, to capture the uniqueness expressed by “the” in definite descriptions.  Sentence (2) above becomes, via Russell’s famous theory of Definite Descriptions, ~[(∃x)(x is a tooth fairy and (y)( y is a tooth fairy then y=x)], which reads:  there does not exist an x such that x is both a tooth fairy and the only tooth fairy, in that anything y that is a tooth fairy must be identical with x.  Quine was the one who proposed that proper names be replaced by predicate letters.  So sentence (1) above would  become ~(∃x)(x Santa-Clausizes), where the predicate ‘Santa-Clausizes’ has as its descriptive content various properties which are taken to uniquely identify  Santa Claus, i.e., in the story of Santa Claus.

Garrett favors this Quantifier View approach to the problem of true negative existentials over the Property View approach.  His main reason seems to be that the Property View violates ‘Ockham’s Razor’; it multiplies entities beyond what is needed to solve the problem, given that the Quantifier View works.  The Property View posits the property of existence, plus possibly also the property of non-existence, plus tons of ‘non-existing’ objects: all the merely possible ones like the Golden Mountain as well as all the  impossible ones like square circles.

But against the Quantifier View, one might note the following.

  1. The restriction to 1st order quantifiers – i.e. quantifiers whose variables take only objects are values – has not been motivated, just assumed.  So only objects exist, not properties, and therefore not the property of existence.  Surely that is just too easy, pending a justification for the restriction.
  2. It posits a logical grammar starkly at odds with the surface grammars of natural languages, in some cases misrepresenting the semantics of ordinary language singular terms, which seem to function often with little or no descriptive content semantically attached to them at all.
  3. Surface grammar names in particular are to be replaced with complex predicates that would uniquely identify the intended would-be object being picked out by the name.  that is a lot of predicates!  How are they to be determined?
  4. The Rule of Existential Generalization is spared as a valid rule only by having been rendered superfluous.
  5. The Quantifier View still seems to be a kind of property view.  Even Garrett, who sets aside the idea that quantifiers might express ‘higher order properties’  -- properties of properties or the like, such as the property of being instantiated that a property may have – still at one point refers to existence as a ‘formal property’ (cf. p. 29, 13 lines from the  bottom) .  The contrast he seems to have in mind is with natural properties had by objects, and that ground their causal powers.  But what is a formal property?  What has them, and where are they?  We just have not been told.  Just invoking the special syntax of quantifiers does not help.  Recall Quine’s famous slogan:  “To be is to be the value of a bound variable” (and he meant only  1st order variable).  How is that supposed to count as an answer to the question Garrett wants to answer?  How does it help us understand  “the nature(if any) of existence”?  So for all we have been told existence is a special kind of property that needs a special kind of syntax to represent it and distinguish it from other kinds of properties.  But what is its nature??

Of course, someone might still think that we are better off with this Quantifier View, given the extreme ontological excesses of the Meinongian solution to the problem of true negative existential claims on behalf of the Property View.  But Garrett has given no argument that that is the only solution available to the Property View.  And there is another kind of solution not considered by Garrett, but worth considering, that carries with it no new ontological commitments.  It is a solution that is as available to the Quantifier View as it is to the Property View.  It involves simply rejecting the classical Law of the Excluded Middle as a universal law, by holding that sentences with non-denoting names lack truth values:  are neither true nor false.  Therefore, since no negative existential statement containing a non-denoting name will be true, it will never be appropriate to apply the law of Existential Generalization to it, and so it will never yield a contradiction.

The logical empiricism supports no philosophical conception of the existence. There are different meanings of the word "existence". The existence in formal languages is different of the existence in natural languages. Different speakers have different meanings for the word "existence".

Ontological argument

We formulate the ontological argument as follows:
  1. (Even) the Fool has the concept of that than which no greater can be conceived.
  2. (Hence) (Even) the Fool believes that that than which not greater can be conceived exists in the understanding.
  3. No one believes that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in the understanding can reasonably believe that that than which no greater can be conceived exists only in the understanding.
  4. (Hence) (Even) the Fool cannot reasonably deny that that than which no greater can be conceived exists in reality.
  5. (Hence)  That than which no greater can be conceived exists in reality.
Putting it this way brings out its invalidity: e.g., the move from 1 to 2.  3 is also a false premise, but it doesn’t get its purchase in the argument without the invalid move from 1 to 2. 

(This reconstruction of the argument may be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on” Ontological Arguments”, by Graham Oppy.  The distinction made above between encoding vs believing  or attributing existence is also developed there;  the ‘smallest really existing Martian’ example too.)

Finally, thinking about the role of the notion of existence in this versions of the Ontological Argument does not help us to in any way adjudicate between the Property and Quantifier Views.  Contra Kant, for instance, the central reasons why the argument does not work hold whether or not one thinks that existence is a property.

My opinion is that only empty space can be infinite. I have not heard that somebody asserts that the empty space is a go

No deductive proof for the existence of the gods is possible

The logical empiricism denies the existence of the gods.

The reasons to deny the existence of the gods has two parts:
  1. No pure deductive proof can tell us facts of the universe.
  2. There are no empirical proof for the existence of the gods.

I know that the growing set of philosopher can not understand the difference of pure deduction and the empirical proof. The religions are supporting these stupid philosophers.

Definitions in general

  1. Real definitions: A real definition is one expressing the real nature
  2. Nominal definitions: A nominal definition is the definition explaining what a word means, i.e. which says what the "nominal essence" is, and is definition in the classical sense.
  3. Intensional: In logic and mathematics, an intensional definition gives the meaning of a term by specifying all the properties required to come to that definition, that is, the necessary and sufficient conditions for belonging to the set being defined.
  4. Extensional: This is the opposite approach to the extensional definition, which defines by listing everything that falls under that definition — an extensional definition of bachelor would be a listing of all the unmarried men in the world
  5. Dictionary definitions: Lexical definition specifies the meaning of an expression by stating it in terms of other expressions whose meaning is assumed to be known (e.g., a ewe is a female sheep).
  6. Ostensive definitions: An ostensive definition conveys the meaning of a term by pointing out examples.
  7. Stipulative definitions: A stipulative definition is a type of definition in which a new or currently-existing term is given a specific meaning for the purposes of argument or discussion in a given context. When the term already exists, this definition may, but does not necessarily, contradict the dictionary (lexical) definition of the term. Because of this, a stipulative definition cannot be "correct" or "incorrect"; it can only differ from other definitions, but it can be useful for its intended purpose.
  8. Descriptive definitions: Common dictionaries contain lexical, descriptive definitions, but there are various types of definition - all with different purposes and focuses.
  9. Explicative definitions: Serving to explain; explanatory.
  10. Implicit definitions: "A set of axioms is sometimes said to give an implicit definition of its primitive terms."
  11. Circular definitions: A circular definition is one that uses the term(s) being defined as a part of the definition or assumes a prior understanding of the term being defined. Either the audience must already know the meaning of the key term(s), or the definition is deficient in including the term(s) to be defined in the definition itself. Such definitions lead to a need for additional information that motivated someone to look at the definition in the first place and, thus, violate the principle of providing new or useful information.
  12. A precising definition is a definition that extends the lexical definition of a term for a specific purpose by including additional criteria that narrow down the set of things meeting the definition.
  13. A recursive definition (or inductive definition) in mathematical logic and computer science is used to define an object in terms of itself.

    A recursive definition of a function defines values of the functions for some inputs in terms of the values of the same function for other inputs. For example, the factorial function n! is defined by the rules:  0! = 1 and  (n+1)! = (n+1)·n!.

  14. An operational definition is a result of the process of operationalization and is used to define something (e.g. a variable, term, or object) in terms of a process (or set of validation tests) needed to determine its existence, duration, and quantity.


An explanation is a set of statements constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context, and consequences of those facts.


  1. clarification,
  2. construction,
  3. elucidation,
  4. exegesis,
  5. explication,
  6. exposition,
  7. illumination,
  8. illustration,
  9. interpretation,
  10. road map

There are different kinds of exlanations:

  1. Causal,
  2. Deductive-nomological,
  3. Functional,
  4. Historical,
  5. Psychological,
  6. Reductive,
  7. Teleological,
  8. Methodological explanations etc.


The most common question words in English are the following:


WHO is only used when referring to people. (= I want to know the person)

  • Who is the best football player in the world?
  • Who are your best friends?
  • Who is that strange guy over there?


WHERE is used when referring to a place or location. (= I want to know the place)

  • Where is the library?
  • Where do you live?
  • Where are my shoes?


WHEN is used to refer to a time or an occasion. (= I want to know the time)

  • When do the shops open?
  • When is his birthday?
  • When are we going to finish?


WHY is used to obtain an explanation or a reason. (= I want to know the reason)

  • Why do we need a nanny?
  • Why are they always late?
  • Why does he complain all the time?

Normally the response begins with "Because..."


WHAT is used to refer to specific information. (= I want to know the thing)

  • What is your name?
  • What is her favourite colour?
  • What is the time?


WHICH is used when a choice needs to be made. (= I want to know the thing between alternatives)

  • Which drink did you order – the rum or the beer?
  • Which day do you prefer for a meeting – today or tomorrow?
  • Which is better - this one or that one?


HOW is used to describe the manner that something is done. (= I want to know the way)

  • How do you cook paella?
  • How does he know the answer?
  • How can I learn English quickly?



We name objects which exist independently of the human existence. Because we have different experiences of we will give the names for material objects, material gestalts, material events, material classes etc.

Name-relation is the relation between a symbol (formula, word, phrase) and that which it denotes or of which it is the name. The name-relation has well known properties (1947, Rudolph Carnap, Meaning and Necessity: a Study in Semantics and Modal Logic. University of Chicago Press, p.98).

Name is a word or symbol which denotes (designates) a particular thing is called a proper name of that particular thing.

In English and other natural languages there occur also common names (common nouns), such a common name being thought of as if it could serve as a name of anything belonging to a specified class (having specified characteristics).

Proper names

A proper noun is a noun that in its primary application refers to a unique entity, such as London, Jupiter, Sarah, or Microsoft, as distinguished from a common noun, which usually refers to a class of entities (city, planet, person, corporation), or non-unique instances of a specific class (a city, another planet, these persons, our corporation).

Some proper nouns occur in plural form (optionally or exclusively), and then they refer to groups of entities considered as unique (the Hendersons, the Everglades, the Azores, the Pleiades).

Proper nouns can also occur in secondary applications, for example modifying nouns (the Mozart experience; his Azores adventure), or in the role of common nouns (he's no Pavarotti; a few would-be Napoleons).

The detailed definition of the term is problematic and to an extent governed by convention.

A distinction is normally made in current linguistics between proper nouns and proper names. By this strict distinction, because the term noun is used for a class of single words (tree, beauty), only single-word proper names are proper nouns:

Peter and Africa are both proper names and proper nouns; but Peter the Great and South Africa, while they are proper names, are not proper nouns.

The term common name is not much used to contrast with proper name, but some linguists have used the term for that purpose.

Sometimes proper names are called simply names; but that term is often used more broadly.

Words derived from proper names are sometimes called proper adjectives (or proper adverbs, and so on), but not in mainstream linguistic theory.

Not every noun or noun phrase that refers to a unique entity is a proper name. Blackness and chastity are common nouns, even if blackness and chastity are considered unique abstract entities.

Few proper names have only one possible referent: there are many places named New Haven; Jupiter may refer to a planet, a god, a ship, or a symphony; at least one person has been named Mata Hari, but so have a horse, a song, and three films; there are towns and people named Toyota, as well as the company.

In English, proper names in their primary application cannot normally be modified by an article or other determiner (such as any or another), although some may be taken to include the article the, as in the Netherlands, the Roaring Forties, or the Rolling Stones.

A proper name may appear to refer by having a descriptive meaning, even though it does not (the Rolling Stones are not stones and do not roll; a woman named Rose is not a flower). Or if it had once been descriptive (and then perhaps not even a proper name at all), it may no longer be so (a location previously referred to as "the new town" may now have the proper name Newtown, though it is no longer new, and is now a city rather than a town).

In English and many other languages, proper names and words derived from them are associated with capitalization; but the details are complex, and vary from language to language (French lundi, Canada, canadien; English Monday, Canada, Canadian)

Common names (universals)

Common noun (also called common name) usually refers to a class of entities (city, planet, person, corporation), or non-unique instances of a specific class (a city, another planet, these persons, our corporation).

Properties can have have common nouns (names universals).

Not all philosophers acknowledge properties in their ontological inventory and even those who agree that properties exist often disagree about which properties there are. This means that it is difficult to find wholly uncontroversial examples of properties. For example, someone might claim that apple is a natural kind and that natural kinds are not properties.

Once properties are accepted, however, one would typically say that they characterize objects or, conversely, that objects instantiate or exemplify them (as we shall see in more detail in the next section). To illustrate, if apple is recognized as a property, it is a property that characterizes all apples.

A fundamental question about properties—second only in importance to the question whether there are any—is whether they are universals or particulars. To say that properties are universals is to say that the selfsame property can be instantiated by numerically distinct things, at least in typical cases. (Exceptions are unexemplifiable properties, e.g., round and square, and properties that can only be exemplified by a single thing, e.g., identical to Socrates.)

On this view it is possible for two different apples to exemplify exactly the same color, a single universal. The competing view is that properties are just as much individuals or particulars as concrete things such as apples and desks. No matter how similar the colors of two apples, their colors are numerically distinct properties, the redness of the first apple and the redness of the second. Such individualized properties are variously known as ‘perfect particulars,’ ‘abstract particulars,’ ‘quality instances,’ ‘moments,’ and ‘tropes.’

Tropes have various attractions and liabilities, but since they are the topic of another entry, here we will construe properties as universals and limit ourselves to a few clarificatory remarks on tropes in §1.1.2. We thus presuppose a fundamental distinction between universals and particulars. This is typically accepted by supporters of universals, but is not uncontroversial (MacBride 2005).

Some symbols of the logic

Symbol Symbol Name Meaning / definition Example
· and and x · y
or or x  y
^ caret / circumflex and x ^ y
& ampersand and x & y
+ plus or x + y
| vertical line or x | y
x' single quote not - negation x'
x bar not - negation x
¬ not not - negation ¬ x
! exclamation mark not - negation ! x
circled plus / oplus exclusive or - xor xy
~ tilde negation ~ x
equivalent if and only if (iff)  
for all    
there exists    

Elimination of quantors

(Source: Joseph R. Schoenfield: Mathematical logic, Addison Wesley, 1967, p.83)

T admits elimination of quantifiers if every formula in T  is equivalent in T to an open formula.

Restricted quantifier

A quantifier applied to predicates not with respect to the whole range of a given object variable, but with respect to a part of it defined by a predicate R(x). When used in this restricted sense, the universal quantifier (x) and the existential quantifier (x) are usually

denoted by (x)R(x) and (x)R(x) (or x:R(x) and x:R(x), respectively). If P(x) is a predicate, then (x)R(x)P(x) means


that is, the predicate P(x) is true for all values of the variable x satisfying the predicate R(x). The proposition (x)R(X)P(x) means


that is, the intersection of the truth domains of the predicates R(x) and P(x) is non-empty.

Restricted quantifiers of the form (x)x<t and (x)x<t (more commonly called bounded quantifiers) play an important role in formal arithmetic (cf. Arithmetic, formal), where t is a term not containing x. When these quantifiers are applied to a decidable predicate, the result is a decidable predicate.

Some formalisms of the logic

Classical logic

As well known, classical logic can be characterized by the following axiomatization

  1. φ ⇒ (ψ ⇒ φ)
  2. (φ ⇒ (ψ ⇒ χ)) ⇒ ((φ ⇒ ψ) ⇒ (φ ⇒ χ))
  3. (φ ∧ ψ) ⇒ φ
  4. (φ ∧ ψ) ⇒ ψ
  5. (φ ⇒ ψ) ⇒ ((φ ⇒ χ) ⇒ (φ ⇒ (ψ ∧ χ)))
  6. φ ⇒ (φ ∨ ψ)
  7. ψ ⇒ (φ ∨ ψ)
  8. (φ ⇒ χ) ⇒ ((ψ ⇒ χ) ⇒ ((φ ∨ ψ) ⇒ χ))
  9. (φ ⇒ ψ) ⇒ ((φ ⇒ ¬ψ) ⇒ ¬φ)
  10. ¬φ ⇒ (φ ⇒ ψ)
  11. φ ∨ ¬φ

and modus ponens

p ⇒ q
p  ___

as its only inference rules. The last axiom, the so called law of the excluded middle (LEM), deserves special interest. Since it allows non-constructive inferences, e.g. the double negation axiom

    11'. ¬¬φ ⇒ φ

is provable in classical logic.

Intuitionist Logic

The proof theories of propositional calculus and first-order logic are often referred to as classical logic.

Intuitionist propositional logic can be described as classical propositional calculus in which the axiom schema


is replaced by


Similarly, intuitionist predicate logic is intuitionist propositional logic combined with classical first-order predicate calculus.

Intuitionist logic is a part of classical logic, that is, all formulas provable in intuitionistic logic are also provable in classical logic. Although, even some basic theorems of classical logic do not hold in intuitionistic logic. Of course, the law of the excluded middle

F v ¬F   

does not hold in intuitionist propositional logic.

Nelsons strong negation

For any I logic X, we can add the following axiom schemata to the axiomatization of X
to obtain N(X), the least strong negation extension of X:
N6.∼α→¬α for atomic α

Formulas of N∗ are built-up in the usual way using the logical constants:
∧,∨,⇒,¬, standing respectively for conjunction, disjunction, implication.

The axioms of
N∗(N∗∼) are as follows:

1. the axiom schemes of positive logic,
Pos 1: α⇒(β⇒α)
Pos 2: (α⇒(β⇒γ))⇒((α⇒β)⇒(α⇒γ))
Pos 3: α∧β⇒α
Pos 4: α∧β⇒β
Pos 5: α⇒(β⇒(α∧β))
Pos 6: α⇒(α∨β)
Pos 7: β⇒(α∨β)
Pos 8: (α⇒γ)⇒((β⇒γ)⇒(α∨β⇒γ))(A\land B)\to AA\to(A\lor B)(A\to C)\to((B\to C)\to((A\lor B)\to C))

Rule: modus ponens:


An equivalence is defined to be an abbreviation for the expression (α ⇒ β) ∧ (β ⇒ α):
β) ⇔ ((α ⇒ β) ∧ (β ⇒ α))

2. weak negation axioms:

W1.¬α∧ ¬β⇒ ¬(α∨β)
W2.¬(α∧β)⇒ ¬α∨ ¬β

3. We will use the symbol '-' to denote strong negation, in order to distinguish it from '¬' in the following. Actually, Nelson presented strong negation as an alternative to intuitionist negation, but we treat them here in a common framework presenting constructive logic as an extension of intuitionist logic, due to Vorob'ev. Indeed, intuitionistic negation in constructive logic is definable by:

N1. -(φ ⇒ ψ) ⇔     (φ ∧ -ψ)
N2. -(φ ∧ ψ) ⇔     (-φ ∨ -ψ)
N3. -(φ ∨ ψ) ⇔     (-φ ∧ -ψ)
N4. φ ⇔     - - φ
N5. -¬φ ⇔     φ
N6. (for atomic φ) -φ ⇒ ¬φ

Restricted quantifier

A quantifier applied to predicates not with respect to the whole range of a given object variable, but with respect to a part of it defined by a predicate R(x). When used in this restricted sense, the universal quantifier (x) and the existential quantifier (x) are usually denoted by (x)R(x) and (x)R(x) (or x:R(x) and x:R(x), respectively). If P(x) is a predicate, then (x)R(x)P(x) means


that is, the predicate P(x) is true for all values of the variable x satisfying the predicate R(x). The proposition (x)R(X)P(x) means


that is, the intersection of the truth domains of the predicates R(x) and P(x) is non-empty.

Restricted quantifiers of the form (x)x<t and (x)x<t (more commonly called bounded quantifiers) play an important role in formal arithmetic (cf. Arithmetic, formal), where t is a term not containing x. When these quantifiers are applied to a decidable predicate, the result is a decidable predicate.

The solution of the raven paradox


This is a false formulation:

All ravens are black.


This is a correct formulation:

Raven is black.


All ravens are black.

We read this as follows:

x is black raven.

B is true in the set of black ravens.

Using set theory:

A = {x∈B| x is black}

B = {y∈R| y a raven}

We formalize:

"B is a subset of A"

B ⊆ A.

As we know empirically, this is false.

Stric implication is better formalization than

∀(x)(R(x) ⇒ B(x))

Definition od the strict implication:

\Box (p \rightarrow q)  says that p strictly implies q

The solution of the liar paradox

Anonymous (http://plus.maths.org/content/comment/reply/5522/3511#comment-351) writes in Internet:

......Submitted by Anonymous on August 9, 2012.

The liar's paradox is an incomplete sentence, and below is an explanation of it:

"This sentence is false."

As is of experience we usually construct and use sentences and all sentences we use to communicate is always tied down to a context.

Well if that is well established, now, we can easily see that the sentence is not complete or the context is not defined well......

There are many ways to complete the sentence.
  1. This sentence is false: Putin has Asperger's syndrome.
  2. Putin has Asperger's syndrome. This is false.
  3. S(x) is false. x is a variable like "this". You can formalize it: F[S(x)].

Eino Kaila


Eino Kaila, the founder of the logical empiricism

The Finnish philosopher Eino Kaila (1890-1958) wrote a classic statement of Logical Empiricism (Human Knowledge, A Classic Statement of Logical Empiricism). He had experienced the foundational debates of the Vienna Circle, invited by Moritz Schlick, during the early summer of 1929. Kaila was a keen follower of the further developments of the Circle. His synoptic presentation and analysis of the basic themes, or "theses", of the movement was based on his lectures as professor of theoretical philosophy at the University of Helsinki.

The work appeared as a book in Finnish in 1939. A Swedish translation by Georg Henrik von Wright followed immediately. Earlier, a translation of his philosophical essays from the original German, entitled Reality and Experience, edited by Robert S. Cohen, appeared in 1979. However, this is the first translation of Kaila's major epistemological work.

Kaila's text remains a source for re-evaluations of Logical Empiricism.

Finnish philosopher, critic, and teacher Eino Kaila (1890–1958) worked in numerous fields, including psychology, physics, and theater, and attempted to find unifying principles behind various branches of human and natural sciences.

Empiricism and the conception of the reality

Is the philosophy empirically empty?

Friedrich Waisman is near the conclusion (How I See Philosophy, Ayer, Alfred Jules. Logical Positivism. Glencoe, Ill: Free Press, 1959, pp345-380) that the philosophy is empirically empty.

He argues that the logical empiricism has arguments which will confuse empirical and formal part of the human thinking.

This is the invention of the cold war after the second world war. My philosophy teacher late professor Oiva Ketonen was using such arguments ex cathedra ("from the chair").

The philosophy is empirically empty, this is the main argument of the logical empiricism. The purpose of the logical empiricism was to close down the philosophy and to move the job to the science.

Logical empiricism had several kinds of theses:
  1. position of the logic and other formal languages in science
  2. conventions for the language
  3. norms for the language
  4. norms for the languages
  5. norms for the empirical sciences

The opponents of the logical empiricists had a real confusion: the were asserhing that the norms and the conventions can be false.

Norms and conventions are not true or false. We can accept or not accept them and we can choose our language.

Philosophy in the society

The philosophy is practically a part of the theology. It is not important that there are atheist and agnostic philosophers. 

This is the real reason why the logical empiricism will end the philosophy. This is also reason for the "death" of the logical empiricism.

The logical empiricism was on opposition and it was losing the game in the societies which have religious leaders.

The theology does not fulfill the norms of the logical empiricism.

Coarsenings and conception of reality

We are not using the term "law of nature". Laws belong to the court of law, not to the science. We are using the term invariance. The invariances are human coarsenings.

Conception, not worldview

We will not use the term "worldview". It is a bad term. We use the term "conception of the reality".

This term has two suppositions:
  1. There is a reality.
  2. Intelligent animals have a conception of reality.

The reality is a source of the empirical information. This includes the genetic information.

Types of information include:

  1. Information is the act of telling or imparting knowledge.
  2. Information is knowledge acquired from another.
  3. Information is knowledge you can convey to others.
  4. Information is facts communicated or learned.
  5. Information is data interpreted to be useful.
  6. Information is facts and figures.
  7. The formal information is any string which is not random.

The knowledge is a type of the filtered information.

A string of bits is random if and only if it is shorter than any computer program that can produce that string (Kolmogorov randomness)—this means that random strings are those that cannot be compressed.

The weak definition of the empiricism says, that the feedback from the reality is an essential part of the life.

The strong definition of the empiricism says that the sensory experience is the most important source of the information.

The language is not necessary for the strong empiricism.

The memory is a very important tool to molest empiricism.

The memory is the process in which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved.

The thinking is a very important tool to make decisions.

Thinking is the act of producing thoughts or the process of producing thoughts. In spite of the fact that thought is a fundamental, there is no generally accepted agreement as to what thought is or how it is created.

Decision-making is the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a conception or a course of action among several alternative possibilities.

All intelligent animals have the memory and the thinking. The language is not necessary to use memory and thinking.

The signals are very important tool to transfer information.

A signal in communication systems, signal processing, and electrical engineering "is a function that conveys information".

The words are important human signals.

Word is a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.

The meaning is for example:
  1. The idea that is represented by a word, phrase, etc.
  2. The idea that a person wants to express by using words, signs, etc.
  3. The idea that is expressed in a work of writing, art, etc.
The experience is an important source of the human concepts.

Experience is for example:
  1. The the content of a perception regarded as independent of whether the apparent object actually exists. Compare sense datum
  2. The faculty by which a animal acquires knowledge of contingent facts about the world, as contrasted with reason
  3. The totality of a animals perceptions, feelings, and memories.
Experience can be direct or indirect. The evolution of the living organism is creating indirect experience.  The evolution of the individual is a direct source of experience.

There are human and animal conceptions. All conceptions are coarsenings.

The conception is
  1. the act of conceiving.
  2. an idea grasped or understood.
Human sentence is a signal which uses human coarsenings.

The sentence is a grammatical unit of one or more words that expresses an independent statement, question, request, command, exclamation, etc.

  1. something stated.
  2. a communication or declaration in speech or writing, setting forth facts, particulars, etc.
  3. a single sentence or assertion.

State commonly refers to either the condition of a system or entity.

Entity is something that exists independently.

The weak materialism has the following propositions:
  1. There are material objects.
  2. Some information about these objects can be known through sense-experience.
  3. These objects exist not only when they are being perceived but also when they are not perceived. The objects of perception are largely perception-independent.
  4. These objects are also able to retain properties of the types we perceive them as having, even when they are not being perceived. Their properties are perception-independent.
  5. By means of our senses, we will get the information of the reality directly.

The logical empiricism says that there are two kinds of information:

  1. Information of the used language.
  2. Information of the reality.

Gestalt is a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts

  1. experience is our principal epistemic authority  and guide.
  2. subjective character of experience  – how things seem to be in experience – is  a product of two  factors: how things are, and our state and position in the world.”     
  3. There are also four constraints:      
  4. Existence commits one to the rational   contribution of experience;       
  5. Equivalence asserts that subjectively identical experiences are epistemically equivalent;      
  6. Reliability that “[t]he given in an experience does not yield  anything false or erroneous”;  and       
  7. Manifestation of the  given, which ensures that   a certain class of models  of experience that   trivially satisfy the first three substantive    constraints are blocked. 

The Vienna Circle, comments by Erkki Hartikainen

Original text uses small green cursive. Comments use normal text.

Source: http://www.evidencebasedcryonics.org/pdfs/viennacircle.pdf

We are using the concept "conception of reality", (Auffassung der Wirklichkeit) not the concept "world-conception" (Wetlauffassung).

The Scientific Conception of the World


The Scientific Conception of the World: The Vienna Circle'

Dedicated to Moritz Schlick


At the beginning of 1929 Moritz Schlick received a very tempting call to Bonn. After some vacillation he decided to remain in Vienna. On this occasion, for the first time it became clear to him and us that there is such a thing as the 'Vienna Circle' of the scientific conception of the world, which goes on developing this mode of thought in a collaborative effort.


Selected members of the Vienna Circle (from left to right: Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap, Otto Neurath, Hans Hahn and Philipp Frank.

This circle has no rigid organization; it consists of people of an equal and basic scientific attitude; each individual endeavors to fit in,each puts common ties in the foreground, none wishes to disturb the links through idiosyncrasies. In many cases one can deputize for another,the work of one can be carried on by another. The Vienna Circle aims at making contact with those similarly oriented and ,at influencing those who stand further off. Collaboration in the Ernst Mach Society is the expression of this endeavor; Sclick is the chairman of this society and several members of Schlick's circle belong to the committee.


Ernst Mach (1838 –  1916).
On 15-16 September 1929, the Ernst Mach Society, with the Society for Empirical Philosophy (Berlin), will hold a conference in Prague, on the  epistemology of the exact sciences, in conjunction with the conference of the German Physical Society and the German Association of Mathematicians which will take place there at the same time. Besides technical questions, questions of principle are to be discussed.

It was decided that on the occasion of this conference the present pamphlet on the Vienna Circle of the scientific conception of the world was to be published. It is to be handed to Schlick in October 1929 when he returns from his visiting professorship at Stanford University, California, as token of gratitude and joy at his remaining in Vienna.

The second part of the pamphlet contains a bibliography compiled in collaboration with those concerned. It is to give a survey of the area of problems in which those who belong to, or are near to, the Vienna Circle are working.

Vienna, August 1929
For the Ernst Mach Society
Hans Hahn, Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap.

Historical Background

Many assert that metaphysical and theologising thought is again on the increase today, not only in life but also in science. Is this a general phenomenon or merely a change restricted to certain circles? The assertion itself is easily confirmed if one looks at the topics of university courses and at the titles of philosophic publications.



Sensualism (also called sensationalism or sensism is a philosophical doctrine of the theory of knowledge, according to which sensations and perception are the basic and most important form of true cognition.

Radical sensualism may oppose abstract ideas. The basic principle of sensualism is "there is not anything in mind, which hasn't been in the sensations."

Moderate sensualism will make no distinction between the reality independent of man and the reality in the man: brains and senses. Animals have innate mechanisms to remember and to recognize gestalts, properties, event etc. Man and some animals have the ability to name these.

Conditioning is a process to form abstract concept, for example logical connectives (and, or, xor, not etc.).

requires a good associative memory.Many animals learn from conditioning. Animals understand the word "not" an can count without decimal system.

Formal languages

Formal languages (logic, mathematics etc.) are using gestalts of symbols, strings, matrices, formal sentences etc. It is possible to learn and store the formulas and sentences of formal laguages in human memory without knowing the interpretaion of the formal language. The formal language has its perceptional part without interpretation.

I have never seen the calculus above used in practical applications.

Natural numbers originate from abbreviations:

I = 1
II = 2
III = 3
IIII = 4
IIIII = 5 etc.

We learn numbers perceiving sets of objects and associating the symbols to sets. To count we must learn addition tables, multiplication tables etc. using conditioning and memory. Because I am a mathematician I know that mathematics require a good associative and combinatory memory, the intelligence is not enough.

The definition of the truth

Next we will give a new definition of the truth:

We define truth as follows:

There are two different truths

  1. The non empirical truth:
    1. Truth by definition
    2. Logical truth
    3. Mathematical truth
    4. Truth in calculus
  2. The empirical truth which is not truth in the class 1.

It is possible that the list 1 is complete. Please send additions to info@ateismi.fi.

The main thesis of the Vienna Circle was:

The scientific world-conception knows ...... no 'synthetic judgments a priori'.

The new thesis of the logical empiricism is:

There are only non-empirical truths and empirical truths.

Truth, non-empirical

David Hume on the non-empirical truth

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume, http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/9662/pg9662.txt

20. All the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Matters of Fact. Of the first kind are the sciences of Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic; and in short, every affirmation which is either intuitively or demonstratively certain.

That the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the square of the two sides, is a proposition which expresses a relation between these figures. That three times five is equal to the half of thirty, expresses a relation between these numbers.

Propositions of this kind are discoverable by the mere operation of thought, without dependence on what is anywhere existent in the universe. Though there never were a circle or triangle in nature, the truths demonstrated by Euclid would for ever retain their certainty and evidence.

Truth, empirical

Methods to justificate the non-empirical truth

The complete justification of an empirical truth is impossible.

This is what Saul Kripke would call an empirical necessary truth:

Take the statement "water consists of H2O." This, says Kripke, is necessarily true. It's a truth that had to be empirically discovered, however, since people didn't always know that water consisted of H2O. Yet now there's no way it could be water if it weren't H2O... if we found something that wasn't H20 we wouldn't call it water.

The argument is viable. If we define that the water is H2O, the consequence is an non analytical truth. Otherwise it is an empirical truth which is not necessary.

There are different opinions

There are different opinions on the empirical truth. We will show a set of different options below.

David Hume on the empirical truth

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume, http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/9662/pg9662.txt

21. Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human reason, are not ascertained in the same manner; nor is our evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing.

The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible; because it can never imply a contradiction, and is conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinctness, as if ever so conformable to reality.

That the sun will not rise to-morrow is no  less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation, that it will rise.

We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its falsehood. Were it demonstratively false, it would imply a contradiction, and could never be distinctly conceived by the mind.

Correspondence theory


The correspondence conception of truth states that the truth or falsity of an empirical statement is determined only by how it relates to the reality and whether it accurately describes (i.e., corresponds with) that reality. The conception is opposed to the coherence conception of truth, which holds that the truth or falsity of a statement is determined by its relations to other statements rather than its relation to the world.

Consider the proposition that snow is white

Remarking that the proposition's truth is its corresponding to the fact that snow is white leads critics to request an acceptable analysis of this notion of correspondence.

Surely the correspondence is not a word by word connecting of a sentence to its reference. It is some sort of exotic relationship between, say, whole propositions and facts.

In presenting his theory of logical atomism early in the twentieth century, Russell tried to show how a true proposition and its corresponding fact share the same structure.

Inspired by the notion that Egyptian hieroglyphs are stylized pictures, his student Wittgenstein said the relationship is that of a "picturing" of facts by propositions, but his development of this suggestive remark in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus did not satisfy many other philosophers, nor after awhile, even Wittgenstein himself.

And what are facts? The notion of a fact as some sort of ontological entity was first stated explicitly in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The Correspondence Theory does permit facts to be mind-dependent entities. McTaggart, and perhaps Kant, held such Correspondence Theories.

The Correspondence theories of Russell, Wittgenstein and Austin all consider facts to be mind-independent.

But regardless of their mind-dependence or mind-independence, the theory must provide answers to questions of the following sort. "Canada is north of the U.S." can't be a fact. A true proposition can't be a fact if it also states a fact, so what is the ontological standing of a fact? Is the fact that corresponds to "Brutus stabbed Caesar" the same fact that corresponds to "Caesar was stabbed by Brutus", or is it a different fact?

It might be argued that they must be different facts because one expresses the relationship of stabbing but the other expresses the relationship of being stabbed, which is different.

In addition to the specific fact that ball 1 is on the pool table and the specific fact that ball 2 is on the pool table, and so forth, is there the specific fact that there are fewer than 1,006,455 balls on the table? Is there the general fact that many balls are on the table?

Does the existence of general facts require there to be the Forms of Plato or Aristotle? What about the negative proposition that there are no pink elephants on the table?

Does it correspond to the same situation in the world that makes there be no green elephants on the table? The same pool table must involve a great many different facts. These questions illustrate the difficulty in counting facts and distinguishing them.

The difficulty is well recognized by advocates of the Correspondence Theory, but critics complain that characterizations of facts too often circle back ultimately to saying facts are whatever true propositions must correspond to in order to be true.

Davidson has criticized the notion of fact, arguing that

"if true statements correspond to anything, they all correspond to the same thing"

(in Davidson, Donald. Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation, Oxford University Press, 1984.).

Davidson also has argued that facts really are the true statements themselves; facts are not named by them, as the Correspondence Theory mistakenly supposes.

Critic of the correspondence conception

Defenders of the Correspondence Theory have responded to these criticisms in a variety of ways.

Sense can be made of the term "correspondence", some say, because speaking of propositions corresponding to facts is merely making the general claim that summarizes the remark that

(i) The sentence, "Snow is white", means that snow is white, and (ii) snow actually is white,

and so on for all the other propositions.

Therefore, the Correspondence theory must contain a theory of "means that" but otherwise is not at fault.

Other defenders of the Correspondence Theory attack Davidson's identification of facts with true propositions. Snow is a constituent of the fact that snow is white, but snow is not a constituent of a linguistic entity, so facts and true statements are different kinds of entities.

Recent work in possible world semantics has identified facts with sets of possible worlds.

The fact that the cat is on the mat contains the possible world in which the cat is on the mat and Adolf Hitler converted to Judaism while Chancellor of Germany. The motive for this identification is that, if sets of possible worlds are metaphysically legitimate and precisely describable, then so are facts.

One attack on the theory claims that the correspondence theory succeeds in its appeal to the real world only in so far as the real world is reachable by us.

The direct realist believes that we directly know objects as they are. Such a person can wholeheartedly adopt a correspondence theory of truth.

The rigorous idealist believes that there are no real objects. The correspondence theory appeals to imaginary undefined entities, so it is incoherent.

The skeptic believes that we have no knowledge. The correspondence theory is simply false.

Other positions hold that we have some type of awareness, perception, etc. of real-world objects which in some way falls short of direct knowledge of them. But such an indirect awareness or perception is itself an idea in one's mind, so that the correspondence theory of truth reduces to a correspondence between ideas about truth and ideas of the world, whereupon it becomes a coherence theory of truth.

Massimo Pigliucci says


I consider the correspond theory of truth rather as a definition of what truth is, particularly in science (some philosophers refer to these situations as “mini-theories,” or perhaps better, “accounts”). Definitions are useful, if not necessarily explanatory, as they anchor our discussions and provide the starting point for further exploration.

Another way to take the measure of the correspondence theory of truth is to look at some of its principal rivals, as they have been put forth during the past several decades. One rival is a coherentist approach to truth, which replaces the idea of correspondence (with facts) with the idea of coherence (among propositions). This move works well, I suspect, for logic and mathematics (which are based on deductive logic, and where internal coherence is a required standard), but not for scientific theories. There are simply too many possible theories about the world that are coherent and yet do not actually describe the world as it is (or as we understand it to be) — a problem known in philosophy of science as the under-determination of theory by the data, and one that from time to time actually plagues bona fide scientific theories, as it is currently the case with string theory in physics.

The consensus theory of truth: Consensus means the agreement of a group of people, so our third theory of truth is based around the idea that truth is what the majority of people believe. In our example, the fact of the striker playing in the match would be confirmed as true if the majority of people watching the game confirmed that he was present.
This theory of truth is not one favored by any philosopher of note, although it is worth mentioning as it is often drawn on by many people to confirm what they are saying is true, and is used extensively by marketing companies to prove the quality of products they are trying to sell. The consensus theory of truth is usually a fallacy, which we will look at later on. Having said that, it is instinctively drawn on by all of us at times, as we ‘follow the crowd’ in making decisions and deciding on a particular course of action. How many times a day do you do something just because everyone else seems to be doing so? And have any of your teachers ever said to you, ‘What would happen if everyone behaved like that?’

Another set of alternatives to the correspondence theory of truth is constituted by a number of pragmatic theories of truth, put forth by philosophers like Charles Peirce and William James. Famously, these two authors differed significantly, with James interested in a pluralist account of truth and Peirce more inclined toward a concept that works for a realist view of science. For Peirce scientific (or, more generally, empirical) investigation converges on the truth because our imperfect sensations are constrained by the real world out there, which leads to a sufficiently robust sense of “reality” while at the same time maintaining skepticism about specific empirical findings and theoretical constructs. Here is how Peirce characterizes the process (in The Essential Peirce):

So with all scientific research. Different minds may set out with the most antagonistic views, but the progress of investigation carries them by a force outside of themselves to one and the same conclusion. This activity of thought by which we are carried, not where we wish, but to a foreordained goal, is like the operation of destiny. No modification of the point of view taken, no selection of other facts for study, no natural bent of mind even, can enable a man to escape the predestine opinion.

For Peirce, therefore, truth is an “opinion” that is destined to be agreed upon (eventually) by all inquirers, and the reason for this agreement is that the object of such opinion is reality. This is actually something that I think scientists and realist-inclined philosophers could live with. By contrast, I find James’ views irritatingly close to incoherence, or at least wishful thinking, as when he claims that truth is whatever proves to be good to believe, or when he defines truth as whatever is instrumental to our goals.

It is by way of this sort of fuzzy thinking that James arrived at his (in)famous defense of theological beliefs: belief in God becomes “true” because “[it] yield religious comfort to a most respectable class of minds” (in Pragmatism: A New Name for some Old Ways of Thinking), which ought to be considered prima facie preposterous and accordingly dismissed.

While some suggest that Bertrand Russell was a bit unfair to James when he said that the latter’s theory of truth committed him to the “truth” that Santa Clause exists, I am inclined to go with Bertie on this one.

A third alternative to the correspondence theory of truth is represented by one version or another of verificationism. This notion of course goes back at the least to the British empiricists, and particularly to Hume and his famous fork. As he famously put it in the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding:

All the objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Matters of fact. Of the first kind are the sciences of Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic ... [which are] discoverable by the mere operation of thought ... Matters of fact, which are the second object of human reason, are not ascertained in the same manner; nor is our evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing. ... 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.

(Note, of course, that strictly speaking Hume recognized two types of truths: empirical ones, subject to verificationism, and logical-mathematical ones, for which he seemed to adopt something like a coherence theory of truth.)

Verificationism, of course, had its heyday with the logical positivists of the early part of the 20th century, and fell out of favor after sustained criticisms by W.V.O. Quine, Hilary Putnam and others, although it is making a come back in the form of James Ladyman and Don Ross’s “non-positivist version.” Indeed, Ladyman and Ross are out to rescue metaphysics — the very discipline that logical positivists had ditched on the ground that it cannot abide by (their version of) the verification principle. So perhaps a modified incarnation of verificationism will still turn out to be viable after all.

A more interesting position, in my mind, is represented by alethic pluralism, according to which truth is multiply realizable. As David puts is:

“truth is constituted by different properties for true propositions from different domains of discourse: by correspondence to fact for true propositions from the domain of scientific or everyday discourse about physical things; by some epistemic property, such as coherence or superassertibility, for true propositions from the domain of ethical and aesthetic discourse, and maybe by still other properties for other domains of discourse.”

This essentially closes the circle, as alethic pluralism conjoins our discussion of theories of truth with our initial observation that “facts” come in a variety of flavors (empirical, mathematical, logical, ethical, etc.), with distinct flavors requiring distinct conceptions of what counts as true.

So, why do we care? Well, to begin with — and contra popular opinion (especially among scientists) — it turns out that it is not exactly straightforward to claim that science makes progress toward the truth about the natural world, because it is not clear that we have a good theory of truth to rely on; moreover, there are different conceptions of truth, some of which likely represent the best we can do to justify our intuitive sense that science does indeed make progress, but others that may constitute a better basis to judge progress (understood in a different fashion) in other fields — such as mathematics, logic, and of course, philosophy

Coherence theories


For coherence theories in general, truth requires a proper fit of elements within a whole system. Very often, though, coherence is taken to imply something more than simple logical consistency; often there is a demand that the propositions in a coherent system lend mutual inferential support to each other.


Perhaps the best-known objection to a coherence theory of truth is Bertrand Russell's.

Russell maintained that since both a belief and its negation will, individually, cohere with at least one set of beliefs, this means that contradictory beliefs can be shown to be true according to coherence theory, and therefore that the theory cannot work.

However, what most coherence theorists are concerned with is not all possible beliefs, but the set of beliefs that people actually hold.

Fictional worlds such as Narnia, the Matrix, and the Discworld are as coherent (or at least could be made as coherent) as the actual world. If coherence is the standard of justification, therefore, then we are as justified in believing in the Discworld as we are in believing in Earth, so long as we are willing to make the necessary adjustments to our other beliefs. This, though, is absurd.

Moreover, many of these belief sets contradict each other; there are coherent belief sets that contain the belief that the world is round, and there are other equally coherent belief sets that contain the belief that the world is flat. In order to decide whether the world is round or flat, therefore, we must use some other standard of justification than coherence.

In fact, for every belief there is a coherent belief set that contains it, and so coherentism fails to recommend any belief over any other. It can’t help us at all in deciding what to believe.

The large worry about coherentism is that even if there is only one acceptably coherent web, then there is no assurance at all large number of beliefs in this web match reality. Coherence gives no assurance that any beliefs match reality.

Constructivist theory

Social constructivism holds that truth is constructed by social processes, is historically and culturally specific, and that it is in part shaped through the power struggles within a community.

Constructivism views all of our knowledge as "constructed," because it does not reflect any external "transcendent" realities (as a pure correspondence theory might hold). Rather, perceptions of truth are viewed as contingent on convention, human perception, and social experience.

It is believed by constructivism that representations of physical and biological reality, including race, sexuality, and gender, are socially constructed.

Numerous criticisms have been leveled at Constructivist epistemology.

The most common one is that it either explicitly advocates or implicitly reduces to relativism. This is because it takes the concept of truth to be a socially "constructed" (and thereby socially relative) one.

This leads to the charge of self-refutation: if what is to be regarded as "true" is relative to a particular social formation, then this very conception of truth must itself be only regarded as being "true" in this society. In another social formation, it may well be false.

If so, then social constructivism itself would be false in that social formation.

Further, one could then say that social constructivism could be both true and false simultaneously.

Another criticism of constructivism is that it holds that the concepts of two different social formations be entirely different and incommensurate. This being the case, it is impossible to make comparative judgements about statements made according to each conception of reality.

This is because the criteria of judgement will themselves have to be based on some conception of reality. If this is the case, then it brings into question how communication between them about the truth or falsity of any given statement could be established.

Social Constructivists often argue that constructivism is liberating because it either (1) enables oppressed groups to reconstruct "the reality" in accordance with their own interests rather than according to the interests of dominant groups in society, or (2) compels people to respect the alternative conceptions of reality of oppressed groups because there is no way of judging them to be inferior to dominant conception of reality.

As the Wittgensteinian philosopher Gavin Kitching argues, however, constructivists usually implicitly presuppose a deterministic view of language which severely constrains the minds and use of words by members of societies: they are not just "constructed" by language on this view, but are literally "determined" by it.

Kitching notes the contradiction here: somehow the advocate of constructivism is not similarly constrained. While other individuals are controlled by the dominant concepts of society, the advocate of constructivism can transcend these concepts and see through them.

Consensus theory

Consensus theory holds that truth is whatever is agreed upon, or in some versions, might come to be agreed upon, by some specified group. Such a group might include all human beings, or a subset thereof consisting of more than one person.

It is very difficult to find any philosopher of note who asserts a bare, naive, or pure consensus theory of truth, in other words, a treatment of truth that is based on actual consensus in an actual community without further qualification.

One obvious critique is that not everyone agrees to consensus theory, implying that it may not be true by its own criteria. Another problem is defining how we know that consensus is achieved without falling prey to an infinite regress.

Even if everyone agrees to a particular proposition, we may not know that it is true until everyone agrees that everyone agrees to it.

Bare consensus theories are frequent topics of discussion, however, evidently because they serve the function of reference points for the discussion of alternative theories.

If consensus equals truth, then truth can be made by forcing or organizing a consensus, rather than being discovered through experiment or observation, or existing separately from consensus.

The principles of mathematics also do not hold under consensus truth because mathematical propositions build on each other. If the consensus declared 2+2=5 it would render the practice of mathematics where 2+2=4 impossible.

Pragmatic theory

Peirce defines truth as follows:

"Truth is that concordance of an abstract statement with the ideal limit towards which endless investigation would tend to bring scientific belief, which concordance the abstract statement may possess by virtue of the confession of its inaccuracy and one-sidedness, and this confession is an essential ingredient of truth."

William James's version of pragmatic theory, is often summarized by his statement that

"the 'true' is only the expedient in our way of thinking, just as the 'right' is only the expedient in our way of behaving."

By this, James meant that truth is a quality, the value of which is confirmed by its effectiveness when applying concepts to practice (thus, "pragmatic").

John Dewey held that inquiry, whether scientific, technical, sociological, philosophical or cultural, is self-corrective over time if openly submitted for testing by a community of inquirers in order to clarify, justify, refine and/or refute proposed truths.

Several objections are commonly made to pragmatist account of truth, of either sort.

First, due originally to Bertrand Russell (1907) in a discussion of James's theory, is that pragmatism mixes up the notion of truth with epistemology.

Pragmatism describes an indicator or a sign of truth. It really cannot be regarded as a theory of the meaning of the word "true".

There's a difference between stating an indicator and giving the meaning. For example, when the streetlights turn on at the end of a day, that's an indicator, a sign, that evening is coming on.

It would be an obvious mistake to say that the word "evening" just means "the time that the streetlights turn on". In the same way, while it might be an indicator of truth, that a proposition is part of that perfect science at the ideal limit of inquiry, that just isn't what "true" means.

Russell's objection is that pragmatism mixes up an indicator of truth with the meaning of the predicate 'true'. There is a difference between the two and pragmatism confuses them. In this pragmatism is akin to Berkeley's view that to be is to be perceived, which similarly confuses an indication or proof of that something exists with the meaning of the word 'exists', or with what it is for something to exist.

Other objections to pragmatism include how we define what it means to say a belief "works", or that it is "useful to believe". The vague usage of these terms, first popularized by James, has led to much debate.

A final objection is that pragmatism of James's variety entails relativism. What is useful for you to believe might not be useful for me to believe. It follows that "truth" for you is different from "truth" for me (and that the relevant facts don't matter). This is relativism.

A viable, more sophisticated consensus theory of truth, a mixture of Peircean theory with speech-act theory and social theory, is that presented and defended by Jürgen Habermas, which sets out the universal pragmatic conditions of ideal consensus and responds to many objections to earlier versions of a pragmatic, consensus theory of truth.

Habermas distinguishes explicitly between factual consensus, i.e. the beliefs that happen to hold in a particular community, and rational consensus, i.e. consensus attained in conditions approximating an "ideal speech situation", in which inquirers or members of a community suspend or bracket prevailing beliefs and engage in rational discourse aimed at truth and governed by the force of the better argument, under conditions in which all participants in discourse have equal opportunities to engage in constative (assertions of fact), normative, and expressive speech acts, and in which discourse is not distorted by the intervention of power or the internalization of systematic blocks to communication.

Recent Peirceans, Cheryl Misak, and Robert B. Talisse have attempted to formulate Peirce's theory of truth in a way that improves on Habermas and provides an epistemological conception of deliberative democracy.

Minimalist (deflationary) theories


Modern developments in the field of philosophy, starting with the relatively modern notion that a theory being old does not necessarily imply that it is completely flawless, have resulted in the rise of a new thesis: that the term truth does not denote a real property of sentences or propositions.

This thesis is in part a response to the common use of truth predicates (e.g., that some particular thing "...is true") which was particularly prevalent in philosophical discourse on truth in the first half of the 20th century. From this point of view, to assert that "'2 + 2 = 4' is true" is logically equivalent to asserting that "2 + 2 = 4", and the phrase "is true" is completely dispensable in this and every other context.

In common parlance, truth predicates are not commonly heard, and it would be interpreted as an unusual occurrence were someone to utilise a truth predicate in an everyday conversation when asserting that something is true.

Newer perspectives that take this discrepancy into account and work with sentence structures that are actually employed in common discourse can be broadly described:
  1. as deflationary theories of truth, since they attempt to deflate the presumed importance of the words "true" or truth,
  2. as disquotational theories, to draw attention to the disappearance of the quotation marks in cases like the above example, or
  3. as minimalist theories of truth.
Whichever term is used, deflationary theories can be said to hold in common that

"[t]he predicate 'true' is an expressive convenience, not the name of a property requiring deep analysis."

Once we have identified the truth predicate's formal features and utility, deflationists argue, we have said all there is to be said about truth. Among the theoretical concerns of these views is to explain away those special cases where it does appear that the concept of truth has peculiar and interesting properties. (See, e.g., Semantic paradoxes, and below.)

In addition to highlighting such formal aspects of the predicate "is true", some deflationists point out that the concept enables us to express things that might otherwise require infinitely long sentences. For example, one cannot express confidence in Mitchael's accuracy by asserting the endless sentence:

Michael says, 'snow is white' and snow is white, or he says 'roses are red' and roses are red or he says ... etc.

This assertion can also be succinctly expressed by saying: What Michael says is true.

Performative theory of truth

Attributed to P. F. Strawson is the performative theory of truth which holds that to say "'Snow is white' is true" is to perform the speech act of signaling one's agreement with the claim that snow is white (much like nodding one's head in agreement). The idea that some statements are more actions than communicative statements is not as odd as it may seem.

Consider, for example, that when the bride says "I do" at the appropriate time in a wedding, she is performing the act of taking this man to be her lawful wedded husband.

She is not describing herself as taking this man, but actually doing so (perhaps the most thorough analysis of such "illocutionary acts" is J. L. Austin, "How to Do Things With Words"

Strawson holds that a similar analysis is applicable to all speech acts, not just illocutionary ones:

"To say a statement is true is not to make a statement about a statement, but rather to perform the act of agreeing with, accepting, or endorsing a statement. When one says 'It's true that it's raining,' one asserts no more than 'It's raining.' The function of [the statement] 'It's true that...' is to agree with, accept, or endorse the statement that 'it's raining.'"

Critics of the Performative Theory charge that it requires too radical a revision in our logic. Arguments have premises that are true or false, but we don't consider premises to be actions.

Other critics complain that, if all the ascription of "is true" is doing is gesturing consent, as Strawson believes, then, when we say

    "Please shut the door" is true,

we would be consenting to the door's being shut. Because that is absurd, says Huw Price, something is wrong with Strawson's Performative Theory.

Redundancy and related theories

According to the redundancy theory of truth, asserting that a statement is true is completely equivalent to asserting the statement itself. For example, making the assertion that " 'Snow is white' is true" is equivalent to asserting "Snow is white".

Redundancy theorists infer from this premise that truth is a redundant concept; that is, it is merely a word that is traditionally used in conversation or writing, generally for emphasis, but not a word that actually equates to anything in reality.

This theory is commonly attributed to Frank P. Ramsey, who held that the use of words like fact and truth was nothing but a roundabout way of asserting a proposition, and that treating these words as separate problems in isolation from judgment was merely a "linguistic muddle".

A variant of redundancy theory is the disquotational theory which uses a modified form of Tarski's schema: To say that '"P" is true' is to say that P. A version of this theory was defended by C. J. F. Williams in his book What is Truth?.

Yet another version of deflationism is the prosentential theory of truth, first developed by Dorothy Grover, Joseph Camp, and Nuel Belnap as an elaboration of Ramsey's claims. They argue that sentences like "That's true", when said in response to "It's raining", are prosentences, expressions that merely repeat the content of other expressions.

In the same way that it means the same as my dog in the sentence My dog was hungry, so I fed it, That's true is supposed to mean the same as It's raining — if you say the latter and I then say the former. These variations do not necessarily follow Ramsey in asserting that truth is not a property, but rather can be understood to say that, for instance, the assertion "P" may well involve a substantial truth, and the theorists in this case are minimizing only the redundancy or prosentence involved in the statement such as "that's true."

Deflationary principles do not apply to representations that are not analogous to sentences, and also do not apply to many other things that are commonly judged to be true or otherwise. Consider the analogy between the sentence "Snow is white" and the character named Snow White, both of which can be true in some sense.

To a minimalist, saying "Snow is white is true" is the same as saying "Snow is white," but to say "Snow White is true" is not the same as saying "Snow White."

Prosentential Theory

The Prosentential Theory of Truth suggests that the grammatical predicate "is true" does not function semantically or logically as a predicate.

All uses of "is true" are prosentential uses.

When someone asserts "It's true that it is snowing", the person is asking the hearer to consider the sentence "It is snowing" and is saying "That is true" where the remark "That is true" is taken holistically as a prosentence, in analogy to a pronoun.

A pronoun such as "she" is a substitute for the name of the person being referred to. Similarly, "That is true" is a substitute for the proposition being considered. Likewise, for the expression "It is true."

According to the Prosentential Theory, all uses of "true" can be reduced to uses either of "That is true" or "It is true" or variants of these with other tenses. Because these latter prosentential uses of the word "true" cannot be eliminated from our language during analysis, the Prosentential Theory is not a redundancy theory.

Critics of the theory remark that it can give no account of what is common to all our uses of the word "true," such as those in the unanalyzed operators "it-will-be-true-that" and "it-is-true-that" and "it-was-true-that".

Pluralist theories

Several of the major theories of truth hold that there is a particular property the having of which makes a belief or proposition true. Pluralist theories of truth assert that there may be more than one property that makes propositions true: ethical propositions might be true by virtue of coherence. Propositions about the physical world might be true by corresponding to the objects and properties they are about.

Some of the pragmatic theories, such as those by Charles Peirce and William James, included aspects of correspondence, coherence and constructivist theories. Crispin Wright argued in his 1992 book Truth and Objectivity that any predicate which satisfied certain platitudes about truth qualified as a truth predicate. In some discourses, Wright argued, the role of the truth predicate might be played by the notion of superassertibility.

Michael Lynch, in a 2009 book Truth as One and Many, argued that we should see truth as a functional property capable of being multiply manifested in distinct properties like correspondence or coherence.

Some remarks

Truth of the logical empirism

The truth of logical empiricism was a correspondence theoretic.

Truth in independence friendly logic

Independence friendly logic (IF logic, IF first-order logic) is an extension of first-order logic. In it, more quantifier dependencies and independencies can be expressed than in first-order logic.

Its quantifiers range over individuals only; semantically IF first-order logic, however, has the same expressive power as existential second-order logic.

IF logic lacks certain metaproperties that first-order logic has (axiomatizability, Tarski-type semantics).

On the other hand, IF logic admits a self-applied truth-predicate – a property that first-order logic notoriously does not enjoy.

Philosophical issues discussed in connection with IF logic include reformulating the logicist program, the question of truth in axiomatic set theory, and the nature of negation. Work in IF logic has also inspired alternative generalizations of first-order logic: slash logic and dependence logic.

The definability of truth can only be discussed in connection with languages capable of speaking of themselves.

Game theoretical truth

(Michel Olivier, Philosophy and Model Theory Conference, June 2-5 2010, Paris)

In the case of expressions having an equivalent in first-order classical logic, game-theoretical truth equates Tarskian truth.

In the expressions including a component irreducible to first-order classical logic, on the other hand, Tarskian truth cannot be defined, whereas game-theoretical truth is perfectly operative and consistent with the intuition we may have.

In this sense, game-theoretical truth is an extension of Tarskian truth to the new context-dependent descriptive capacity of IF logic.

In mathematical terms, it implies that IF logic and game-theoretical truth must allow for a
descriptively complete axiomatisation of any given theory, generating all and only the
intended models.

In semantical terms, it implies that this truth should not require any metalanguage and
should be defined in the language whose truth it vouches for, so that infinite-order languages may benefit from a proper truth and thus that the meaning of infinite-order languages may also be captured by model theory.

The absence of an excluded middle law and the presence of a strong negation in place of the
ordinary negation account for a deductive weakness in IF logic. Indeed, the statement (S or non S) is no longer logically true. There are models in which this statement is false: those that make S neither true nor false. Hence, the logical inference is no longer operative. There is no sentence which is logically true if and only if S2 is true in all models of S1. (non S or S2) is non-operative.

Therefore, this logic must be complemented by a notion of contradictory negation which
lies outside the syntax of logic but enables us to draw inferences consistent with the preservation of game-theoretical truth. According to its extra-syntaxic nature, this second negation is present at the beginning of closed sentences only, and never operates on open sentences. With this second negation, we get an extended IF logic with both a descriptive and a deductive power.

If we wanted to get inference power within the syntax of IF logic, we would need to infer the existence of a winning strategy for S2 from the existence of a winning strategy for S, and this inevitably involves higher order.

A logic extended to the notion of informational independence and a truth constructed outside-in through game theory, rather than as an inside-out recursive construction, enables to restore descriptive completeness, but also to free the notion of truth from the necessity of a metalanguage, and thus to generalise the notion of truth so that it endorses the meaning of descriptive sentences for any language.

Most believed theories

According to a survey of professional philosophers and others on their philosophical views which was carried out in November 2009 (taken by 3226 respondents, including 1803 philosophy faculty members and/or PhDs and 829 philosophy graduate students)

44.9% of respondents accept or lean towards correspondence theories (for example the logical empiricism),

20.7% accept or lean towards deflationary theories and

Formal theories

Logic is concerned with the patterns in reason that can help tell us if a proposition is true or not. However, logic does not deal with truth in the absolute sense, as for instance a metaphysician does.

Logicians use formal languages to express the truths which they are concerned with, and as such there is only truth under some interpretation or truth within some logical system.

A logical truth (also called an analytic truth or a necessary truth) is a statement which is true in all possible worlds or under all possible interpretations, as contrasted to a fact (also called a synthetic claim or a contingency) which is only true in this world as it has historically unfolded.

A proposition such as "If p and q, then p" is considered to be a logical truth because of the meaning of the symbols and words in it and not because of any fact of any particular world. They are such that they could not be untrue.

Truth in mathematics

Two main approaches

two main approachesThere are two main approaches to truth in mathematics. They are the model theory of truth and the proof theory of truth.

Historically, with the nineteenth century development of Boolean algebra mathematical models of logic began to treat "truth", also represented as "T" or "1", as an arbitrary constant. "Falsity" is also an arbitrary constant, which can be represented as "F" or "0". In propositional logic, these symbols can be manipulated according to a set of axioms and rules of inference, often given in the form of truth tables.

Hintikkas IF-logic


http://people.bu.edu/hintikka/Papers_files/What_is_the_significance_of_ the_incompleteness_%20results_ JHintikka_0211_032211.pdf

The usual view of Gödel‘s second incompleteness theorem is that it showed the impossibility of carrying out Hilbert‘s overall metamathematical program.

In order to sort out these senses, we have to ask. What was Hilbert trying to do, anyway?

As an axiomatist, he was interested primarily to understand and to safeguard what happens in a major mathematical theory, which he thought of as being presented axiomatically.

Now an axiom system is calculated to study a certain class of structures, viz. its models. Logic does not dictate the choice of the axioms. That choice is merely an attempt to catch some antecedently interesting subject matter, suggested perhaps by empirical information or by intuition.

Given such an axiom system, a mathematician has today a legitimate and more or less important task, viz to study those models logically.

As long as this logic is sound, a mathematician need not have any foundational fears.

Or rather, no fears except one. Such an axiomatic enterprise is predicated on the
assumption that there is indeed a class of structures to be studied. These structures are exhibited by the models of the axiom system, which in logical terms means that the axiom system must be consistent.

This is the motivation of Hilbert‘s preoccupation with consistency and consistency proofs. Consistency proofs were to be his way of cutting the Gordian knot of the entire Grundlagenkrisis, not so much by solving all the logical problems in the foundations of mathematics as by making an end run around them.

Accordingly, for Hilbert the relevant sense of consistency was model-theoretical, not
deductive. So why did he get involved in the formalization of logic and  mathematics?

The answer lies in his insight that even the relevant model-theoretical relations are purely formal, depending only on the logical forms of propositions and not on their subject matter.

The models of a mathematical theory could equally well consist of tables, chairs and beer mugs as of points, lines and circles, without affecting any questions of logical structure.

Hilbert boldly extended this insight one step further.

The models we need to consider could by the same token consist of symbols and symbol combinations of verbs , nouns and adjectives or of variables, connectives and predicates, instead of chairs, tables and beermugs.

Hilbert expressed his idea in so many words, but unfortunately not in model-theoretical terms. This idea is the gist of Hilbert‘s almost universally.

What is the significance of the incompleteness results?

Hilbert is not maintaining that all there is to mathematical activity is operating with symbols. He is suggesting that all the structures we need to consider in mathematics can be reproduced as structures of symbols.

In its own right, this is a sound idea. It has since been used by several logicians for the
first time apparently by Leon Henkin in his 1950 completeness proof for the traditional first-order logic. The models Henkin constructs for consistent formulas are literally sets of logical expressions. The same idea is utilized in the notion of model set.

This possibility of using symbols themselves as models of the propositions they express was taken by Hilbert to imply that he could prove the model theoretical consistency of axiomatic theories by proving their deductive consistency.

This presupposes that the logic used is deductively complete. For this reason, Hilbert‘s project must be evaluated on the historically obvious assumption that he is using the received Frege-Russell logic.

If so, Gödel‘s argument applies, and his so-called second incompleteness theorem shows that the deductive consistency of elementary arithmetic cannot be proved in the same axiomatic theory. This generally acknowledged conclusion of Gödel‘s result therefore in a valid one.

This is not the end of the story of Gödel and Hilbert‘s program. Hilbert was interested in the model-theoretical consistency of axiomatic theories, in the sense of the existence of models for the axiom system. There are many other ways to approach the question of their existence besides the one Hilbert tried. In fact, what has been found here provides a general method for proving such consistency for a class of important mathematical theories.

Indeed, IF logic allows for new opportunities for approaching questions of consistency.

In all an extended IF logic, we have two negations, on the on hand the strong (dual) negation ~ which game-theoretically
means the existence of a strategy (winning strategy for the falsifier), and on the other hand the old-fashioned contradictory negation ¬ which means the absence of a meaning strategy for the verifier.

Now a natural way of expressing the consistency of S is ¬ ~ S.

This means that S is not false. Model-theoretically this amounts to the existence of at least one model in which S is not false, that is, is either true or indefinite, neither true nor false.

Hence to prove the consistency of S is to prove

¬ ~ S.

Now in the IF first order logic there exists a complete disproof procedure.

Thus a relative consistency proof of a new axiom X with respect to an old theory T can be considered as a proof of


Now one way of proving the consistency
of elementary arithmetic could be a consistency proof of the critical indicator principle relative to the rest of the Peano-type axiom P.

The induction principle can be taken to be of the form ~S, where S is the IF sentence that asserts the existence of an infinite descending sequence of natural numbers. Hence the relative consistency proof would mean proving

¬ ~ ~S

In other words, the following conjunction has to be shown to be disproved:


(which is equivalent to (P &~~S)) But P&S is an IF sentence and hence disprovable if false.

Hence the relative consistency of arithmetic in the model-theoretical sense (with respect to an axiomatization of arithmetic in IF first order language) can be proved logically.

In brief, the consistency of arithmetic can be proved arithmetically, if we use IF logic instead of traditional first-order logic. Such a proof has been presented in (Hintikka, Jaakko, and Besim Karakadilar, 2006, “How to prove the consistency of arithmetic”, Acta Philosophica Fennica ol. 78, pp. 1-16.).

Such a proof would have satisfied Hilbert. What he wanted was to show that the relevant axiomatic theories have models, for those models are what the theory is calculated to explore.

Admittedly, what has been shown by the argument just concluded is that there are models in which the axioms of arithmetic are not false, not necessary models in which they are true. But both kinds of models are legitimate subjects of a mathematician‘s investigation.

This becomes more obvious when we look at the situation in terms of the construction of new axiom systems in mathematics. The relative consistency proofs. The choice of a new arithmetical axiom can always be legitimized by proving logically its consistency relative to the earlier theorem.

All this can be extended from elementary arithmetic to any mathematical axiom system that can be formulated in terms of IF logic. This applies to a large part of classical analysis, thus bringing us back to the beginning of Gödel‘s Odyssey. For instance, the assumption that every set of reals with an upper bound can be so expressed and shown to be relatively consistent.

Hilbert‘s program is thus alive and well after Gödel‘s second incompleteness theorem. How far it can be carried out remains to be investigated.

So what follows for the wider questions prompted by independence results?

Georg Kreisel has borrowed aphrase
from Wittgenstein and spoken of the unhealthy influence of logic on the philosophy of mathematics (Kreisel, Georg, 1964, “Hilbert’s Programme” in P. Benacerrat and H. Putnam, editors, Philosophy of Mathematics, Selected Readings. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs.

In this essay the precise interpretation of Kreisel‘s phrase will not be discussed.). Without taking a stand on his main thesis, it is instructive to realize that within mathematics there existed well before Gödel tendencies that might have put an altogether different spin on the entire discussion of the completeness and incompleteness of mathematical theories.

Was Kreisel right? Or should he have been more specific and blamed the unhealthy influence on the idea of logical reasoning as an instance of mechanizable computation? Or blamed it on the hegemony of the received Frege-Russell first-order logic? I will let my readers draw their own conclusions.

And are the implications of in dependence results worth the extensive discussion they
have prompted? Yes, because only through a thorough critical sorting can we find out how to overcome thelimitations many seem to place on the prospects of logic and mathematics.

The fortunes of Hilbert‘s rightly understood project can illustrate the need of such an examination.

Semantic theory of truth

The semantic theory of truth has as its general case for a given language:

    'P' is true if and only if P

where 'P' refers to the sentence (the sentence's name), and P is just the sentence itself.


Alfred Tarski.

Logician and philosopher Alfred Tarski developed the theory for formal languages (such as formal logic). Here he restricted it in this way: no language could contain its own truth predicate, that is, the expression is true could only apply to sentences in some other language.

The latter he called an object language, the language being talked about. (It may, in turn, have a truth predicate that can be applied to sentences in still another language.) The reason for his restriction was that languages that contain their own truth predicate will contain paradoxical sentences such as, "This sentence is not true".

As a result Tarski held that the semantic theory could not be applied to any natural language, such as English, because they contain their own truth predicates. Donald Davidson used it as the foundation of his truth-conditional semantics and linked it to radical interpretation in a form of coherentism.

Bertrand Russell is credited with noticing the existence of such paradoxes even in the best symbolic formations of mathematics in his day, in particular the paradox that came to be named after him, Russell's paradox. Russell and Whitehead attempted to solve these problems in Principia Mathematica by putting statements into a hierarchy of types, wherein a statement cannot refer to itself, but only to statements lower in the hierarchy.

This in turn led to new orders of difficulty regarding the precise natures of types and the structures of conceptually possible type systems that have yet to be resolved to this day.

Kripke's theory of truth

Saul Kripke contends that a natural language can in fact contain its own truth predicate without giving rise to contradiction. He showed how to construct one as follows:
  1. Begin with a subset of sentences of a natural language that contains no occurrences of the expression "is true" (or "is false"). So The barn is big is included in the subset, but not " The barn is big is true", nor problematic sentences such as "This sentence is false".
  2.  Define truth just for the sentences in that subset.
  3. Then extend the definition of truth to include sentences that predicate truth or falsity of one of the original subset of sentences. So "The barn is big is true" is now included, but not either "This sentence is false" nor "'The barn is big is true' is true".
  4. Next, define truth for all sentences that predicate truth or falsity of a member of the second set. Imagine this process repeated infinitely, so that truth is defined for The barn is big; then for "The barn is big is true"; then for "'The barn is big is true' is true", and so on.
Notice that truth never gets defined for sentences like This sentence is false, since it was not in the original subset and does not predicate truth of any sentence in the original or any subsequent set. In Kripke's terms, these are "ungrounded."

Since these sentences are never assigned either truth or falsehood even if the process is carried out infinitely, Kripke's theory implies that some sentences are neither true nor false.

This contradicts the Principle of bivalence: every sentence must be either true or false. Since this principle is a key premise in deriving the Liar paradox, the paradox is dissolved.

However, it has been shown by Gödel that self-reference cannot be avoided naively, since propositions about seemingly unrelated objects can have an informal self-referential meaning; in Gödel's work, these objects are integer numbers, and they have an informal meaning regarding propositions.

Critics of Kripke

In fact, this idea - manifested by the diagonal lemma - is the basis for Tarski's theorem that truth cannot be consistently defined.

It has thus been claimed that Kripke's system indeed leads to contradiction: while its truth predicate is only partial, it does give truth value (true/false) to propositions such as the one built in Tarski's proof, and is therefore inconsistent.

While there is still a debate on whether Tarski's proof can be implemented to every similar partial truth system, none have been shown to be consistent by acceptable methods used in mathematical logic.

Religious opinions of Kripke

Kripke is an observant Jew. Discussing how his religious views influenced his philosophical views (in an interview with Andreas Saugstad) he stated:

"I don't have the prejudices many have today, I don't believe in a naturalist world view. I don't base my thinking on prejudices or a worldview and do not believe in materialism."

The knowledge

Dictionary definition of know

Transitive verb

  1. a to perceive directly, to have direct cognition of or to have understanding of <importance of knowing oneself>
    b to recognize as being the same as something previously known
  2. a to be acquainted or familiar with a or   to be aware of the truth or factuality of or  be convinced or certain of
    b to have a practical understanding of <knows how to write>
  3. archaic :  to have sexual intercourse with

Intransitive verb

  1. supposes to have knowledge
  2. to be or become cognizant —sometimes used interjectionally with you especially as a filler in informal speech

Dictionary definition of knowledge 

  1. obsolete :  cognizance
  2. a the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association b  acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique
    1. b the fact or condition of being aware of something or  the range of one's information or understanding <answered to the best of my knowledge 
    2. c the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning or  cognition 
    3. the fact or condition of having information or of being learned <a person of unusual knowledge>
  3. archaic :  sexual intercourse
  4. a the sum of what is known or  the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind b archaic or   a branch of learning
  5. true sequence of symbols in a calculus (defined in the philosphy of logic, for example sentential caluculs)

Our system of knowledge is a strange mixture of languages, of physical language, subjective language, and metalanguage; and the connection and interrelation of these languages is to be explored with the help of the tecnique of a symbolic logic which includes expressions for probability expressions.

1951. Hans Reichenbach: The Rise of Scientific Philosophy. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01055-0, p. 285.

Knowledge in cybernetics

This question is an emirical question.

In cybernetics knowledge is the existence in a cybernetic system of a model, which allows that system to make predictions, that is, to anticipate processes in its environment.

Thus, the system gets control over its environment. Such a model is a personal construction, not an objective reflection of outside reality.

Gettier Counterexamples

Edmund Gettier

Edmund L. Gettier III (s. 1927 Baltimore, Maryland) on yhdysvaltalainen filosofi ja Massachusettsin yliopiston (Amherst) emeritusprofessori.

Hänet tunnetaan parhaiten kolmisivuisesta artikkelistaan "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?" (1963), jossa hän haastoi perinteisen tiedon määritelmän "tieto on perusteltu tosi uskomus". Määritelmä oli aikanaan yleisesti hyväksytty. Gettierin artikkeli kuitenkin kumosi määritelmän. Myöhemmin on tosin huomautettu, että määritelmä oli joutunut kyseenalaiseksi jo Ludwig Wittgensteinin töiden myötä, ja samanlainen argumentti on löydetty myös Bertrand Russellilta.

Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?

From Analysis. vol. 23 (1966). Copyright @ by Edmund Gettier. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Various attempts have been made in recent years to state necessary and sufficient conditions for someone's knowing a given proposition. The attempts have often been such that they can be stated in a form similar to the following:


(a) S knows that P IFF (i.e., if and only if)
(i) P is true,
(ii) S believes that P, and
(iii) S is justified in believing that P.

For example, Chisholm has held that the following gives the necessary and
sufficient conditions for knowledge:


(b) S knows that P IFF (i.e., if and only if)
(i) S accepts P,
(ii) S has adequate evidence for P, and
(iii) P is true.

Ayer has stated the necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge as


(c) S knows that P IFF
(i) P is true,
(ii) S is sure that P is true, and
(iii) S has the right to be sure that P is true.

I shall argue that (a) is false in that the conditions stated therein do not
constitute a sufficient condition for the truth of the proposition that S knows that P.

The same argument will show that (b) and (c) fail if "has adequate evidence for" or "has the right to be sure that" is substituted for "is
justified in believing that" throughout.

I shall begin by noting two points. First, in that sense of "justified" in which S's being justified in believing P is a necessary condition of S's knowing that P, it is possible for a person to be justified in believing a proposition that is in fact false.

Secondly, for any proposition P, if S is justified in
believing P, and P entails Q, and S deduces Q from P and accepts Q as a result of this deduction, then S is justified in believing Q.

Keeping these two points in mind, I shal1 now present two cases in which the conditions stated in (a) are true for some proposition, though it is at the same time false that the person in question knows that proposition.


Suppose that Smith and Jones have applied for a certain job. And suppose that Smith has strong evidence for the fol1owing conjunctive proposition:

(d) Jones is the man who will get the job, and Jones has ten coins in his

Smith's evidence for (d) might be that the president of the company assured him that Jones would in the end be selected, and that he, Smith, had counted the coins in Jones's pocket ten minutes ago.

Proposition (d) entails:

(e) The man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket.

Let us suppose that Smith sees the entailment from (d) to (e), and accepts (e) on the grounds of (d), for which he has strong evidence.

In this case, Smith is clearly justified in believing that (e) is true. But imagine, further, that unknown to Smith, he himself, not Jones, will get the job.

And, also, unknown to Smith, he himself has ten coins in his pocket.

Proposition (e) is then true, though proposition (d), from which Smith inferred (e), is false.

In our example, then, all of the following are true: (i) (e) is true, (ii) Smith believes that (e) is true, and (iii) Smith is justified in believing that (e) is true.

But it is equally clear that Smith does not KNOW
that (e) is true; for (e) is true in virtue of the number of coins in Smith's pocket, while Smith does not know how many coins are in Smith's pocket, and bases his belief in (e) on a count of the coins in Jones's pocket, whom he falsely believes to be the man who will get the job.


Let us suppose that Smith has strong evidence for the following proposition:

(f) Jones owns a Ford.

Smith's evidence might be that Jones has at all times in the past within Smith's memory owned a car, and always a Ford, and that Jones has just offered Smith a ride while driving a Ford. Let us imagine, now, that Smith has another friend,
Brown, of whose whereabouts he is totally ignorant. Smith selects three place names quite at random and constructs the following three propositions:

(g) Either Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Boston.

(h) Either Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Barcelona.

(i) Either Jones owns a Ford, or Brown is in Brest-Litovsk.

Each of these propositions is entailed by (f).

Imagine that Smith realizes the entailment of each of these propositions he has constructed by (0, and proceeds to accept (g), (h), and (i) on the basis of (f). Smith has correctly inferred
(g), (h), and (i) from a proposition for which he has strong evidence. Smith is Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?  Smith is therefore completely justified in believing each of these three propositions.
Smith, of course, has no idea where Brown is. 

But imagine now that two further conditions hold. First, Jones does not own a Ford, but is at present driving a rented car. And secondly, by the sheerest coincidence, and entirely unknown to Smith, the place mentioned in proposition
(h) happens really to be the place where Brown is. If these two conditions hold, then Smith does not KNOW that (h) is true, even though

(i) (h) is true,

(ii) Smith does believe that (h) is true, and

(iii) Smith is justified in believing
that (h) is true.

These two examples show that definition (a) does not state a sufficient condition for someone's knowing a given proposition. The same cases, with appropriate changes, will suffice to show that neither definition (b) nor
definition (c) do so either.


1. Plato seems to be considering some such definition at Theaetetus 20 I, and perhaps accepting one at Meno 98.

2. Roderick M. Chisholm, Perceiving: A Philosophical Study. (Ithaca, N.Y., 1957), 16.

3. A. J. Ayer. The Problem of Knowledge (London, 1956). 

Structure of Gettier counterexamples

Both of Gettier's counterexamples essentially follow the same general form:

  • Smith justifiably believes that P.
  • P is false.
  • Smith correctly infers that if P is true, then Q is true.
  • So, Smith believes Q, justifiably.
  • Q is true, but not because of P.
  • So, Smith has a justified true belief that Q.

In these examples, and all true Gettier-style examples, the flaw arises from forming an inference based on a false premise, though there is sufficient evidence to believe that premise is true.

Responses to Gettier

There are three general sorts of responses to Gettier's counterexamples:

  1. Adding a fourth condition to the justified-true-belief definition of knowledge to account for these situations.
  2. Attempting to redefine knowledge in order to remove the independence of the conditions
  3. Denying that Gettier's scenarios are counterexamples, by claiming that they do meet the justification requirement.

Are the concepts belief and justification concepts of the philosophy

The standard definition:

A person knows a fact if:

  1. The person believes the statement to be true 
  2. The statement is in fact true
  3. The person is justified in believing the statement to be true

See the problems of the justification reading the following article:


See the difficulty of the definition of the terms knowledge and belief reading the following article:


You see that there is no concensus of the definition of the concepts knowledge, belief and justification.

The definition of the truth is not a problem because we can define the concept without invoking the experience.


Poppers fallibilism


Sir Karl Popper.

Main source of the following critic of Karl Popper:


Nicholas Dykes.

(Nicholas Dykes, A Tangled Web of Guesses: A Critical Assessment of the Philosophy of Karl Popper, London, Libertarian Alliance, 1996).

Sir Karl Popper was one of the and founders of two schools of thought, critical rationalism and evolutionary epistemology.

As the name critical rationalism may suggest, Popper regarded a critical attitude as the most important virtue a philosopher could possess.

Nicholas Dykes writes:

Popper himself hardly lived up to this ideal of non contradiction. When one examines Critical Rationalism, for example, one soon notices that it is based on questionable premises; that its internal logic is seriously flawed; that it is inconsistent with other elements of Popper's thought; and that it leads to conflicts with his own publicly stated convictions.

Critical rationalism

Critical Rationalism has also been referred to, by Popper himself and by others, as the theory of falsification, or falsificationism, and as fallibilism. The term is also is associated with the founder of Pragmatism, C.S. Peirce, who actually coined it long before Popper began his career.

The Critical Rationalism of Karl Popper begins by rejecting induction as a scientific method.

The actual method of science, Popper maintained, is a continuous process of conjecture and refutation:

"The way in which knowledge progresses, and especially our scientific knowledge, is by unjustified (and unjustifiable) anticipations, by guesses, by tentative solutions to our problems, by conjectures. These conjectures are controlled by criticism; that is, by attempted refutations, which include severely critical tests. They may survive these tests; but they can never be positively justified: they can be established neither as certainly true nor even as 'probable'..."

(Conjectures and Refutations vii, London: Routledge, 1989).

Elsewhere, Popper put the matter more succinctly:

"all knowledge is hypothetical"


"All knowledge remains... conjectural"

and it is in the form 'all knowledge is conjectural' that the essence of his philosophy has been captured - and has influenced others.

Conjectures and Refutations  was originally developed by Popper to demarcate science from non-science. He stated that for scientific knowledge to be considered knowledge it had to be refutable:

"'In so far as scientific statements refer to the world of experience, they must be refutable ... in so far as they are irrefutable, they do not refer to the world of experience'" (The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966).

It follows that we can never attain certainty:

"The quest for certainty... is mistaken.... though we may seek for truth... we can never be quite certain that we have found it"

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966; 375).

"No particular theory may ever be regarded as absolutely certain.... No scientific theory is sacrosanct..."

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 360).

"Precision and certainty are false ideals. They are impossible to attain and therefore dangerously misleading..."

(Unended Quest, London: Fontana/Collins, 1976), 24).

He summed up with an oft-repeated aphorism:

"We never know what we are talking about" (Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976), 27).

Popper refused to grant any philosophical value to definitions:

"Definitions do not play any very important part in science.... Our 'scientific knowledge'... remains entirely unaffected if we eliminate all definitions"

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966, 14).

"Definitions never give any factual knowledge about 'nature' or about the 'nature of things'" (Conjectures and Refutations vii, London: Routledge, 1989) 20-21).

"Definitions.... are never really needed, and rarely of any use"

(Realism and the Aim of Science, London, Routledge, 1992, The Open Universe London, Hutchinson, 1982, - The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, xxxvi).

Although he held these positions all his working life, Popper did acknowledge that they were open to criticism:

"nothing is exempt from criticism ... not even this principle of the critical method itself"

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966, 379).

The first premise of the critical rationalism

Popper built his philosophy on foundations borrowed from Hume and Kant.

His first premise was acceptance of Hume's conception on induction.

The second was agreement with Kant's view that it is our ideas which give form to reality, not reality which gives form to our ideas.

Hume, whom Popper called

"one of the most rational minds of all ages"

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Book 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book II, Lasalle, Illinois, Open Court, 1974, 1019),

is renowned for elaborating the 'problem of induction' - a supposedly logical proof that generalisations from observation are invalid.

Most later philosophers have accepted Hume's arguments, and libraries have been filled with attempts to solve his 'problem.'

Popper thought he had the answer.

"I believed I had solved the problem of induction by the simple discovery that induction by repetition did not exist"

(Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976, 52; c.f. Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 1ff & The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Book 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book 2. Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1974, 1115).

What really took place, according to Popper, was knowledge advancing by means of conjecture and refutation:

"... in my view here is no such thing as induction"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 40),

"what characterises the empirical method is its manner of exposing to falsification, in every conceivable way, the system to be tested"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 42).

Hume, said Popper, had shown that:

"there is no argument of reason which permits an inference from one case to another... and I completely agree"

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 96).

Elsewhere he referred to induction as "a myth" which had been "exploded" by Hume

(Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976, 80).

He further asserted that

"There is no rule of inductive inference - inference leading to theories or universal laws - ever proposed which can be taken seriously even for a minute"

(Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976, 146-7, see also Realism and the Aim of Science, London: Routledge, 1992, The Open Universe, London: Hutchinson, 1982, - The Open Universe, London: Hutchinson, 1982, 31).

The Problem with 'The Problem'

Popper's solution was certainly correct in one respect. The problem of induction would indeed vanish if there were no such thing as induction.

However, the issue would be resolved much more positively.

Hume stated, in essence, that since all ideas are derived from experience we cannot have  experience about future events - which have yet to be experienced. He therefore denied that the past can give us secure information about the future.

He further denied that there is any necessary connection between cause and effect. We experience only repeated instances, we cannot experience any "power" that actually causes events to take place.

But if the induction is a myth, then all knowledge of external reality, all language, and all human thought - which depends on knowledge of reality and on language - would be myths as well, including, of course critical rationalism.

Poppers Kantian premise

Popper described himself as an

"unorthodox Kantian"

(Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976, 82);

i.e., he accepted part of Kant's epistemology, but not all of it:

"Kant was right that it is our intellect which imposes its laws - its ideas, its rules - upon the inarticulate mass of our 'sensations' and thereby brings order to them. Where he was wrong is that he did not see that we rarely succeed with our imposition"

(Objective Knowledge, London: Oxford, 1972, 68n31, c.f. Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 328, Conjectures and Refutations, London: Routledge, 1989, 48-9).

Popper's Kantianism reveals itself most clearly in his view of our senses, which he saw as creative modifiers of incoming data, not as neutral 'windows on the world':

"Classical epistemology which takes our sense perceptions as 'given', as the 'data' from which our theories have to be constructed by some process of induction, can only be described as pre-Darwinian. It fails to take account of the fact that the alleged data are ... adaptive reactions, and therefore interpretations which incorporate theories and prejudices and which, like theories, are impregnated with conjectural expectations... there can be no pure perception, no pure datum..."

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 145).

A Fundamental Difficulty

Popper's Kantian premise raises enough issues for a book. In this short paper, there is room only for a single objection. Namely, if it is true that our senses are pre-programmed; if it is true that

"there is no sense organ in which anticipatory theories are not genetically incorporated"

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 72)

Then what flows into our minds is determined and what flows out of them is subjective. If our senses are not neutral, if they organise incoming data using pre-set theories built into them by evolution, then they do not provide us with unalloyed information, but only with prescriptions, the content of which is determined by our genetic make up. Whatever is thereafter produced inside our heads - cut off as it is from any objective contact with reality - must be subjective.

If thought, or the basis of thought, is determined; whether by social class, or the subconscious, or whatever determinant is preferred; then the theory itself must be determined, according to the theory, and can only be relevant to the person who expounds it.

Everybody else is determined by their class, subconscious, genes, material substrate, environment, or whatever it is that is supposed to do the determining.

The objection is analogous to the one raised by Anthony Flew against those philosophers - e.g. Hume and Kant - who claim that we can only have knowledge of our own sense impressions.

If sense data are all we can know, solipsism is the inevitable result:

"mental images .... are (necessarily) private ... and (logically) cannot be accessible to public observation."

(Anthony Flew, Hume's Philosophy of Belief, 1961, 1966, Bristol, UK, Thoemmes, 1997 p. 31).


Popper writes that

"there is no such thing as an unprejudiced observation"

(Unended Quest, London: Fontana/Collins, 1976, 5).

Although this appears to rule out the possibility of objectivity, that was not Popper's intention.

Rather, again following Kant perhaps, he thought the basis for objectivity lay elsewhere:

"the objectivity of scientific statements lies in the fact that they can be inter-subjectively tested"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 44).

He later restated this slightly differently:

"it is the public character of science... which preserves the objectivity of science"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 155-6).

If Popper's Kantian premise were true (i.e., if anticipatory theories are genetically incorporated into our sense organs and, therefore, there is no such thing as an unprejudiced observation) then senses would not cease to be prejudiced merely by being multiplied.

One cannot offer as an universal affirmative proposition 'all human senses are prejudiced, i.e. subjective' then ask one's readers to accept that pooling the senses of many persons yields objectivity. If senses are subjective individually they are subjective collectively.

J.W.N. Watkins noted that if our senses were actually unreliable we wouldn't be here

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Books 1 and 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Books 1 & II, Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1974, 404).

Popper half acknowledged this

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Books 1 and 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book II, Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1974, 1114, A World of Propensities, Bristol, UK, Thoemmes, 1990, 32).

To conclude under this head, it is plain - even after only a very brief treatment - that Popper's Kantian premise, far from providing realism with a secure footing, leads instead to insuperable problems, not least of which are conflicts with Popper's own rejection of determinism and subjectivism in such works as The Poverty of Historicism and The Open Universe.

Language difficulties

Popper called conjecture and refutation a

"new way of knowing"

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966,  383).

However, from a common sense point of view, it can immediately be objected that we do not normally claim to 'know' something which is unjustifiable, tentative or hypothetical.

Knowledge, for most people - and for most scientists - is something which it is possible to  justify, to validate or to prove.

Conjecture, on the other hand, is by definition not knowledge.

According to Chambers English Dictionary, a conjecture is

"an opinion formed on slight or defective evidence or none: an opinion without proof: a guess".

Since one cannot define an idea by means of other ideas which are contrary to it, it is clearly illegitimate to place knowledge in the same category as conjecture.

More pointedly, the proposition

"all knowledge remains conjectural"

is not true for a common man.

The objection gathers strength when one notices that Popper's proposition is itself not conjectural. Universal and affirmative, it states that

"All knowledge remains conjectural"

which is a claim to knowledge. The proposition thus asserts what it denies.

Another problem is that the notion of 'conjecture' depends for its intelligibility upon the concept of 'knowledge.' The idea of a 'conjecture' arose precisely to designate a form of mental activity which was unlike knowledge, and to distinguish clearly from knowledge an idea put forward as opinion without proof.


Ayn Rand.

In the philosophy of Ayn Rand this error is known as

'the fallacy of the stolen concept.'

A classic example was Proudhon's claim that

'property is theft.'

But the concept of 'theft' depends on the prior concept of 'property' and would be unintelligible without it.

(Nathaniel Branden, 'The Stolen Concept,' The Objectivist Newsletter, January, 1963).

In exactly the same way, and to repeat, the concept of 'conjecture' cannot be understood apart from the prior concept of knowledge - from which it is to be distinguished.

For example,

'Northern Dancer might win the Kentucky Derby'

was once a conjecture. When the horse did come first, its win became an item of knowledge.

A further problem arises when one considers the concept of 'growth' in Popper's claim that knowledge grows through conjectures and refutations. (The subtitle of his book by that name is The Growth of Scientific Knowledge.)

A legitimate response to this assertion is:

'What exactly is it that grows?"

The concept of growth implies the existence of a thing, a body, an entity of some sort, that which grows.

It may well be true that conjectures and refutations play a role in the growth of knowledge, but they could hardly do this without some knowledge to work on. The growth of knowledge via conjecture and refutation presupposes pre-existing knowledge, not pre-existing conjectures.

Popper touched on this:

"the growth of knowledge consists in the modification of previous knowledge"

(Objective Knowledge,(London, Oxford, 1972) 71).

He attempted to resolve the infinite regress by positing 'inborn dispositions and expectations.'

Te proposition

'all knowledge is conjectural'

has nothing yo do with the science.

The observation that 'the sun is shining' is not conjectural, it is a fact known to him and countless other observers.

Problems in practice

Other problems surface when one considers actually employing conjecture and refutation.  The method urges us to conjecture, then to subject the resultant theory to severely critical tests. If it survives those tests, we are permitted to grant the theory a degree of verisimilitude, the more stringent the tests, the higher the degree.

The first problem is the method's apparent arbitrariness. The conjecture or theory to be tested - and Popper said the bolder the better - would presumably be selected by the tester.

But no criterion for selection is given.

Tom Settle has made the same complaint. On the question of which hypothesis to choose he wrote,

"we get no good guidance from Popper"

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Book 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book  II, Lasalle, Illinois, Open Court, 1974, 702).

Unless further information is provided, it is not obvious how the charge of arbitrariness can be resisted.


Consequently, the whole approach smacks of straw men. If a conjecture survives all tests, it could merely be that a 'virtuous straw man' (the conjecture) has one by one fended off an army of lesser straw men (the tests).

But nothing would be proven by all this.

Not only do we still require evidence of the worthwhileness of the conjecture, some other method is needed to show that the opposing arguments are truly exhaustive and not just straw.

lunatic driver

To use an analogy: it is perfectly possible for a dangerous lunatic to pass a driving test. Even the most stringent 'advanced driver' courses ever devised may not uncover the explosive unroadworthiness of 'the nut behind the wheel.'

The method of conjecture and refutation also appears to be a form of question begging.

It must assume some measure of truth in the conjecture under examination, or there would be little point in the exercise.

The method states:

'My proposition deserves examination. Nothing in the process of examination undermined my proposition. Ergo my proposition has verisimilitude.'

It may well have, but the proposition's soundness has not been established by that reasoning.

One recalls the famously circular Ontological Argument for the existence of God:


'God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. If 'that than which' didn't exist, it couldn't be 'the greatest'. Therefore God exists.'

But the argument assumes in its first premise that which it sets out to establish and is clearly invalid.

The truth of a proposition rests on the correct identification of the referents and relationships involved, not on any prior or subsequent argumentation.

In any design, philosophical or practical, if a false identification is incorporated, whole libraries of arguments may not reveal the consequent flaws.

A building can be the most beautiful ever built, but a single misplaced decimal point in a stress calculation can bring it crashing down.

As Popper so rightly said:

"contradictions are impermissible and avoidable... once a contradiction is admitted, all science must collapse"

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966, 39).

Refutablity as a criterion of the demarcation


Critical rationalism claims to distinguish science from non-science by the refutability of scientific theories. Popper's standard example was Newtonian physics, so radically displaced by Einstein.

On the other hand, Popper maintained, there were theories such as those of Marx and Freud, which were non-science because irrefutable.

This was Popper's famous 'criterion of demarcation,' which he developed as a young man and held to all his life.

Tom Settle, a major contributor to P.  A. Schilpp's massive festschrift, The Philosophy of Karl Popper, stated firmly in 1970:

"As a criterion of demarcation between science and nonscience, Popper's 'falsifiability'-plus-a-critical-policy does not work"

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Books 1 and 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book II, Lasalle, Illinois, Open Court, 1974, 719].

Other contributors evidently agreed; among them A.J. Ayer, William C. Kneale, Imre Lakatos, Grover Maxwell, and Hilary Putnam.

One can understand the importance of the distinction to the young Popper. Fascinated by science, he was surrounded by true-believing Marxists and Freudians all of whom claimed science on their side while espousing doctrines which seemed to Popper obviously false.

Nonetheless, 'refutability' seems to miss the mark.

Science is distinguished by its strict adherence to physical evidence. Non-science, on the other hand, is invariably characterised by preconception, followed by a cavalier disregard for, or rationalisation of, anything that doesn't fit into the preconceived schema. In one sense, this is what Popper was saying. But, due perhaps to his dislike of definitions, he homed in on the wrong identifying characteristic.

There are other, more serious, criticisms of Popper's theory of demarcation.

Grover Maxwell (1918–1981) pointed out that 'All men are mortal' is a perfectly sound scientific statement which is not falsifiable

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Books 1 and 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book 1, Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1974, 292).

Popper defended himself robustly

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Books 1 and 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, BookII, Lasalle, Illinois, Open Court, 1974, 1037ff),

but Maxwell seemed to have the stronger case.

Maxwell might also have taxed Popper about mathematics. The axioms of mathematics cannot be refuted. According to the demarcation theory, therefore, mathematics is not a science.

But physics is inseparable from mathematics. Quantum mechanics, for example, could hardly be expressed without it. So physics cannot be a science either. Much the same could be said about logic. The Law of Contradiction, etc, cannot be refuted, so logic is not a science.

Popper's via negativa

One of the most troubling aspects of Popper's philosophy is his devout refusal to consider anything positive, a negativity which reminds one of the via negativa of medieval theology.

The scholastic principle,

"we cannot know what God is, but rather what He is not"

is remarkably similar to Popper's assertion that

"natural laws.... do not assert that something exists or is the case; they deny it"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 69).

That negative implies positive was clearly understood by Popper. He referred to

"the notion of falsity - that is, of untruth - and thus, by implication, the notion of truth"

(Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976, 98).


Anthony O'Hear.

The idea of 'falsity' depends upon idea of 'truth.' Or, as Anthony O'Hear has expressed it:

"there can, in fact, be no falsification without a background of accepted truth."

Grover Maxwell also noted this problem. He pointed out that many theories are in fact positively confirmed.

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Book 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book II, Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1974, 292f).

Yet Popper continued to insist in "Replies to My Critics" that,

"we certainly are not justified in reasoning from an instance to the truth of the corresponding law.... we are justified in reasoning from a counterinstance to the falsity of the corresponding universal law"

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Books 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book II, Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1974, 1020).

However, recalling Popper's Kantian premise, one might reasonably enquire at this point: if all observations are theory-laden, and thereby suspect, what justifies our placing any confidence in negative observations?

The procedure of observation is identical whether one is seeking evidence in favour of a theory, or testing for evidence against it. If our senses are automatically suspect, as Popper maintained, negative or falsifying instances deserve no more credibility than positive or confirming ones.

Further, remembering Popper's Humean premise, one immediately wants to ask:

If we are not allowed to argue from positive instances to true laws, why are we allowed to argue from counterinstances to negative laws (we were told above that "natural laws... deny").

The reasoning process is the same. Collecting disconfirmations and arguing negatively scarcely differs from collecting confirmations and arguing positively. Both are inductive procedures and, as such, have been disallowed in advance by Popper's rejection of induction.


Certainly, a single negative instance suffices to refute any universal proposition. Australian black swans falsified the belief that all adult swans were white. Popper was perfectly correct to remind us of this, and also that one or more positive instances do not necessarily establish universal propositions.

But colour never was the defining characteristic of swans. The discovery of black ones did not entitle Popper to assert that their essential features - long necks, powerful wings, etc - were equally suspect.

The bottom line which critical rationalism must confront, however, is that one cannot falsify a scientific theory without inference from observed instances. However much Popper may have rejected induction, his own method was in fact dependent upon it.

Truth, facts and realism

As a metaphysical realist, Popper upheld the correspondence theory of truth:

"A statement is true if and only if it corresponds to the facts"

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 46).

Although he reiterated this frequently
(e.g. The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume2, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966, 369ff, Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976, 140ff),

only once did he go into detail about what he meant by 'fact.'

"Facts are something like a common product of language and reality...

they are reality pinned down by descriptive statements....

New linguistic means not only help us to describe new kinds of facts; in a way, they even create new kinds of facts. In a certain sense, these facts obviously existed before the new means were created....

But in another sense we might say that these facts do not exist as facts before they are singled out from the continuum of events and pinned down by statements - the theories which describe them"

(Conjectures and Refutations, London, Routledge, 1989, 214).

Unfortunately, neither the lines quoted, nor the rest of the passage in the book, clarify the meaning of the word 'fact.' Since Popper's claim that 'truth means correspondence to the facts' cannot be evaluated without such clarification, we turn again to Chambers Dictionary, which defines 'fact' as "reality, a real state of things, as distinguished from a mere statement or belief." But if this definition is correct, it leads immediately to another problem with critical rationalism.

Critical rationalism states that for knowledge to be regarded as scientific it must be falsifiable. Plainly then, if an item of 'knowledge' is falsified, it can no longer be regarded as a fact. In Popper's own words, a false conjecture

"contradicts some real state of affairs;" "falsifications... indicate the points where we have touched reality"

(Conjectures and Refutations, London, Routledge, 1989, 116).

What we are left with are conjectures which have not yet been falsified. But a yet-to-be-falsified conjecture can hardly be called a fact, 'a real state of things.' It is rather 'a mere statement or belief' from which facts are to be distinguished.

Remembering that we have been forbidden to regard as certain anything which we may think we know about facts, all knowledge is conjectural; and that our senses are suspect because 'theory impregnated;' we are led to the seemingly inevitable conclusion that we can never know any facts.

All we can 'know' are falsifiable conjectures which, as we have just seen, are not facts. Further, if this is the case, we can never find out what is true. For if truth means correspondence with the facts, as Popper assured us it did, and we cannot know any facts, then we cannot know any truth.

It could be argued that this is precisely Popper's whole philosophy. That might be correct. But so arguing would not remove the incompatibility between critical rationalism and Popper's espousal of the correspondence theory of truth.

It would also appear that critical rationalism conflicts with another foundation of Popper's thought, his realism.

"Denying realism"

he stated,

"amounts to megalomania (the most widespread occupational disease of the professional philosopher)"

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 41).

He himself had always been:

"a commonsense realist.... I was interested in the real world, in the cosmos, and I was thoroughly opposed to every idealism..."

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 322-3).

A few pages later he wrote:

"whether our man-made theories are true or not depends upon the real facts; real facts, which are, with very few exceptions, emphatically not man-made. Our man-made theories may clash with these real facts, and so, in our search for truth, we may have to adjust our theories or to give them up"

(Objective Knowledg, London, Oxford, 1972, 328-9).

One must agree with these sentiments. But, if the arguments just outlined are correct, it is critical rationalism  which is in need of adjustment. For if critical rationalism does deny us any knowledge of real facts, the theory not only contradicts realism, it leaves one with no good reason to be a realist.

Secondly, if the reasoning in other sections of this text is correct, then critical rationalism conflicts with the fact that, having discovered such real facts as the existence of the works of

Karl Popper, say, we can and do have true knowledge of reality. No matter which way one looks at it, critical rationalism seems out of place in the mind of anyone who aspires to be a realist.

Definition and contradiction

Popper's espousal of the correspondence theory also conflicts with his scorn for definitions. When we assert that a statement corresponds to the facts we mean that the words we are employing accurately describe a specific, external, state of affairs. But we could not assert correspondence if our words did not have precise meanings; i.e. did not have precise definitions.

Popper liked to aver that we never know what we are talking about. But if his aphorism were true, a statement such as 'arsenic is poisonous' would be vacuous. Yet arsenic does exist. It is a chemical substance which, ingested above a certain concentration, is very likely to kill a human being. Which means, arsenic is poisonous. The statement is true, it corresponds to the facts. But it is only true because the words employed are accurately defined.

The correspondence theory of truth refers to human ideas. Whether one calls those ideas 'concepts,' 'statements,' 'propositions' or 'theories,' we are only able to hold them in consciousness, to relate them to facts, and to communicate them, via the medium of words.

Words are the audio-visual symbols of our ideas. In a very real sense they link us to reality. Which means that if their definitions are vague or shifting, we cannot hope to arrive at any reliable truth: no definitions, no correspondence theory.


As Aristotle said:

"not to have one meaning is to have no meaning, and if words have no meaning, our reasoning with one another, and indeed with ourselves, has been annihilated."

(Cited by John Herman Randall, Jr., Aristotle, New York, Columbia University Press, 1960, p. 116).

Even more serious is the matter of contradictions. Although he held contradictions to be "impermissible and avoidable"

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966; 39).

Popper had previously dismissed the Laws of Thought (which of course include the Law of Contradiction) as "psychologism" and "a thing of the past"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 98).

Whatever the merit of that judgement, it is difficult to see how we can uncover contradictions if definitions

"never give any factual knowledge about 'nature' or about the 'nature of things'"

(Conjectures and Refutations, London, Routledge, 1989, 20-21)

which statement must imply that there is no significant connection between words and facts.

Indeed, it is hard to see how logic and the Law of Contradiction are possible if discussions of the meaning of words - i.e., of their relationship to facts - are "tiresome phantoms" or "verbal quibbles" as Popper insisted

(e.g. Conjectures and Refutations, London, Routledge, 1989,; 28 or The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, xxi).

The upshot here is that the Law of Contradiction, far from being all-important to science, as Popper so vigorously implied, seems excluded by critical rationalism. If all identifications are conjectural, just 'guesses,' and definitions of no value, we would not be able to identify subject and attribute positively enough to show that they do, or do not, belong together.

Poppers three world theory


Early in his career, Popper began developing a theory in which he split reality into three parts:

  1. the physical world, or the world of facts;
  2. the world of consciousness, of mental processes and events; and a
  3. third world, the products of the human mind, which he called 'objective knowledge.'
Popper obviously regarded the theory as important and described it in detail several times

(e.g. Objective Knowledge, London: Oxford, 1972, 106ff, & 152ff).

The following is from his autobiography, Unended Quest:

"If we call the world of... physical objects... the first world, and the world of subjective experiences... the second world, we may call the world of statements in themselves the third world. (I now prefer to call these... 'world 1', 'world 2', and 'world 3')"

(Unended Quest, London: Fontana/Collins, 1976, 180-1).

After asking us to imagine a picture; distinguishing between the actual picture, one's mental image of it, and one's thoughts about that image.

Popper used his own mental processes to illustrate the generation of a world 3 thought which, once written down, and

"formulated in language so clearly that I can look at it critically from various sides"


"the thought in the objective sense, the world 3 object which I am trying to grasp.... The decisive thing seems to me that we can put objective thoughts - that is, theories - before us in such a way that we can criticize them and argue about them.

To do so, we must formulate them in some more or less permanent (especially linguistic) form....

Books and journals can be regarded as typical world 3 objects..."

(Unended Quest, London: Fontana/Collins, 1976, 182).

He added,

"we may include in world 3 in a more general sense all the products of the human mind, such as tools, institutions, and works of art"

(Unended Quest, London: Fontana/Collins, 1976, 187).

Popper described world 3 somewhat paradoxically as both



"autonomous:" "the third world, the world of objective knowledge...

is man-made. But... this world exists to a large extent autonomously...

it generates its own problems, especially those connected with methods of growth; and... its impact on any one of us, even on the most original of creative thinkers, vastly exceeds the impact which any of us can make upon it"

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 147).


First, there seems little conjectural about the theory of worlds 1, 2, & 3. In none of Popper's several presentations is the theory offered as an hypothesis. Rather, it is laid out as a discovery, as what Popper thought the facts to be.

Second, the idea of objective knowledge appears directly to contradict critical rationalism. If knowledge can exist objectively, it is not clear how it remains at the same time conjectural.

The exercise of studying Popper, for instance, depends on the existence of a dozen or so world 3 objects - his books.

Now, either those books exist and say what they say or they don't, there is simply no room for conjecture.

Third, it not clear how we gain access to this objective third world when our brains and senses are 'impregnated' with inborn expectations, and are thus incapable of unadulterated contact with reality. World 3 may exist, 'out there,' objectively, but Popper said,

"there is no such thing as an unprejudiced observation"

(Objective Knowledge, London: Oxford, 1972, 51).

It would therefore be difficult to know if we were actually observing world 3, or to identify what we were observing in it.

Further, when thoughts have been objectified as world 3 artefacts, it is not apparent how they accord with Popper's rejection of definitions.

Once critical rationalism is part of an objective world 3, then either the words 'critical rationalism' correspond to the world 3 fact that there is such a scientific method, or they do not.

We have a genus (scientific methods) and a species (Popper's method) whose differentia is the process of conjecture and refutation.

Calling Popper's method syllogistic, or dialectical, would be manifestly wrong. Thus it would be perfectly in order, not a 'tiresome quibble,' to argue about the definition of realism with anyone who maintained, say, that conjecture and refutation was merely Logical Empiricism in disguise.

Their assertion would be untrue; it would not correspond to the objective, world 3 facts.

The existence of objective world 3 ideas also seems to conflict with Popper's rejection of 'essentialism' - the real existence of concepts - which formed an integral part of his notorious attack on Aristotle and underlay his dislike of definitions.

Surely it is unreasonable on the one hand to lambaste essentialism - the idea that concepts are, or have, real 'essences,' which exist in our own reality or in another dimension - while claiming on the other hand that concepts have a separate existence in world 3.

Popper saw this weakness and later referred to worlds 1, 2and 3 as "modified essentialism"

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Book 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book II, Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1974, 1115. For further criticism see O'Hear, Karl Popper, Ch. IX).

Another awkward question must be 'Why should we stop at worlds 1, 2, and 3?' The basis for the theory is fundamental difference in kind, the worlds are "utterly different".

(Unended Quest, London: Fontana/Collins, 1976, 181).

However, in The Open Universe, Popper suggested the possibility of a world 4 of art

(The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, 115)

and a world 5 of human institutions

(The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, 154).

He also spoke of

"the gulf which separates the human brain from the animal brain"

(The Open Universe, London: Hutchinson, 1982, 122).

But if we are dividing reality according to fundamental differences in kind, animal consciousness ought to be world 6; and if art gets a world of its own, surely commerce is sufficiently different to qualify as world 7 - 'utterly different' things should not be left together.

So plants would require a separate world from animals; elephants from amoebas; inanimate things from animate, etc.


The logic of Popper's argument thus seems to lead to an Aristotelian universe of distinct entities grouped according to the identifying characteristic (or 'essence') of each kind, an inference Popper would have disliked.

Finally, the 'autonomy' of man-made, objective knowledge shows a marked kinship to Aristotle's concept of potentiality.

Popper often used number theory to explain world 3:

"natural numbers are the work of men,"

he stated.


"unexpected new problems arise as an unintended by-product of the sequence of natural numbers....

These problems are clearly autonomous. They are in no sense made by us; rather, they are discovered by us; and in this sense they exist, undiscovered, before their discovery"

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 160-1).

That is fair enough, but is it not merely another way of saying that the future is not actual but potential; that unknown future advances do not actually exist, yet must exist as potential in the known?

In this regard it is instructive to look at Popper's idea (in physics) of

"the measures of possibilities"

which he called

"objective probabilities"



(The Open Universe, London: Hutchinson, 1982, 105)

and thought of as

"physically real"

(Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics, London, Hutchinson, 1983, 133).

These provide

"a programme for a theory of change...

which would allow us to interpret any real state of the world as both an actualisation or realisation of some of the potentialities or propensities of its preceding states, and also as a field of dispositions or propensities to realise the next state"

(Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics, London, Hutchinson, 1983, 198).

Leaving aside the problem of how 'physically real possibilities' fit into the category of conjectural knowledge, Popperian 'propensity' appears so similar to Aristotelian 'potentiality' -

"all movement or change means the realisation (or 'actualisation') of some of the potentialities inherent in the essence of a thing"

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966, 6)

- that, in fairness, one must note that Popper dismissed Aristotle's ideas about potentiality as

"pretentious jargon"

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966, 7).

Popperian Idealism

Another problem with Popper's three-world theory concerns idealism. Popper rejected idealism with characteristic bluntness:

"To me, idealism appears absurd"

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 41).

"I was thoroughly opposed to every idealism"

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 323).

Yet when one examines Popper's three-world theory, idealist overtones fairly spring from the page.

For instance, in one of his several discussions oandf worlds 1, 2  3, he wrote:

"I regard world 3 as being essentially the product of the human mind. It is we who create world 3 objects....

these objects have their own inherent or autonomous laws which create unintended and unforeseeable consequences....

[these] repercussions on us are as great as, or greater than, those of our physical environment"

(Unended Quest, London: Fontana/Collins, 1976, 186).

Elsewhere he wrote of

"the 'objective mind' or 'spirit'"

(Objective Knowledge, London,  Oxford, 1972, 149)

and that

"the third world is...


"transcends its makers"

(Objective Knowledge, London: Oxford, 1972, 159).

But surely the notion of a transcendent mind or spirit which effects human beings more than their physical environment is a straightforward depiction of idealism?

In The Open Universe, the idealist element seems even plainer:

"we ought to admit the existence of an autonomous part of World 3; a part which consists of objective thought contents which are independent of, and clearly distinct from, the subjective or personal thought processes by which they are grasped, and whose grasp they can causally influence.

I thus assert that there exist autonomous World 3 objects which have not yet taken up either World 1 shape or World 2 shape, but which, nevertheless, interact with our thought processes"

(The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, 119-20).

It would be hard to describe 'independent, autonomous, objective thought contents which influence human thought processes' in other than idealist terms.

In The Self and Its Brain Popper's idealism becomes explicit.


Eccles and Popper.

The thesis of the work, a joint effort by Popper and neuroscientist Sir John Eccles, consists of a revival of Cartesian dualism.

Without admitting a mental substance, the authors defend


the theory that

"the self-conscious mind is an independent entity"

(The Self and Its Brain, with John C. Eccles, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983, 355),

which interacts with the physical brain:

"something totally different from the physical system acts in some way on the physical system"

(The Self and Its Brain, with John C. Eccles, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983, 472).

Early in the book, Popper wrote of


World 3 objects

(The Self and Its Brain, with John C. Eccles, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983, 41ff).

Towards the end, he stated:

"the World 3 object is a real object which exists, but exists nowhere....

In a sense World 3 is a kind of Platonic world of ideas, a world which exists nowhere but which does have an existence and which does interact, especially, with human minds"

(The Self and Its Brain, with John C. Eccles, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983, 450, see also 43ff, and Objective Knowledge, London: Oxford, 1972, 154).

Popper may have consciously rejected idealism as absurd, but his thinking in the above passages is clearly identifiable as idealism - even if he was unconscious of that fact, and even if his idealism is of a somewhat novel kind.

Two earlier critics who pointed out Popper's idealism were

(Anthony O'Hear, "Popper's Platonism", p. 181, and J.W.N. Watkin,: "Popper's objectivism is a very mitigated version of Platonism").

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Book 1, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book 1, Lasalle, Illinois, Open Court, 1974, 399).

However, both would have agreed with Feigl and Meehl that for Plato 'Ideas' exist extra to mankind; whereas, for Popper, objective knowledge is man-made

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Book 1, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book 1, Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 197,  543).

Popper may have been led to idealism by his scepticism - an ancient pattern. O'Hear concludes his study:

"having torn ideas from their living context, Popper was led both to his radical scepticism and to his postulation of an abstract world of ideas…"

(O'Hear, p. 207).

There is no doubt much more that could be said about Popper's three-world theory but there is no further space available here. Suffice it to say that it is this world we seek to understand; and while idealist philosophers from Plato onward have speculated about other worlds, not one of their conjectures has deepened our understanding of this one.


John Searle.

In the words of John Searle:

"We live in one world, not two or three or twenty-seven."

Established theories

The last major area of difficulty with critical rationalism concerns theories which have successfully withstood criticism. Popper did allow that after scientific theories have passed a great number of severe tests,

"their tentativeness may cease to be obvious"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 131).

But if asked about 'established' theories he was very likely to point to Isaac Newton's "Unended Quest

(London: Fontana/Collins, 1976, "unqestionable truths", Unended Quest, London, Fontana /Collins, 1976, 37)

which, seemingly unassailable for over 200 years, were pushed aside by the

"Einsteinian revolution"

(Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976, 81).

Yet theories do exist which, in fact, are positively confirmed, as Grover Maxwell has pointed out

(The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Book 1, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book 1, Lasalle, Illinois, Open Court, 1974, 292ff).

Copernicus's heliocentric theory, for example, was indeed hypothetical in 1543 because the instruments did not then exist with which to prove it. But now that huge telescopes and space probes have eliminated any rational doubt that the earth revolves around the sun, it would seem bizarre to maintain that heliocentricity remains conjectural.

Another famous theory is that of Harvey and the circulation of the blood. Once, that was indeed a bold conjecture. But if one were to declaim nowadays that Harvey's theory is refutable, or that we don't know what we are talking about when we say that blood circulates in the human body, one should expect laughter from one's audience.

C.f. Conjectures and Refutations

(London: Routledge, 1989); 41n8:

"most dissectors of the heart before Harvey observed the wrong things - those which they expected to see."

But this is to argue for Baconian objectivity, against critical rationalism. Harvey broke free in a way Popper thought impossible.

Popper was evidently aware of this problem. He once wrote about the


of the


of an atomic bomb

(The Self and Its Brain, with John C. Eccles, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983, 47).

But if a conjecture is realised it is very difficult to see how it remains a conjecture. One might fairly retort, rather, that this one admission blows apart the notion of demarcation by refutability and the whole of critical rationalism along with it.


There is also the awkward subject of evolution. Popper called Darwinism

"a brilliant scientific hypothesis"


"a host of biological and palaeontological observations."

He added:

"I see in modern Darwinism the most successful explanation of the relevant facts"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 106).

Later, he confirmed that he was

"very ready to accept evolution as a fact"

(Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976, 167).

But it is not easy to see how a 'fact' can be based on observations when Popper has told us that there is no such thing as an unprejudiced observation.

Nor did he explain why we should suddenly accept an 'hypothesis' as a fact and not as a conjecture.

Popper's problem was of course that the theory of evolution is just about as inductive as one can get, yet he wanted us to believe that induction is a myth.

He found no way out of this impasse, and in the end decided that the only solution was to evade the issue:

"I have come to the conclusion that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme"

(Unended Quest, London, Fontana/Collins, 1976, 168).

The ultimate test

Critical Rationalism urges us to submit our theories to severely critical tests. For a philosophy, the most critical test of all may be whether its proponents actually follow it.

The example was set by Hume, who admitted that he found his scepticism hard to live by.

Popper evidently experienced the same difficulty. It is easy enough to say,

"our scientific theories must always remain hypotheses"

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 2, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966, 12)

but it is much more difficult to abide by that principle consistently. Thus Popper's use of the words 'knowledge,' 'know,' 'truth' and 'fact' often seemed to conflict with realism.

He wrote, for instance:

"Matter... consists of complex structures about whose constitution we know a great deal"

(The Open Universe, London: Hutchinson, 1982, 152-3).

He urged us to pay attention to the

"invariant content or meaning"

of a theory

"upon which its truth depends"

(Objective Knowledge, London: Oxford, 1972, 240).

He referred to

"universal laws"


"part of our common knowledge"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London,  Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 145);


"objectively true"


(The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, 119);

to the 'fact' that

"theories or expectations are built into our very sense organs"

(Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 146),

and to the


fact that

"we can learn from experience"

(Conjectures and Refutations, London: Routledge, 1989, 291).

All these assertions seem to defy, in one way or another, the idea that knowledge remains conjectural.

Popper's philosophical premises also led him into more serious confusions. For example, he explicitly rejected as

"utterly naļve and completely mistaken"

what he called

"the bucket theory of the mind"

(Objective Knowledge, London: Oxford, 1972, 61),

the idea that

"before we can know or say anything about the world, we must first have had perceptions - sense experiences"

(Objective Knowledge, London: Oxford, 1972, 341).

Yet earlier he had stated:

"I readily admit that only observation can give us 'knowledge concerning facts', and that we can...

become aware of facts only by observation"

(The Poverty of Historicism, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961, 98).

Popper's attitude to 'the laws of nature' was just as perplexing.

In Open Society he called natural law a

"a strict unvarying regularity....

A law of nature is unalterable; there are no exceptions to it.... l

aws of nature...

can be neither broken nor enforced. They are beyond human control..."

(The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 1, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 5th Ed., 1966, 57-58, c.f. Objective Knowledge, London, Oxford, 1972, 196).

But such absolutist claims are difficult to reconcile with the actual discovery of natural laws when, according to Popper:

"There can be no valid reasoning from singular observation statements to universal laws of nature"

(Realism and the Aim of Science, London, Routledge, 1992); The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982,The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, 32, c.f. Objective Knowledge, London: Oxford, 1972, 359).

In like vein, Popper's use of illustrations often involved disregard of his own dicta. In Realism and the Aim of Science, when once again attacking induction, he told us that

"mere supporting instances are as a rule too cheap...

they cannot carry any weight"

(Realism and the Aim of Science, London, Routledge, 1992, The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982. 130);

and that,

"confirming instances are not worth having"

(Realism and the Aim of Science, London, Routledge, 1992, The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, 256).

However, when he had earlier sought to demonstrate the case that

"practically every... 'chance observation' is an example of the refutation of some conjecture or assumption or expectation,"

he unhesitatingly drew attention to scientific discoveries by Pasteur, Roentgen, Crookes, Becquerel, Poincaré and Fleming to reinforce his point

Realism and the Aim of Science, London, Routledge, 1992, The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, The Open Universe, London, Hutchinson, 1982, 40).

The trait of employing what he sought to deny can be found throughout Popper's work.

Yet not once did he give any hint that he regarded the object of his study as conjectural.

His method was purely and simply inductive. He took Plato's dialogues as fact, examined them line by line in search of evidence, and generalised his (very firm) conclusions.

For criticism of Popper's view of Plato see

(R. Levinson, In Defense of Plato, Cambridge Mass: Harvard U. Press, 1953, J. Wild, Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law, Chicago, U. of Chicago Press, 1953, The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Book 2, P.A. Schilpp Ed, The Library of Living Philosophers, Volume XIV, Book II, Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1974, 859).

Another failing was Popper's occasional lack of response to important criticisms of his philosophy. As a critical rationalist, to whom criticism was

"the lifeblood of all rational thought,"


Brand Blanshard.

this was serious indeed. There was, for example, the incisive refutation of the falsification principle published by the  American philosopher Brand Blanshard.

Blanshard noted that particular propositions such as 'some swans are white' can only be falsified by showing that 'no swans are white.' Since the latter would be self-evidently untrue, 'some swans are white' is a perfectly valid scientific statement which cannot be falsified.

This simple observation, which demolished both the central pillar of critical rationalism and Popper's long-cherished notion of demarcation by refutability, was published by Blanshard in 1964, but to this writer's knowledge Popper never attempted to rebut it.

Certainly, there was no mention of it in Replies to my Critics, published ten years later, which would have been the perfect place for a response.

Blanshard's critique has also been ignored by the critical rationalist scholar David Miller, and by the well-known British Popperian Bryan Magee, whose little book Popper has maintained through ten editions that:

"Popper's seminal achievement has been to offer an acceptable solution to the problem of induction."

(Bryan Magee, Popper, London: Fontana, 1973, 1985, p. 22).

As a footnote here, it may be recorded that Popper was not renowned for living up to his philosophy in his professional life. His obituary in The Times recorded his reputation as

"a difficult man."

The Daily Telegraph commented,

"Popper's belief in his own infallibility was remarkable."

Later, The Times Magazine reported that Popper's students at the London School of Economics found him so intolerant of criticism that they used to joke about

"The Open Society, by one of its enemies."

(Jim McCue, "Mind Reading," 13 May 1995, p. 21, Confirmed by Frederick Raphael in Popper, London, Phoenix, 1998, p. 12).

Kinds of fallibilism


  1. Weak: It is possible that at least one of my beliefs is false.
  2. Strong: Any one of my beliefs may be false.


  1. Weak:  It is possible that I know something on the basis of inconclusive evidence.
  2. Strong: All I know is on the basis of inconclusive evidence.

Fallibilism and mathematics

What about results which only one man understands?

Our conlusion

The concept "belief" belongs to the psychology, not to philosophy.

The concept "justification"belongs to the empirical sciences.

Uour conclusion is that the theory of kknowledge does not belong to the philosophy. It is very serious practical human problem.

Falsificationism is a philosophy based on the requirement that hypotheses must be falsifiable in order to be scientific; if a claim is not able to be refuted it is not a scientific claim.

Popper’s main problem is that his deductive process of falsificationism can never provide a clear refutation of a theory.

There always is the possibility that the theory is correct and it was some other detail of the experiment that was responsible for the negative outcome.

He may have been right to insist that scientific theories should be subjected to risky tests, but Popper went too far in insisting that the practice of science is a clear-cut deductive process of elimination.

 “A million successful experiments cannot prove a theory correct, but one failed experiment can prove that either the theory is wrong or that some mistake was made in the experimental procedure or something totally unexpected happened.”

Perhaps you’ve heard someone use this cliché to describe the scientific method as a tough-minded and unsentimental pursuit of an accurate understanding of nature.

The sentiment has its roots in Karl Popper’s mid-20th-Century account of scientific investigation called “falsificationism,” so it is perhaps unsurprising that Popper’s views have been popular among many proponents of science.

Unfortunately, if we are to take the cliché literally, and in the way Popper intended, the central dictum of falsificationism turns out to be false.

While something of the attitude implied by the cliché may remain, Popper’s original point about the logical structure of scientific discovery has difficulty standing up to scrutiny.

That’s a much messier and more confusing way to describe the scientific process, but nature itself is messy and confusing, so perhaps we should not expect our investigation of it to be much different.


New name for the philosophy

alfa =altercation on fundamental abstractions

  1. logic belongs to the mathematics, not to the philosophy
  2. Bayes's theorem belongs to the theory of games
  3. modal logic belongs ro the meteorology
  4. epistemology belongs to the psycology and sociology
  5. history of philosophy belongs to the history
  6. ethics belongs to the social psychology
  7. philosphy of science belongs to the sciences
  8. the new name of the metaphysics is "Introduction to alfa"
  9. ontology belongs to the alfa

The metaphysics an the theology are growing

There is a theological faculty in the University of Helsinki. Is the theology a science?

Philosophers are teaching "metaphysics". There are much of books on "metaphysics".

Definition of the metaphysics

An old definition of the metaphysics: Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:

    What is ultimately there?
    What is it like?

A new definition of the metapysics: Metaphysics is an etreprice to solve the problems of the physics withgout experience. The physics must answer to the questions:

    What is ultimately there?
    What is it like?

Use of the word metaphysics

The the contemporary logical empiricism will not use the word "methaphysics". It will strongly critize the use of the world "methaphysics". It is possible to represent for example of the content of the book Juti, Riku: Johdatus metafysiikkaan (Gaudeamus, Helsinki 2001, An Introductio to the methaphysics) without using the word "metaphysics".

The metaphysics has had for example the following meanings:
  1. (used with a sing. verb) The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.
  2. The theoretical or first principles of a particular discipline: the metaphysics of law.
  3. A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.
  4. Excessively subtle or recondite reasoning.

The problems of the nature of the reality belong to physics.


The mind is inseparable from certain state of bodily organization.

We may say that the word @mind@ in an abbrevition denoting bodily state that shows certain kinds ofreactions......

The belief in the independent existence of  a mind is a fallacy from the misunderstanding of abstract terms......

The question of the existence of mind is a matter of the correct use of words but not a question of facts.

1951. Hans Reichenbach: The Rise of Scientific Philosophy. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01055-0, pp. 271/272.

The relationship between mind and matter belong to the psychology.


Phenomenalism is the view that physical objects cannot justifiably be said to exist in themselves, but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli (e.g. redness, hardness, softness, sweetness, etc.) situated in time and in space. In particular, some forms of phenomenalism reduce talk about physical objects in the external world to talk about bundles of sense-data.

There was logical empirists who were phenomenalists. But there was and is logical empirirists who are materialists. My own view is that the materialistic language is necessary.

What phenomenalism must say, in order to be consistent, is:

(i) that the content of propositions about the conditions and behavior of other people's bodies, like that of all material object propositions, pertains only to facts about one's own immediate experience; and

(ii) that the content of further claims about the mental states associated with those bodies is only a further, more complicated and less direct description of, once again, one's own experience.

Though the phenomenalist would perhaps resist putting it this way, the upshot is that one's own mind and mental states, including one's own immediate experience, are the only mind and the only collection of mental states that genuinely exist, with claims that are apparently about other minds amounting only to further descriptions of this one mind and its experiences.

This is the view known as solipsism.

It seems clearly to be an absurd consequence, thus yielding a really decisive objection, if one were still needed, to phenomenalism.

A new objection to the phenomenalism is that the machines can make perceptions and the computers can change the perceptions to konwledge. If there is only machines after the life on the world, is there perceptions and knowledge?

If there are no livin beings, is there logic and mathematics?

How I can know that I have perceptions? How I can know that there is perceptions? How I can know that I have five senses? How I can know that I am I.

Many people of the analytic philosophy have asserted that the coherence theory helps the phenomenalists. As Jakko Hintikka

Jaakko Hintikka (What Is True and False about So-Called Theories of Truth? The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 2000:155-160 (2000)) haRealisms shown, the correspondence theory of truth is more fitted to IF-logic than the coherence theory.

Realism, introduction

Realism is the conception which recognizes the reality of the external world independent of the knowing mind. It holds that the existence of objects is real. For this reason it is sometimes called objectivism.

From the epistemological point of view realism as a theory holds that the object and its qualities are independent of and uninfluenced by the knower and the process of knowledge.

The main principles of realism are the following:

  1. Existence of objects is independent of knowledge.
  2. Qualities are inherent in known objects.
  3. Knowledge does not affect the object or its qualities.
  4. Knowledge of object is direct.
  5. Objects are common.

Thus, according to realism, the reality or the object of knowledge is independent of the knowing mind. Objects of knowledge exist even if it is not known. The relation between the knowledge and its object is only external and not internal.

Realism is defined as –

“whatever is, is real in the sense that it has being and functions as something out and there, independently of any mind and its interference whatsoever.”

John Laird says,

“Knowledge according to the realism is always the discovery of something with which the mind is confronted. The mind is therefore, distinct for its objects.”

The kinds of the realism   

The main kinds of realism are the following:
  1.   Naive or Popular realism
  2.   Scientific realism
  3.   Neo-realism and
  4.   Critical realism
Naive realism is a theory propounded by commonsense according to which objects are independent of mind whether they are known or not. Object possesses its own qualities and they are common to all.

Scientific realism is propounded by John Locke. This theory is also known as representationism. According to this theory, objects are independent of knowledge but metaphysical thought depends upon the mind. Thoughts are the representations of objects.

Neo-realism asserts that the total object is not the subject of knowledge. The qualities of the objects are its own. Knowledge neither influences nor affects them.

Critical realism holds that the existence of objects does not depend upon knowledge in any way. The object is not precisely what it is seen to be. Different people can have different knowledge of an identical object.

All these kinds of realism are being arranged in order of their historical appearances in philosophy.

The naive realism


Naive realism recognizes the reality of the external world as independent of the knowing mind.

This ciception is the commonsense view held by the popular unreflecting mind. According to this conception, not only do the objects exist independently of the perceiving mind, but all the qualities of things perceived by us are also real.

This kind of thinking is characterized by naive realism.

It is also called commonsense realism or natural realism. Naive realism holds that our ideas are copies of external real things and their qualities.

All the qualities of matter are real. So, they exist in things themselves.

The colour, taste, smell, heat and cold are real as the objective qualities of things as extension, motion, rest, solidity etc.

According to naive realism, truth consists in a direct correspondence between knowledge and reality.  


Historically, the early Greek philosophers were realists making either water, air or fire to be the ultimate principle of the world existing independently of the knowing mind.

In contemporary philosophy mainly, R.W. Sellers, in his book Principles of Problems of Philosophy has referred to this theory as both commonsense realism and natural realism. Durant Drake in his book Invitation to Philosophy has employed the term ‘naive realism’.  

Different conceptions

The important views of the supporters of naive realism are the following:

Objects exist independently of the knowledge of them. It means that objects do not come into existence when they are known since they continue to exist even when no mind knows them.
  1. Each object has its own qualities and characteristics which are independent of the objects themselves. They do not depend upon the knower.
  2. Knowledge does not alter or influence the object in any way.
  3. Objects are what they appear to be. So, there is no difference between the reality of the objects and the experience of it.
  4. Objects are the subjects of our experience and we experience them as what they are. So, objects are known directly by us.
  5. Since the knowledge of an object is not limited to any particular subject, so objects are public in nature.

The scientific realism


Scientific realism holds that our knowledge of an object is obtained by the ideas created by experience of it, not from direct perceptions.

These ideas are not the object itself but a representation of it.

This conception is also known as representative realism. It holds that there is a world of mind-independent objects (trees, stars, people).

According to this conception, we cannot directly perceive external objects. What we perceive are the copies or representations of the external objects. This subjective aspect has been called by various names: a sensation, percept, sense-datum, sensum etc.

These names are used to emphasize its representational objects. Just as the images appearing on a television screen represent their remote causes (the events occurring at some distant concert hall or playing field), so also the images (visual, auditory, etc.) occurring in the mind represent (or sometimes, when things are not working right, misrepresent) the external physical objects. 


Scientific realism is advocated by John Locke, the originator of empirical philosophy in western philosophical thought.

He makes a distinction between primary qualities and secondary qualities. By primary qualities he means real and objectives qualities of matter, while by secondary qualities he means subjective and changeable qualities of matter.

As for instance, colour, taste, smell, heat and cold are secondary qualities. Because these qualities can vary from person to person under different conditions.

For example, what is sweet for a person may not be sweet for another person. Rather it may be bitter. Therefore, secondary qualities are subjective qualities of matter.

But extension, impenetrability, motion, shape, size are the permanent and actual objective qualities of matter. They remain unchanged unlike objective qualities.

That is why, it is held that our ideas are the actual or primary qualities of matter. Locke recognizes the reality of matter as an unknown and unknowable substratum of primary qualities.

For this reason Locke’s theory is known as scientific realism.  

Different conceptions

  1. According to scientific realism, though objects are independent of knowledge, yet, metaphysical speculation depends upon the mind.
  2. Secondary qualities of the object are imposed by the mind on the object.
  3. The actual object and its idea which is only an image of the real object are different in nature.
  4. The nature of the knowledge of objects is complex ideas in its form through the medium of simple ideas.
  5. In case of primary ideas objects are public.
  6. But in case of complex or secondary ideas objects differ from individual to individual, and so they are not public.
  7. We can not know the real nature of an object because our knowledge of it is indirect.

The neorealism


Neo-realism asserts that objects and ideas are equally real while the objects exist independently of ideas.

The main conception of the neo-realism is that for an object to exist, it is not necessary to be related to human mind. 


In England neo-realism has got popularity in the works of Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore.

In the United States of America it has been propagated by E.B. Holt, W.T. Marvin, W.T. Montague, R.B. Perry, W.B. Pitkin and E.G. Spaulding. 

Different conceptions

The following points are supported by the neo-realism thinkers in general.
  1. It holds that the existence of the object is independent of knowledge.
  2. Like naive realism, neo-realism, too, accepts that qualities of objects are parts of the known object.
  3. Objects and their qualities are not influenced by knowledge of them. In the process of knowledge all relations are external and no relation is internal.
  4. Like the supporters of naive realism, the neo-realists think that there is no difference between the object and its conception. So, all the impressions of the object are as real as the object itself.The logical entities of the objects are public. Our knowledge is limited to some aspects of the object; it does not comprehend the entire object.
  5. According to neo-realism, the real units of knowledge are some neutral infinite entities. There can be an infinite number of perspectives for viewing one object. In the process of knowledge each object is viewed from a different perspective by different individuals at the same time or even by one individual at different times. The aspects of an object are as independent as the qualities.
  6. The neo-realists argue that the mind depends upon the objects. Bertrand Russell defines: ‘I believe that the stuff of our mental life, as opposed to its relation and structure, consists wholly of sensations and images.’
  7. Neo-realism tries to make a distinction between existent and subsistent and then explains the difference between objects of the real world and objects of the dream and illusory world. All subjects of knowledge are subsistent but all are not existent. For instance, due to illusion we see a snake in a rope in the dark. But, actually the snake does not exist in rope. Here, we falsely believe in the existence of a snake due to sufficient light and think the snake to be subsisting which does not exist in rope. Here, the snake is subsistent means it exists, but it is wrongly interpreted as a snake in the rope due to illusion or ignorance. On the other hand the rope is existent that is really seen or exists.

The critical realism


Critical realism is essentially a more critical and sophisticated version of naive realism. According to critical realism, the nature and existence of qualities are as independent of the knower and his knowledge as the object itself.

But in knowledge the object known does not retain its complete nature. Critical realism distinguishes between knower, known and the content of knowledge as parts of the process of knowledge.

Critical realism holds that some of our sense-data (for example, those of primary qualities) can accurately represent external objects, properties and events.

In other words, while some of our sense data (for example, those of secondary qualities and perceptual illusions) do not accurately represent any external objects, properties and events.

In short, critical realism maintains that there exists an objectively knowable, mind-independent reality. 


Critical realism refers to several schools of thought. Critical realism is supported by the American critical realists including Roy Wood Sellers, George Santayana, and Arthur Lovejoy. It also includes philosophers like Bertrand Russell and C.D. Broad. 

Different conceptions

They have the following points:
  1. Objects are independent of knowledge. They exist even before there is knowledge of them.
  2. Every object is possessed of numerous qualities and that knowledge does not affect them in any way.
  3. Objects are known directly and qualities of objects do not change in knowledge.
  4. Object is not seen to be what it is or is actually what it seems to be. There may be differences between the content of knowledge and the subject of knowledge and this leads to error in the process of knowledge.
  5. Critical realism distinguishes between knower, known and the content of knowledge as parts of the process of knowledge.
  6. Objects are independent of knowledge and the knower, it is knowledge which creates the object as a subject of knowledge.
  7. Since knowledge takes place through the medium of nervous system which differs from one individual to another, so, the same object may appear differently to different individuals.
  8. Thoughts exist between knower and the known in the process of knowledge.


Naive realism

Although naive realism is a theory which is most commonly accepted or experienced by every philosopher in his daily life, yet, it is not satisfactory in philosophy. Naive realism cannot explain wrong knowledge as illusion, dream, hallucination, double vision etc.

Again, naive realism asserts that objects and their qualities are real. But the secondary qualities of objects have no real existence; for example – some qualities like, colour, taste, smell etc. are dependent for their existence on our mind. Naive realism believes that objects are public. And so, it overlooks the difference between individual’s knowledge.

Thus, it is obvious that naive realism does not or cannot provide an adequate explanation of the process of knowledge.

The scientific realism

The scientific realism divides this world into two points – the world of ideas and the world of objects. But Locke fails to bridge the gap between these two worlds.

Again he holds the view that ideas are the representations of objects. So, we never know objects in the process of knowledge but through the medium of ideas that we infer the existence of an object without ever knowing the object directly.

If our knowledge of the objects is indirect and there is no way of knowing to what degree our ideas accurately represent the object, then how can we conclude that the object is real? Locke has provided no satisfactory answer to this question.

Thus, it is true that Locke’s conception does not provide satisfactory answer to even the more elementary problems; yet it is to his credit that he adopted a scientific attitude in solving these problems.


In the analysis of neo-realism the content of knowledge that is explained is unchanging. It means knowledge remains as it is. But this notion obstructs any further progress in the field of knowledge.

Neo-realism distinguishes between the realm of existence and the realm of subsistence. But it is not possible to establish a subsistent world distinct from the existent world.

Unlike naive realists, neo-realists hold that though objects are public, yet, only the logical entities of objects are public in knowledge. The object itself is not public.

According to neo-realism, consciousness performs the task of organizing independent objects and that we have direct knowledge of such objects.

Thus, it cannot provide an explanation for illusion, hallucination or creative imagination. Because all experiences are taken as objectively stimulated in neo-realism. Thus, neo-realism like naive realism too, fails to find any explanation for the phenomena of error in the process of knowledge.

Critical realism

Critical realism is the most developed form of academic realism and is more critical than the other forms of realism. In the words of Wilfrid Sellars,

“critical realism differs from naive realism in its denial that the physical things are intuited. Knowledge for it involves the distinction between the content and the object of knowledge. Yet it agrees with naive realism in its belief that the physical thing is the direct object of knowledge.”

The main defect of critical realism is that it does not provide us with any concrete criterion for recognizing error from truth.

The question arises – if the reference of thought is directly known then how can there be error in it? Critical realists think that the reference of thought towards the object is direct, while on the other hand they agree that error is possible.

If thought exists between the knower and the known, if the reference of thought is directly known then how can there be error in it. These points are not explained properly in critical realism.

Though critical realism is an improvement on the more primitive theories of realism it is not completely satisfactory.

Nevertheless, it has made valuable contributions to epistemology in philosophy.

No academic conception of realism is complete

No academic conception is complete in the process of acquiring knowledge. In spite of the defects they can provide us the ways how to acquire knowledge of objects in reality.

It will help us to understand the epistemological development of the theory of reality in philosophy.

Realism is the a human conception that  that some aspect of our reality is ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc.

Realism may be spoken of with respect to other minds, the past, the future, universals, mathematical entities (such as natural numbers), moral categories, the material world, and thought.

Realism can also be promoted in an unqualified sense, in which case it asserts the mind-independent existence of a visible world, as opposed to skepticism and solipsism.

Realism asserts that truth consists in the mind's correspondence to reality.

Non-eliminative non-reductive materialism

  1. Non-eliminative non-reductive materialism
    1. My own conception of realism
      1. Phenomenalism
      2. What is wrong with the  phenomenalism
      3. Extension of the phenomenalism: materialism
      4. Epiphenomenalism explained
      5. Animal Choices
      6. Some Objections to Epiphenomenalism
    2. The external reality
    3. Defence of materialism
    4. Mechanical perceiving
    5. Matter and the mind
    6. What is the property dualism
    7. The mind-body problem
    8. How the reality looks to the property dualist
    9. Against property dualism

My own conception of realism


Most logical empiricists have been phenomenalists and not materialists.


Dr. Pertti Lindfors.

The dissertation of Dr. Pertti Lindfors (Der dialektische Materialismus und der logische Empirismus: Eine kritische und vergleichende dialektische Materialismus und der logische Empirismus: Eine kritische und vergleichende Untersuchung, Universität Jyväskylä, 1978. ISBN 951-677-980-8) shows that the logical empiricism and the materialism are compatible.

Phenomenalism is the view that physical objects cannot justifiably be said to exist in themselves, but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli (e.g. redness, hardness, softness, sweetness, etc.) situated in time and in space. In particular, some forms of phenomenalism reduce talk about physical objects in the external world to talk about bundles of sense-data.


In the late 19th century, an even more extreme form of phenomenalism was formulated by Ernst Mach, later developed and refined by Russell, Ayer and the logical logical empiricists. 

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy opposes strongly the materialism (http://plato.stanford.

What is wrong with the  phenomenalism


The perception is a very complex concept. I have seen no good definition of the perception. A very young child has no conception of perception.

First the child learns that he can see, hear, smell, taste and touch.

The school teaches something more. A common man has no conception of the neuroscience of senses.

A common man has a very clear conception of what is the matter.

I was three years old when somebody said that there are invisible beings. I was walking around a house and trying to see if there are some effects of the invisible beings. I was bot able to see any. I was not able to remember any.

I am 72 and I have had no reason to change my mind.

The concepts are the human conventions. Most animals have no coventions of the concepts.

We call the final results of the creations of the concepts definitions.


A part of our definitions are linquistic. We learn a part of our concepts as a part of our experience. Our dog knows many human concepts in Finnish.

The concept of the matter is not very simple. First we must learn the concepts of different material objects (ostensive definitions). The matter is an abstraction.

There were no materialism or phenomenalism if there were no complicated organisms, such than the man.

The materialism as such is not true or false. My opinion is that the concepts of the materialism are important if we will have a good future life for human beings. Materialism is a norm of the good langue usage.

The materialism is a form of the (epistemological) realism. Also realism is a convention of the use of the language.

Extension of the phenomenalism: materialism

It is very simple to extend the phenomenalism to the materialism. 

Epiphenomenalism explained

“Conscious will is a symptom, not a cause; its roots… are invisible to it… material”

George Santayana, The Realm of Matter (1930)

“A disgrace… more awful than dualism”

(Ted Honderich, Philosopher – A Kind of Life, 2001, pp. 247, 278);

“a dreaded relic”

(Daniel C. Dennett, Brainchildren, 1998, p.65).

These are just some of the epithets thrown at any position doubting the potency of conscious will. After all, don’t we clearly consciously decide to do something, and then do it? Our conscious will certainly seems to be the cause of our subsequent actions. Yet this piece of common sense is denied by epiphenomenalism, one of the classic theories in the philosophy of mind.

Spanish/American philosopher and essayist George Santayana (1863-1952), however, saw conscious will as only a symptom – the expression of the underlying activity of the brain. Consciousness is a phenomenon arising from and ‘sitting above’ the brain’s action – an epiphenomenon. Consciousness is caused by, but not itself the cause of, the changes effected by the brain.


Thomas H. Huxley.

There is a clear statement of epiphenomenalism towards the end of Thomas H. Huxley’s address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Belfast, 1874:

“all states of consciousness in us, as in [brutes], are immediately caused by molecular changes of the brain-substance. It seems to me that in men, as in brutes, there is no proof that any state of consciousness is [itself] the cause of change in the motion of the matter [brain] of the organism.”

(T.H. Huxley, On the Hypothesis that Animals are Automata)

I believe neuroscience is steadily accumulating detailed evidence to justify Huxley’s foresight – especially the close associations seen between scanned images of brain events and subjective experiences. Making straightforward extrapolations from ideas implicit in current brain science, we can extract two propositions which may be considered the two equally-important axioms of epiphenomenalism, and which together formulate it:

  1. Axiom 1. Every conscious state is determined by a simultaneous brain state.
  2. Axiom 2. Every brain state evolves solely in accordance with physical law.

Axiom 1 asserts that all the contents of a conscious state, however complex, are what they are because of the state of the brain. This is not to be thought of as an instance of ‘efficient causation’ in the Aristotelian sense – where the cause precedes the effect – but rather, of Aristotle’s ‘material causation’, where the effect, in this case, the experience, appears simultaneous with its material cause, in this case, the state of the brain.


John Tyndall.

Axiom 1’s hypothesis of psychoneural correlation was stated by the physicist John Tyndall in 1868.

The correlation is many-one, in that many slight variations in brain state could produce the conscious mind state – it is unlikely that the numerous differences at the smallest physical levels, within atoms, would make any difference to brain behaviour, and so what we consciously experience.

Axiom 2 asserts that nothing will take place in the brain which is not in conformity with the laws of physics, which Tyndall again supposed.

This axiom is now sometimes referred to as ‘the causal closure of the physical’.

It excludes the intervention into the physical realm of any non-physical entity (eg, a soul) and implies that the cause of each brain state is in practice the prior physical state of the brain.

Axiom 2 is valid whether physics concludes that causality is deterministic (each state of the universe, that is, of everything in it, being the necessary consequence of its immediately previous state), or whether it confirms the indeterminism in current quantum theory. Quantum randomness is too small-scale to cause arbitrary change to the groups of neural switches on which brain action depends, so the brain is de facto deterministic.


In asserting that consciousness is dependent upon the brain, epiphenomenalism is a natural outcome of the materialist tradition in philosophy. Although by adding consciousness it specifies two attributes of matter, it is misleading to classify it as a form of dualism, because it doesn’t propose two entities with independent existence, nor two sources of efficacy.

Matter’s two properties or attributes are therefore:

a) Physical: the unified entity of space-time matter which constitutes the substance of the universe. Physical science, including chemistry and neuroscience, is charged with discovering the nature of the physical world and the laws it follows. Since the time of Galileo, no physics textbook has needed to include consciousness in the equations it expounds; current neuroscience would not be satisfied to take a ‘thought’ or a ‘sensation’ as the efficient cause of a brain event: it seeks instead for the neural (physical) process underlying them.

b) Conscious: an attribute which occurs automatically in human and possibly in animal brains when a certain (presently unspecifiable) neural organisation is established. When this occurs, the conscious content is immediately and certainly known to its subjects – and solely to them, because its content is nothing other than their subjectivity. Consciousness is real but not ‘substantial’ in the philosophically technical sense, as it cannot exist alone, that is, without that small portion of the space-time-matter world in the brain with which it is co-extensive.

Although correlatable with brain states, the contents of conscious awareness – all sensations, feelings and thoughts, including self-consciousness – are not, as many claim, identical to brain substance: “consciousness is not cells” is how Ted Honderich puts it. Theorists who do assert a ‘mind-brain identity’ hope thereby both to dissipate the mystery of consciousness by asserting that it just is the physical brain, and thus guarantee consciousness a causal role.

Epiphenomenalism denies this identity, asserting that the physical brain alone is responsible for the consciousness it generates, and for subsequent brain events. Mind-brain identity theorists maintain that consciousness is causal by analogy with the causal role of the temperature of a gas, which can be mathematically proved to be identical to its atoms’ average kinetic energy. 


Indeed, solid butter is caused to melt by raising its temperature, which turns out to be identical to the process of increasing the kinetic energy of its atoms, but no means are available to prove that consciousness is necessarily identical to neural events. 


Thus unlike identity theorists, epiphenomenalists can conceive of the logical possibility (in another world) of creatures physically identical to us but lacking sentience: zombies.

Animal Choices

Unlike a plant, an animal can move about, and therefore has to incorporate a mechanism for making decisions about which way to go. A fly may spot a drop of water, alight near it to take a sip, and then fly off.

Nevertheless, we find it quite easy to be anthropomorphic about them. We can say the fly was thirsty, it saw the water, chose to alight because it desired a sip, and took off satisfied. We have spattered the account with conscious intentions, while knowing that neurologists could give a purely physiological account of how the fly accomplished its objective without invoking ‘insect conscious purpose’ or ‘fly free will’.

If you see this account of the fly’s behaviour as reflecting the pattern of human projects, while realising that it was brain physiology that did the work, you risk becoming an epiphenomenalist. Of course human reasoning is considerably more complex than the fly’s, comparing many more factors whose strength we vaguely feel.

The epiphenomenalist sees the process of voluntary action as follows:

a ...... b ...... c
stream of conscious states: epiphenom ena

brain states [⇒ = physical cause, such that A causes B, etc]
0 ...... 2 ...... 4

Thus a brain state A, having received a nerve signal that one’s throat is dry, gives rise to a simultaneous conscious experience a, the sensation of dryness, coupled with the desire to drink water.

A unconsciously initiates (⇒) activity that evolves into brain state B, which gives rise to b, the satisfactory feeling produced when succeeding in one’s freely chosen aim, lifting a glass to drink. Hitting no impediment in raising the glass and sipping the water, B evolves into C, the brain state resulting from a fresh signal from the throat. C gives rise to c, the sensation of having slaked one’s thirst.

Note that the subjective experience of carrying out a decision to drink (a..b..c) is perfectly compatible with that decision’s physical correlates (A ⇒ B ⇒ C) being an integral part of the physical world’s causality. (The brain’s interaction with the rest of the world has been omitted for simplicity.)

It’s plausible, but an error, to think that any intention or volition enters as a link in the chain of physical causation – that a physical brain event causes a conscious event, which then causes a further physical event, as if we had A ⇒ a ⇒ B.


Thomas H. Huxley.

But as Huxley said,

“the feeling we call volition is not the cause of a voluntary act, but the symbol of that state of the brain which is the immediate cause of that act.”

(Collected Essays Vol.I, 1894).

If the two axioms are true, our undoubted effect on the world is not accomplished by a conscious self or ‘free will’ acting by magically originating a sequence of brain events. The I that thinks (in ‘cogito ergo sum’) is therefore perhaps best regarded as the label our brain’s language programme uses when it refers to itself, and not, as Descartes supposed, an independent source of change in the brain.

We are causal agents in the world by virtue of being physical beings. Our nervous system has evolved to manage our practical animal needs without our consciously knowing the details. We can work to achieve the future conscious states we desire and diminish the undesirable states.

To this end we shall find that the ‘knowledge of necessity’, ie, knowledge of the physical laws operating in the world, is a condition of our success. Epiphenomenalists proclaim the supreme importance of consciousness while accepting its total impotence.

Some Objections to Epiphenomenalism

1. We have free will, showing that consciousness exerts control over brain activity.

The term ‘free will’ is unfortunately used in two distinct senses, leading to interminable wrangles. I will refer to them as the Primary and Secondary senses.

The Primary Sense:

Free will in the libertarian sense alleges we possess a special faculty, the ‘will’, capable of initiating actions from various alternatives. No doubt there is in the brain (or mind) a continual jostling for dominance amongst the contenders.

Presumably, the role of the ‘free’ will is to choose between the alternatives and select one action. On what basis is this done?

Unless by pure chance (which the libertarians dislike because they discern, rightly, that this eliminates moral responsibility from the act), how can this act of will not automatically select whatever is the strongest motive at that moment, or the argument with the greatest weight?

How can it fail to be determined by what one has become and wants at that moment? Perhaps the libertarian pictures free will as a homunculus with free will whose free will is itself a smaller homunculus with free will whose…

Because the libertarian doctrine of free will rejects both the possible physical processes for events or thoughts – the causal/deterministic, and its negation, the random/indeterministic – it is beyond the realm of logic to which even the gods (say the theologians) are confined. Libertarian free will is bogus.


Benjamin Libet.

The neurosychologist Benjamin Libet conducted experiments demonstrating that the brain prepares unconsciously what we are going to think and will before we consciously think and will it.

He believed that at the penultimate moment, consciousness could veto any decision – thereby, he said, demonstrating free will in action.

However, determinism has never meant our opinions cannot change; and according to axiom 1, any such ‘second thoughts’ will also have been generated by their fluctuating neural basis.

Such thoughts are thus an example of the secondary, but more common, sense of the term ‘free will’:

The Secondary Sense of free will is compatible with determinism:

An epiphenomenalist contends that those who claim that free will is compatible with determinism are using the term ‘free will’ simply as a description of the conscious sensation of choosing accompanying a successful voluntary act. But to be effectively realised, the sensation of free choice a..b..c requires the determinism of A ⇒ B ⇒ C.

The sensation of acting freely, according to one’s own desire, is of course highly valued – unlike the sensation of being coerced.


The cashier who hands cash to an armed robber can credibly say,

“I acted under duress and not of my own free will.”

He wants the court to understand the reason for his behaviour, and giving this explanation implies that his behaviour must be seen as determined by it – that is, viewed deterministically.

In dealing with the robber, and wanting to condemn anti-social actions, the law has found it expedient to employ the doctrine of free will in the primary sense:

“The robber could have acted otherwise – he misused his free will, and deserves retribution.”

But everyone’s current brain state is the inevitable result of its history of that person’s interactions with the world, including every benign and malign influence, so it’s clear the robber could not have done otherwise.

Now, although every past event and past human action could not have been other than it was, the expression of our approval or disapproval of them affects future actions, and is necessary for progress.


As society comes to appreciate this, it may realise (with reluctance, perhaps) that retributive punishment is unjustified because retrospective. Justifiable sanctions, such as the deprivation of liberty, should always involve attempts at reform, directed to the future – to their prospective effect on the individuals concerned.

2. Epiphenomenalism implies fatalism.

This is a mistake. Yes ‘what will be, will be’ – but this tautology contains no information about the future. No one is privy to a ‘Flash Forward’ (the name of a TV series where people get a glimpse of their future). We can afford to be optimistic, since the future is unknown to us.

3. Surely mental contents cause actions? It seems right to say “I shall visit the dentist because I have toothache,” assigning a conscious experience, the ache, as the cause of a physical action, going to the dentist.


For the epiphenomenalist, the word ‘toothache’ functions as a label in our language for that group of neural processes which are the cause not only of the ache, but which also initiate the process of visiting the dentist.

These neural processes are the real cause of the behaviour.

The label ‘toothache’, like a good computer file name, aids communication. We shall continue to say “because I have toothache” just as we still say “the sun rose” because these statements still convey our meaning – but not the objective truth.

4. Epiphenomenalism is self-refuting, because if the brain is driven by the inhuman forces of physics, any conclusion it reaches, eg ‘epiphenomenalism is true’, is unreliable, since good conclusions are the result of thought.

By applying axiom 1, we can see that what appears in our consciousness as the compelling reasons for a particular conclusion corresponds with what at the neural level is the cause of those reasons and that conclusion.


Just as a computer’s chess programme necessarily obeys the laws of physics as it derives lawful chess moves, so brains, driven by physics, can exhibit logical reasoning, if educated correctly.

5. Consciousness would not have evolved unless it were advantageous to living organisms. Consciousness must have survival value. It must have been specially selected for, and so must have specific biological effects.

We can have no direct indication of animal consciousness. Other humans are presumed conscious because they are members of one’s own species – bats are not. We therefore have no sure ground for assuming, as we are wont to do, that an animal does what it does because of its possession of consciousness.

If a species becomes successful in the Darwinian sense, we have no right to assume that it was guided by pleasure and pain experiences – only by appetitive and aversive reactions.

We continue to refer to the alleged causal powers of pain even when we know it is not a cause, for example in the case of a reflex action. That pain is not the cause of the action which ends it was pointed out by Shadworth Hodgson in 1870.

A change in the architecture of an animal’s nervous system resulting from a spontaneous variation in its DNA may increase its relative fitness, giving it a selective advantage. If the new architecture happens to produce consciousness as an epiphenomenon, then consciousness will automatically be passed down the generations without having to be coded for explicitly.

If consciousness increases in quality and variety as brains increase in complexity, and animals with complex brains are more likely to survive, then a sufficient condition for the evolution of consciousness will have been satisfied. 


Not that nature cares for what we may consider its finest product – dolphins may experience sensations beyond our imagination, but living in their evolutionary cul-de-sac the sea, gives them no opportunity to explore sophisticated intellectual realms; and large-brained Neanderthals became extinct in the last ice age.

6. If humans were not conscious this article would not have been written, not least because brains would not have needed to create words for the components of consciousness, nor the word ‘consciousness’. This article’s very existence demonstrates the causal efficacy of consciousness.

The formation of the abstract noun ‘consciousness’ requires the prior existence in language of such nouns as ‘colour’, ‘sound’, ‘taste’, ‘feeling’ etc. These in turn, arise from their constituents, eg particular colours such as green, particular tastes such as bitter, etc. For the epiphenomenalist, a word such as ‘red’ labels not only the sensation but also that sensation’s neural basis, and the word earns its keep by performing a useful function in the brain’s economy.

The brain’s language system could evolve words labelling neural entities whether or not they are experienced as sensation. Thus zombies – physically human replicas without sentience (which, by axiom 1, cannot exist in this universe) – would invent sensation words. They could say they’d ‘seen a red light’ whenever their non-conscious brains detected photons of a certain energy, even though they never experienced red.


Similarly, our sensation of redness is not required for us to speak of ‘seeing red’. This applies to all sensations and the abstract nouns based on them: no sensation is necessary for the brain’s reference to its neural correlates.

The word ‘consciousness’, the collective noun for the totality of sensory and emotional experience, may be culturally important. Ideologies and cults can be built around concepts (eg ‘god’), and wars can be fought for them.

Once the word ‘consciousness’ exists, consciousness gets treated in our language as if it has causal powers, but like phlogiston, the fictitious fuel, it has none. Consciousness of one’s ‘self’ is a further instance of the brain’s ability to create concepts.

Yet the power of a concept derives from its human patrons. Its impact on our thinking is not proof that it can move matter. Thus all the detritus left by our talk of ‘consciousness’, and even of ‘self-consciousness’, is no more evidence of their causal effect than a library of books on fairies is evidence of fairy activity.

7. Epiphenomenalism cannot explain how the brain generates consciousness.

True, but at least it acknowledges a problem other philosophies of mind don’t.

  1. Eliminativists deny the existence of the contents of consciousness;
  2. physicalists award consciousness a dubious identity with neurons to grant it a spurious efficacy; and
  3. Cartesian dualists, heedless that it cannot survive a whiff of ether, readily (but unjustifiably) accord consciousness immortality …

John Tyndall.

In 1868 the epiphenomenalist and Alpine climber John Tyndall anticipated what in 1995 David Chalmers was to call the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. Tyndall saw an “intellectually impassable chasm” existing between the physics of the brain and the corresponding states of consciousness, even if all the details about both were known:

“If we knew that a right-handed spiral motion of molecules of the brain was associated with the feeling of love, and a left-handed spiral motion with the feeling of hate, the question Why? would remain as unanswerable as before.”

(‘Scientific Materialism’ in Fragments of Science Vol II, 1889.)

Neuroscience has not yet even solved Chalmers’ ‘easy’ problem, which is specific knowledge of the above-mentioned associations. If we eventually reach that stage and arrive at the edge of the chasm of the hard problem, will we have the intellect to find it passable?

The external reality


The objects in the physical, external reality retain special characteristics:
  1. They exist or expand within a certain point in space - subject to geometrical categorization.
  2. They retain a certain volume and mass, and are generally capable of being described through various methods of measurement.
  3. They retain a certain chemical composition, which may be unraveled through analysis.
  4. They have effect on and are being affected by other objects in the physical world; everything that occurs within the objects themselves or within their interactions with other objects is but matter and energy which may be expressed through chemical and physical categories.
The details regarding physical objects are potentially knowable and comprehendible to the able human. Most humans are fairly equal in sense of observing the physical reality; thus, this world may be also referred to as the public domain of human perception.

Our own bodies are also a definite part of the physical reality. Indeed, our bodies too are located at a certain point in space, retaining certain dimensions, a typical level of temperature, etc.


Our bodies too are a subject to the public domain of human perception; that is to say, my personal body is potentially knowable to all men in an equal manner, provided they retain the adequate level of anatomo-physiological knowledge to understand its complex mechanisms.

There is not any essential difference between my personal body and the electronic keyboard in the sense of being physical, measurable and all-intelligible objects.

And yet we are aware of what seems to be another part of the reality - a mental one. Objects within this inner, reality naturally differ from the physical sort:
  1. They are not placed at a certain place in space - are not a subject to geometrical categorization.
  2. They do not retain a certain volume and mass; incapable of being described through various methods of measurement and physical categorizations such as kCal, Volts, Pounds, Ounces etc.
  3. The concept of chemical composition does not apply to them.
While seeming to have various sorts of interactions among themselves, mental objects are not seen as a part of the cycle of matter and energy; a thought of water for instance, under our contemporary scientific understanding - would not react with objects of the physical world in the same manner real water and CO2 combine together to produce glucose and oxygen.

But the true singularity of the mental world is the fact of it being private and exclusive to each and every human individual in the sense of perception.

An inner world exists in men.This world, otherwise known as the psyche or mind has the special nature of all; personal experience teaches us that it is knowable, capable of being sensed, experienced or perceived by only one individual alone. All of the psyche's objects and phenomena belong to one, with no known exceptions.

The very essence of the psychophysical problem is the nature of relationship between our mental psyches on the one hand, and our physical brains on the other.


On the one hand, I stand in front of my brain's physical biochemical phenomena as an external observer, similar to every other person that may inspect them; on the other, I stand in front of my psyche's mental phenomena such as hope or desire not as an observer, rather I experience them in practice; I am them and they are me, it is I who thinks, desires, wishes and aspires without any person to share these wondrous phenomena; they are mine to bear, for better or for worse, alone.

And yet we know there is an evident correlation between brain and psyche, between the physical and the mental world. Indeed, our personal experience, combined with the groundbreaking findings of the modern science of neuropsychology provides the ultimate ratification.

To start with, we are entirely aware of the fact that both of our componential units, body and psyche, and accordingly - our two forms of identity, physical and mental, are quite inseparable in essence.


By physical identity I refer to the entirety of the unique chemical composition, anatomical design and physiological processes of our bodies. This encompasses the more obvious physical qualities such as our unique sexual gender, shape of face, skin pigmentation, height, mass and color of hair in addition to other less noticeable ones such as metabolism rate, bone density, heart rate and so forth.

The mental identity, in contrast to the physical one, refers to our characteristic way of feeling, thinking and behaving. This encompasses the emotional, behavioral and thinking patterns unique to a person. Namely, whatever builds our own unique personhood - the intrinsic information that defines us¯, being exclusively ours: memories, hopes, dreams, emotions, aspirations, opinions etc.

While common sense may easily distinguish between the two worlds, as I have earlier shown - simultaneously, it binds the two together in the most intimate fashion. Truly, can one imagine a disembodied psyche?


Phineas Gage.

Today we know that a brain injury in the frontal lobe, almost always creates alteration to one's mental identity. This extreme finding sheds critical light on the existence of a foreseeable connection between specific physical phenomena (i.e. frontal-lobe injury) and specific mental phenomena (i.e. alteration of mental identity in a certain pattern).

We may also learn of the sameness of psyche with the brain from personal experience. Alcohol consumption, for instance, changes our normally expected behavior by revoking ordinary inhibitions of our mental identity, making us more self-confident or daring. Cocaine use, for those who are willing to try it, generates a subjective euphoric sense of happiness and increased sense of energy; caffeine stimulates our mental awareness; fluoxetine may remove mental feelings of depression which are often associated with a distinct deficit of neurotransmitters, the chemicals by which nerve cells (neurons) communicate and relay messages to the brain.

A critical, physical knock on the head might result in mental abnormality - an alteration of our mental identities; this is exactly why following a serious head injury or a trauma some people may be genuinely informed by their friends: you are not the same¯. Our psyches are ill when our bodies are ill, and vice versa.

identical twins

The physical human brain, and therefore the mental human psyche are a vast product of many circumstances, culture as well as heredity. Our mental worlds are being built throughout our lives; a normal, healthy human body and brain, under the wrong circumstances, would not produce a characteristic human psyche and mental identity. The distinguished power of the human psyche, particularly the capacity of abstract thinking and reasoning, is being acquired through speech and sophisticated symbolic capabilities.

But, for the sake of argument, let us accept the dualist claim that the psyche consists of a different, unique substance, exempt from the strict laws of physics. The body, at least, consists of physical matter and energy, being in the public domain of human perception while all physical characteristic apply to it.

In order mental reality to cause a physical phenomenon (e.g. movement of the hand through a wish), obviously it has to expend some sort and level of energy to initiate neural firing in our brains that would command the hand to be physically lifted (as I have illustrated in the previous segment). Since all mental phenomena are exclusive to one, unobservable by outside viewers and undetectable by physical instruments  this creates the impression that neural processes are caused by an energy source that is imperceptible to us.

The problem is that if we have something essentially nonphysical causing physical neurons to fire, then there is no physical event which causes the firing. That means that some physical energy seems to have appeared out of thin air. Notwithstanding this issue, how could it possibly be?

How could phenomena without any physical properties have any physical effects at all? Magic seems to fit very well unto the description: "a supposed supernatural power that makes impossible things happen or gives somebody control over the forces of nature"; "an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source".


J.J.C. Smart.

Another argument against dalism stems from biological evolution. J.J.C. Smart raises the essential questions:

"How could a non-physical property or entity suddenly arise in the course of animal evolution? What sort of chemical process could lead to the springing into existence of something nonphysical? No enzyme can catalyze the production of a spook! Perhaps it will be said that the nonphysical comes into existence as a by-product: that whenever there is a certain complex physical structure, then, by an irreducible extraphysical law, there is also a nonphysical entity. Such laws would be quite outside normal scientific conceptions and quite inexplicable: they would be, in Herbert Feigl's phrase, 'nomological danglers.' To say the very least, we can vastly simplify our cosmological outlook if we can defend a materialistic philosophy of mind."

  • Certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all (e.g. brain death).
  • Other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged.
  • When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex.
  • Within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain.
Epistemology of material properties leads us to a more modest estimation of our epistemic prospects. Our findings of uncertainty, incompleteness etc. are certainly less spectacular than those of quantum mechanics or mathematics. But I am afraid, that they are getting more and more important in managing our future material environment.

The notion of material entities offers an explanatory power lacking in mere appearances.

The main thesis of the materialism is the existence of matter and energy and non-existence of soul and gods.

The materialism is not restrictive. Materialism asnwers "no" to two questions.


Thesis of universal ontology:

If there were no animals in the universe we had only matter and energy.

Human ontology uses the term "existence" in several meanings as we see of the list above.

Defence of materialism

There is no conflict between universal ontology and human ontologies.

There's no inconsistency between the reality of qualia and materialism.

We can instead presume that the experience of color is physical, but not so simplistic as to exclude the possibility of random inversion or eccentric differences, etc. There aren't any thought experiments involving qualia that problematize the idea that they are physical, they simply reveal that the physical world may be a more complex place than was assumed.

The point of materialism is not to understand the mind completely in terms of physics, although it follows that in theory a more advanced science than ours might be able to do so.

The point is that the mind does not possess any special qualities other than physical ones. Starting from this perspective, theories which implicitly or explicitly require such special qualities can be deconstructed on the basis of the special requirement, like pulling apart a sweater starting with a loose yarn.

This doesn't really have much consequence for contemporary psychology, psychiatry, neurology, etc. These would all be the same and continue to proceed the same way whether or not the materialist premise is true.


Materialistic approach says that the model and its submodels that rule all our experience are derivatives of objects that exist in time and space

The belief that our conscious experiences are derivative of physical phenomenon is not a materialist one. The materialist position is that our conscious experiences (qualia) are physical phenomenon.

There is a lot of confusion about what "physical phenomenon" refers to. It refers to things which can, or could (assuming perfect knowledge) be explained in terms of physics.

The "perfect knowledge assumption" is important; it could turn out that human beings are simply not capable of achieving such a thing. The point of the assertion is that if they did, the mind would be understood to be completely physical. This is in contrast to the claim that, assuming perfect knowledge, we would know the mind is decisively something other than a physical phenomenon.

The materialist approach is that nothing other than the physical world is required to explain anything. It not only does not require a reason for the physical world to exist, it pretty much insists there can be no such thing as a reason for it to exist.


To clarify, this is not to say there was no reason for the big bang. Almost certainly there was, but it was a physical reason. "Multiplying entities" does not mean increasing the number of something that already exists; a house with five rooms is as likely as a house with two rooms by Occam's razor.

It means not adding new kinds of entities that otherwise don't need to exist (e.g., a house with five rooms full of ghosts). From this perspective, multiverse theories are not objectionable because they don't claim there is some new realm that cannot be analyzed in physical terms. They claim there is more than one room in the house.

Obviously, there is a mapping between different colours and measurable properties of light waves. But it seems to be nothing more than a mapping

Yes, but this is not an objection to materialism. This is , the difference between the map and the territory, not the difference between a physical phenomenon and a non-physical experience. If I show you a map of a city and you use it to find a building downtown, the map and the territory are, indeed, very very different, and our power to reason allows us to make the connection between them.

Mechanical perceiving


Neil Harbisson is a Catalan-raised, British-born contemporary artist and cyborg activist best known for creating the first cyborg antenna and for being the first person in the world to have an antenna implanted in his skull.

The antenna allows him to perceive visible and invisible colours such as infrareds and ultraviolets via sound waves as well as receive images as sounds, videos as sounds, music or phone calls directly into his head via external devices such as mobile phones or satellites. In 2004, he was officially recognized as a cyborg by a government.

Matter and the mind

The philosophical part (though not the neurobiological part) of the traditional mind-body problem has a fairly simple and obvious solution:

All of our mental phenomena are caused by lower level neuronal processes in the brain and are themselves realized in the brain as higher level, or system, features.

The form of causation is “bottom up,” whereby the behavior of lower level elements, presumably neurons and synapses, causes the higher level or system features of consciousness and intentionality.

This form of causation, is common in nature; for example, the higher level feature of solidity is causally explained by the behavior of the lower level elements, the molecules.

What is the property dualism


Property dualism.

There are several different “mind-body” problems. The one is the relationship between consciousness and brain processes. The conclusions of the discussion will extend to other features of the mind-body problem, such as, for example, the relationship between intentionality and brain processes. We will concentrate on consciousness. For the purposes of this discussion, the “mind-body problem” is a problem about how consciousness relates to the brain.

The mind-body problem

The mind-body problem, so construed persists in philosophy because of two intellectual limitations on our part.

First, we really do not understand how brain processes cause consciousness.

Second, we continue to accept a traditional vocabulary that contrasts the mental and the physical, the mind and the body, the soul and the flesh, in a way that I think is confused and obsolete.

We cannot overcome our neurobiological ignorance, but we can at least try to overcome our conceptual confusion.

Because of these two limitations, our ignorance of how the brain works and our acceptance of the traditional vocabulary, that many people find property dualism appealing.

Before criticizing it, we want to try to account for its appeal by stating the thesis with as much plausibility as we can. Of course, there are different versions of property dualism, but what we hope to state is the version that we find most challenging. We will say nothing about “neutral monism”, panpsychism, or the various forms of “dual aspect” theories. Notice that in presenting arguments for property dualism we have to use the traditional terminology that later on we will reject.

How the reality looks to the property dualist

Here is how the reality looks to the property dualist:

There is clearly a difference between consciousness and the material or physical world. We know this from our own experience, but it is also obvious from science.

The material world is publicly accessible and is pretty much as described by physics, chemistry, and the other hard sciences; but the conscious, experiential, phenomenological world is not publicly accessible.

The private existence is a kind of the material existence.

We know it with certainty from our inner, private, subjective experiences. We all know that the private reality of consciousness exists, we know that it is part of the real world, and our question is to find out how it fits into the public material world, specifically, we need to know how it fits into the brain.

Because neither consciousness nor matter are reducible to the other, they are distinct and different phenomena in the world.

Substance dualism seems out of the question for a number of reasons.

For example it cannot explain how these spiritual substances came into existence in the first place and it cannot explain how they relate to the physical world.

So property dualism seems the only reasonable view of the mind-body problem. Consciousness really exists, but it is not a separate substance on its own, rather it is a property of the brain.

We can summarize property dualism in the following four propositions. The first three are statements endorsed by the property dualist, the fourth is an apparent consequence or difficulty implied by the first three:

  1. There are two mutually exclusive categories that constitute all of empirical reality: they are physical phenomena and mental phenomena. Physical phenomena are essentially objective in the sense that they exist apart from any subjective experiences of humans or animals. Mental phenomena are subjective, in the sense that they exist only as experienced by human or animal agents.
  2. If the mental states are not reducible to neurobiological states, they are something distinct from and over and above neurobiological states.
  3. Mental phenomena do not constitute separate objects or substances, but rather are features or properties of the composite entity, which is a human being or an animal. So any conscious animal, such as a human being, will have two sorts of properties, mental properties and physical properties.
  4. The chief problem for the property dualists, given these assumptions, is how can consciousness ever function causally? There are two possibilities, neither of which seems attractive. First, let us assume, as seems reasonable, that the physical universe is causally closed. It is closed in the sense that nothing outside it, nothing non-physical, could ever have causal effects inside the physical universe. If that is so, and consciousness is not a part of the physical universe, then it seems that it must be epiphenomenal. All of our conscious life plays no role whatever in any of our behavior.

Against property dualism

On the other hand, let us assume that the physical universe is not causally closed, that consciousness can function causally in the production of physical behavior. 


But this seems to lead us out of the frying pan and into the fire, because we know, for example, that when I raise my arm, there is a story to be told at the level of neuron firings, neurotransmitters and muscle contractions that is entirely sufficient to account for the movement of my arm.

So if we are to suppose that consciousness also functions in the movement of my arm, then it looks like we have two distinct causal stories, neither reducible to the other; and to put the matter very briefly, my bodily movements have too many causes. We have causal overdetermination.

The property dualist has a conception of consciousness and its relation to the rest of reality that we think believe is profoundly mistaken. We can best make our differences with property dualism explicit by stating how we would deal with these same issues.

  1. There are not two (or five or seven) fundamental ontological categories, rather the act of categorization itself is always interest relative. For that reason the attempt to answer such questions as, “How many fundamental metaphysical categories are there?”, as it stands, is meaningless. We live in exactly one universe and there are as many different ways of dividing it as you like. In addition to electromagnetism, consciousness, and gravitational attraction, there are declines in interest rates, points scored in football games, reasons for being suspicious of quantified modal logic, and election results in Florida. Now, quick, were the election results mental or physical? And how about the points scored in a football game? Do they exist only in the mind of the scorekeeper or are they rather ultimately electronic phenomena on the scoreboard? I think these are not interesting, or even meaningful, questions. We live in one universe, and it has many different types of features. This view is not “pluralism,” if that term suggests that there is a nonarbitrary, noninterest-relative principle of distinguishing the elements of the plurality. A useful distinction, for certain purposes, is to be made between the biological and the non-biological. At the most fundamental level, consciousness is a biological phenomenon in the sense that it is caused by biological processes, is itself a biological process, and interacts with other biological processes. Consciousness is a biological process like digestion, photosynthesis, or the secretion of bile. Of course, our conscious lives are shaped by our culture, but culture is itself an expression of our underlying biological capacities.
  2. Then what about irreducibility? This is the crucial distinction between my our conception and property dualism. Consciousness is causally reducible to brain processes, because all the features of consciousness are accounted for causally by neurobiological processes going on in the brain, and consciousness has no causal powers of its own in addition to the causal powers of the underlying neurobiology. But in the case of consciousness, causal reducibility does not lead to ontological reducibility. From the fact that consciousness is entirely accounted for causally by neuron firings, for example, it does not follow that consciousness is nothing but neuron firings. Why not? What is the difference between consciousness and other phenomena that undergo an ontological reduction on the basis of a causal reduction, phenomena such as color and solidity? The difference is that consciousness has a first person ontology; that is, it only exists as experienced by some human or animal, and therefore, it cannot be reduced to something that has a third person ontology, something that exists independently of experiences. It is as simple as that. The property dualist and we are in agreement that consciousness is ontologically irreducible. The key points of disagreement are that we insist that from everything we know about the brain, consciousness is causally reducible to brain processes; and for that reason I deny that the ontological irreducibility of consciousness implies that consciousness is something “over and above”, something distinct from, its neurobiological base. No, causally speaking, there is nothing there, except the neurobiology, which has a higher level feature of consciousness. In a similar way there is nothing in the car engine except molecules, which have such higher level features as the solidity of the cylinder block, the shape of the piston, the firing of the spark plug, etc. “Consciousness” does not name a distinct, separate phenomenon, something over and above its neurobiological base, rather it names a state that the neurobiological system can be in. Just as the shape of the piston and the solidity of the cylinder block are not something over and above the molecular phenomena, but are rather states of the system of molecules, so the consciousness of the brain is not something over and above the neuronal phenomena, but rather a state that the neuronal system is in. So there is a sense in which consciousness is reducible: The mark of empirical reality is the possession of cause and effect relations, and consciousness (like other system features) has no cause and effect relations beyond those of its microstructural base. There is nothing in your brain except neurons (together with glial cells, blood flow and all the rest of it) and sometimes a big chunk of the thalamocortical system is conscious. The sense in which, though causally reducible, it is ontologically irreducible, is that a complete description of the third person objective features of the brain would not be a description of its first person subjective features.
  3. We say consciousness is a feature of the brain. The property dualist says consciousness is a feature of the brain. This creates the illusion that we are saying the same thing. But we are not, as we hope our response to points 1 and 2 makes clear. The property dualist means that in addition to all the neurobiological features of the brain, there is an extra, distinct, non physical feature of the brain; whereas we mean that consciousness is a state the brain can be in, in the way that liquidity and solidity are states that water can be in. Here is where the inadequacy of the traditional terminology comes out most obviously. The property dualist wants to say that consciousness is a mental and therefore not physical feature of the brain. I want to say consciousness is a mental and therefore biological and therefore physical feature of the brain. But because the traditional vocabulary was designed to contrast the mental and the physical, we cannot say what we want to say in the traditional vocabulary without sounding like we are saying something inconsistent. Similarly when the identity theorists said that consciousness is nothing but a neurobiological process, they meant that consciousness as qualitative, subjective, irreducibly phenomenological (airy fairy, touchy feely, etc.) does not even exist, that only third person neurobiological processes exist. We want also to say that consciousness is nothing but a neurobiological process, and by that we mean that precisely because consciousness is qualitative, subjective, irreducibly phenomenological (airy fairy, touchy feely, etc.) it has to be a neurobiological process; because, so far, we have not found any system that can cause and realize conscious states except brain systems. Maybe someday we will be able to create conscious artifacts, in which case subjective states of consciousness will be “physical” features of those artifacts.
  4. Because irreducible consciousness is not something over and above its neural base, the problems do not arise for us. Of course, the universe is causally closed, and we can call it “physical” if we like; but that cannot mean “physical” as opposed to “mental;” because, equally obviously, the mental is part of the causal structure of the universe in the same way that the solidity of pistons is part of the causal structure of the universe; even though the solidity is entirely accounted for by molecular behavior, and consciousness is entirely accounted for by neuronal behavior. 

The typical property dualist thinks that the brain "gives rise to" consciousness, and this gives us a picture of consciousness as given off from the brain as a pot of boiling water gives off steam.

In the epiphenomenalist version of property dualism, the consciousness given off has no causal powers of its own, though it is caused by the brain.

In the full blooded version consciousness has a kind of life of its own, capable of interfering with the material world.

We think this whole way of thinking of the matter is profoundly mistaken and I want to explain this point in a little more detail.

Nobody thinks that we are forced to postulate that solidity is epiphenomenal on the grounds that it has no causal powers in addition to the causal powers of the molecular structures, nor do they think that if we recognize the causal powers of solidity we are forced to postulate causal overdetermination, because now the same effect can be explained either in terms of the behavior of the molecules or the solidity of the whole structure. 


And what goes for solidity goes for photosynthesis, digestion, electricity, earthquakes, hurricanes in Kansas, and pretty much everything else that we normally cite in causal explanations.

In every case the higher level phenomenon is causally reducible to its microstructural basis, in exactly the same way that consciousness is causally reducible to its micro structural basis.

Why are we inclined to make this mistake for consciousness when we would not think of making it for other causal phenomena? I think the answer is obvious. Because the traditional vocabulary tells us that the mental and the physical are two distinct ontological categories and because consciousness is not ontologically reducible to its neuronal base, we suppose that is not a part of the physical world, in the way that these other phenomena are.

That is the deeper mistake of property dualism. And that is precisely where I part company with the property dualist.

The problem is not only that we have an obsolete 17th century vocabulary that contrasts the mental and the physical, but that we also have a misconception of the nature of reduction.

Causal reduction does not necessarily imply ontological reduction, though typically where we have a causal reduction as in the case of the liquidity, solidity and color we have tended to make an ontological reduction.

But the impossibility of an ontological reduction in the case of consciousness does not give it any mysterious metaphysical status. Consciousness does not exist in a separate realm and it does not have any causal powers in addition to those of its neuronal base any more than solidity has any extra causal powers in addition to its molecular base. 

The universe does consist entirely in physical particles in fields of force (or whatever the ultimately true physics discovers), these are typically organized into systems, some of the systems are biological, and some of the biological systems are conscious. Consciousness is thus an ordinary feature of certain biological systems, in the same way that photosynthesis, digestion, and lactation are ordinary features of biological systems.

Philosophical theories, both good ones and bad ones, are typically the expressions of pictures. Normally the picture is expressed in the formulation of the theory, especially if the theory is stated in metaphors. We ought to be deeply suspicious of the metaphors of “over and above” of “emergent properties” of brains “giving rise to” consciousness. 


What could these metaphors possibly mean? We said that the property dualist thinks of consciousness as like steam rising from a pot of boiling water. Here is another picture: We are to think of consciousness as like the frosting on the cake of the brain (and in its panpsychist version, the frosting on the whole universe). The frosting is definitely something distinct from the cake and is on top of (over and above). It. That,we have argued, is a wrong picture.

The right picture, if we are going persist in the metaphor of the cake, is that consciousness is the state that the cake (brain) is in. On the property dualist view we are supposed to think that consciousness is a property of the brain. 


But consider actual properties of the brain, like weight, shape, color, solidity, etc. Nobody says that these properties of the brain “arise from”, or are “over and above” the brain.

The official claim is that consciousness is a property, not a thing, object or substance. But that is inconsistent with the conception of consciousness as something that is “over and above” the brain, that the brain “gives rise to”.

This conception requires that consciousness be a separate thing, object or nonproperty type of entity. The dualism in property dualism forces them to postulate a separate entity. Ironically the very dualism of the property dualist picture makes it impossible to state the theory without oxymoron.

Manifesto (continued)

In some circles the mode of thought grounded in experience and averse to speculation is stronger than ever, being strengthened precisely by the new opposition that has arisen.

In the research work of all branches of empirical science this spirit of a scientific conception of the worldis alive. However only a very few leading
thinkers give it systematic thought or advocate its principles, and but rarely are they in a position to assemble a circle of like-minded colleagues around them. We find anti-metaphysical endeavours especially in England, where the tradition of the great empiricists is still alive; the investigations
of Russell and Whitehead on logic and the analysis of reality have won international significance. In the U.S.A. these endeavours take on the most varied forms; in a certain sense James belongs to this group too.

The philosophical empiricism is practically dead in the universities of the world

Yes, the philosophical empiricism is practically dead in the universities of the world.

Manifesto (continued)

The new Russia definitely is seeking for a scientific world conception, even if partly leaning on older materialistic currents.


Vladimir Putin.

Scientific reality conception is almost dead in Russia now

Yes, scientific reality conception is almost dead in Russia now. Bortis Jeltsin changed Russia to a religious state with five official religions. Vladimir Putin supports strongly religions.

Manifesto (continued)

On the continent of Europe, a concentration of productive work in the direction of a scientific world conception is to be found especially in Berlin (Reichenbach,Petzoldt, Grelling, Dubislav and others) and in Vienna. That Vienna was specially suitable ground for this development is historically understandable. In the second half of the nineteenth century, liberalism was long the dominant political current.

Adolf Hitler was catholic cristian

Adolf Hitler wiped out the scientific reality conception in the continental Europe.

Manifesto (continued)

Its world of ideas stems from the enlightenment, from empiricism, utilitarianism and the free trade movement of England. In Vienna's liberal movement, scholars of world renown occupied leading positions.

There is no purpose in the world

Most moral philosphers oppose consequential ethics. Hedonistic utilitarianism is the paradigmatic example of a consequentialist ethics. This form of utilitarianism holds that what matters is the aggregate happiness; the happiness of everyone and not the happiness of any particular person.

Contemporay logical empiricism asserts that the normative ethics does not belong to the philosophy. The descriptive ethics belongs to the sociology.

Ask the philosopher to be as modest as the scientist; then he may become as successful as a man of science. But do not ask him what yoy should do. Open your eyes to your own will, and try to unite your will with tha of others. There is no more purpose or meaning in tha world than you put into it.

1951. Hans Reichenbach: The Rise of Scientific Philosophy. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01055-0, p. 302.

Manifesto (continued)

Here an anti-metaphysical spirit was cultivated, for instance, by men like Theodor Gomperz who translated the works of J. S. Mill,Suess, Jodl and others.

Thanks to this spirit of enlightenment, Vienna has been leading in a scientifically oriented people's education. With the collaboration of Victor Adler and Friedrich Jodl, the society for popular education was founded
and carried forth; 'popular university courses' and the 'people's college' were set up by the well-known historian Ludo Hartmann whose antimetaphysical attitude and materialist conception of history expressed itself in all his actions.

The same spirit also.inspired the movement of the 'Free School' which was the forerunner of today's school reform.

Religious teaching in the schools of Europe

There is teaching of religions or religious teaching in many European public schools.

Manifesto (continued)

In this liberal atmosphere lived Ernst Mach (born 1838) who was in Vienna as student and as privatdozent (1861-64). He returned to Vienna only at an advanced age when a special chair of the philosophy of the inductive sciences was created for him (1895).

He was especially intent on cleansing empirical science, and in the first place, physics, of metaphysical notions. We recall his critique of absolute space which made him a forerunner of Einstein, his struggle against the metaphysics of the thing-in itself and of the concept of substance, and his investigations of the construction of scientific concepts from ultimate elements, namely sense data.

Concept of the matter

Einsteinian conception of the space was positivistic. The logical empiricism of Eino Kaila is not positivistic as we will show below.

The use of the concept of the substance is a part of the language of the physics and a part of the chemisty. The concept of the matter has empirically verifiable consequences. The materialism asserts that we will not need the concept of the nonmaterial substance.

Manifesto (continued)

In some points the development of science has not vindicated his views, for instance in his opposition to atomic theory and in his expectation that physics would be advanced through the physiology of the senses.

The essential points of his conception however were of positive use in the further development of science. Mach's chair was later occupied by Ludwig Boltzmann (1902-06) who held decidedly empiricist views.

The activity of the physicists Mach and Boltzmann in a philosophical
professorship makes it conceivable that there was a lively dominant interest in the epistemological and logical problems that are linked with the foundations of physics.

Logical empiricism is not epistemology


G. H. v. Wright.

The Finnish philosopher G. H. v. Wright said after Congress of Philosophy (Amsterdam, 1948) that the logical empiricism has too much attention in to epistemology. Finnish philosoher and the founder of the logical empiricism Eino Kaila Kaila was very dissatisfied (There was only one representave from Finland in the congress,


Dr. Pertti Lindfors

source: Dr. Pertti Lindfors).

Manifesto (continued)

These problems concerning foundations also led toward a renewal of logic. The path towards these objectives had also been cleared in Vienni from quite a different quarter by Franz Brentano (during 1874-80 professor of philosophy in the theological faculty, and later lecturer in the philosophical faculty).

As a Catholic priest Brentano understood scholasticism; he started directly from the scholastic logic and from Leibniz's endeavours to reform logic, while leaving aside Kant and the idealist systembuilders. Brentano and his students time and again showed their understanding of men like Bolzano (Wissenschaftslehre, 1837) and others who were working toward a rigorous new foundation of logic. In particular Alois HofIer (1853-1922) put this side of Brentano's philosophy in the foreground before a forum in which, through Mach's and Boltzmann's influence, the adherents of the scientific world conception were strongly represented. In the Philosophical Society at the University of Vienna numerous discussions took place under Hofler's direction, concerning questions of the foundation of physics and allied epistemological and logical problems.

The Philosophical Society published Prefaces and Introductions to Classical Works on Mechanics (1899), as well as the individual papers of Bolzano (edited by Hofler and Hahn, 1914 and 1921). In Brentano's Viennese circle there was the young Alexius von Meinong (1870-82, later professor in Graz), whose theory of objects (1907) has certainly some affinity to modern theories of concepts and whose pupil Ernst Mally (Graz) also worked in the field of logistics. The early writings of Hans Pichler (1909) also belong to these circles.

Roughly at the same time as Mach, his contemporary and friend Jose Popper-Lynkeus worked in Vienna. Beside his physical and technical achievements we mention his large-scale, if unsystematic philosophical reflections (1899) and his rational economic plan (A General Peacetime Labour Draft, 1878). He consciously served the spirit of enlightenment, as is also evident from his book on Voltaire. His rejection of metaphysics was shared by many other Viennese sociologists, for example Rudolf Goldscheid.

It is remarkable that in the field of political economy, too, there was in Vienna a strictly scientific method, used by the marginal utility school (Carl Menger, 1871); this method took root in England, France and Scandinavia, but not in Germany. Marxist theory likewise was cultivated and extended with special emphasis in Vienna (Otto Bauer, Rudolf Hilferding, Max Adler and others).

These influences from various sides had the result, especially since 1900, that there was in Vienna a sizeable number of people who frequently and
assiduously discussed more general problems in close connection with empirical sciences. Above all these were epistemological and methodological problems of physics, for instance Poincare's conventionalism, Duhem's conception of the aim and structure of physical theories (his translator was the Viennese Friedrich Adler, a follower of Mach, at that time privatdozent in Zurich); also questions about the foundations of mathematics, problems of axiomatics, logistic and the like.


Axiomatic geometry

The Finnish philosopher Eino Kaila says:

"...axiomatic geometry...In this case we say, then, that the basic concepts are implicitly defined by the axioms"

(p. 90, Human Knowledge, A Classic Statement of Logical Empiricism).

Manifesto (continued)

The following were the main strands from the history of science and philosophy that came together here, marked by those of their representatives whose works were mainly read and discussed:

(1) Positivism and empiricism: Hume, Enlightenment, Comte, J. S.
Mill, Richard Avenarius, Mach.

Hume's guillotine


David Hume.

David Hume discusses problem of "Is and Ought" in book III, part I, section I of his book, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4705/4705-h/4705-h.htm):

"In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden

I am surprized to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not.

This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence.

For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, it is necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.

But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason."

Hume asks, given knowledge of the way the universe is, in what sense can we say it ought to be different?

Hume calls for caution against such inferences in the absence of any explanation of how the ought-statements follow from the is-statements. But how exactly can an "ought" be derived from an "is"? The question, prompted by Hume's small paragraph, has become one of the central questions of ethical theory, and Hume is usually assigned the position that such a derivation is impossible. This complete severing of "is" from "ought" has been given the graphic designation of Hume's Guillotine.

Logical empiricism says that Hume's guillotine

You can't derive an "ought" from an "is

is a part of the definition of the truth". Facts can be true but the norms can not be true.

(2) Foundations, aims and methods of empirical science (hypotheses in physics, geometry, etc.): Helmholtz, Riemann, Mach, Poincare, Enriques, Duhem, BoItzmann, Einstein.

Locical empiricism is a kind of empiricism

The contemporary logical empirism is a kind of the empiricism.

Manifesto (continued)

(3) Logistic and its application to reality:. Leibniz,.: Peano, Frege,Schroder, Russell, Whitehead, Wittgenstein.' , (4) Axiomatics: Pasch, Peano, Vailati, Pieri, Hilbert. (5) Hedonism and positivist sociology: Epicurus, Hume, Bentham, J. S. Mill, Comte, Feuerbach, Marx, Spencer, Mtiller-Lyer, Popper-Lynkeus, Carl Menger (the elder).

Definition of the truth in logic

Logical empiricism defines that the truth of the true sentences  (axioms and derivable theorems) of the logic is a part of the definition of the truth.

Manifesto (continued)

The Circle around Schlick

In 1922 Moritz Schlick was called from Kiel to Vienna. His activities fitted well into the historical development of the Viennese scientific, atmosphere. Himself originally a physicist, he awakened to new life the tradition that had been started by Mach and BoItzann and, in a certain sense, carried on by the anti-metaphysically inclined Adolf Stohr. (In Vienna successively: Mach, Boltzmann, Stehr, Schlick; in Prague: Mach, Einstein, Philipp Frank.).

Around Schlick, there gathered in the course of time a circle whose members united various endeavours in the direction of a scientific conception of the world. This concentration produced a fruitful mutual inspiration. Not one of the members is a so-called 'pure' philosopher; all of them have done work in a special field of science. Moreover they come from different branches of science and originally from different philosophic attitudes. But over the years growing uniformity appeared; this too was a result of the specifically scientific attitude: "What can be said at all, can be said clearly" (Wittgenstein);

There are norms in logical empiricism

Logical empiricism had a norm for the clear language:


Translability of Factual sentences into language of experience

(Human Knowledge, A Classic Statement of Logical Empiricism, Eino Kaila, p. 160).

Kaila says that he can not know if A is true (p. 165, ). In his later works Kaila says that A is not true.

We agree that we can not to translate all factual sentences into language of experience but we will assert that A is not a fact but a norm for languages. Norms are not true or false.

Manifesto (continued)

if there are differences of opinion, it is in the end possible to agree, and therefore agreement is demanded. It became increasingly clearer that a position not only free from metaphysics, but opposed to metaphysics was the common goal of all.

Mind Theories

The main issue in Philosophy of Mind concerns the existence of the mind itself. There are three basic views of the mind.

  1. There are theories that consider it as an immaterial.
  2. There are theories considering the mind as a material.
  3. There are also some neutral theories.

The Mind as Immaterial

The best known immaterialist was Plato. He defended the view that the human mind exists and is completely immaterial. Also he believed that the mind is separated from the body and can also exist without it. This is the dualism theory. 

Another famous dualist was Rene Descartes. He believed in the explicit view that mind and matter are two completely different substances and each one can exist separately.

The question that the dualists had to deal with was if these two substances can affect each other. This is known as the mind-body problem.

There are certain human behaviors that involve both the mind and the body. An example would be a very loud environment where you close your ears. As Dualists tried to explain these phenomena, two theories were proposed.

The first view was proposed from Descartes and is called interactionism. Descartes said that the mind and the body can affect each other with their functions. So, any mind function has affects in the body and vice versa.

The second theory is called epiphenomenalism and is that only the body is capable affecting the mind. The Mind cannot affect the body. This view resulted when the interactionism could not explain the brain functions in neurology terms.

The Irish bishop George Berkeley had deal differently the mind-body problem. He claimed that everything is immaterial and no material objects exist. His view was that the whole world was constituted from minds and ideas. What seems to be material is just a mental idea. This concept of the human mind is called spiritualistic monism.

The mind as a Material

There are three basic materialistic theories,

  1. The Eliminative materialism,
  2. the behaviorism and
  3. the central-state theory.

The eliminative materialism is a view of the human mind considering that there are no such things as sensations, feelings, images and emotions. According to eliminative materialists, all these mental phenomena are non-existent and are completely hypothetical that need to be discarded.

An alternative to eliminative materialism is the reductive materialism. Reductive materialists use the terms of feelings, sensations etc. but only as physical properties of the brain.

Behaviorism and central-state theories derived from the reductive materialism when the sensations, feelings etc. had to be defined. These two theories are the alternative answers that reductive materialists proposed.

Behaviorism is the view that, sensations, feelings etc. refer to the behavior or movements of the bodies. Behaviorists analyze the mental terms as behavioral terms so that any mental state to be synonymous with a behavior.

The central-state view considers that mental phenomena have no difference from any state or activity within the human body. Thus, all mental terms refer different states of the central nervous system or the brain. For example the hunger is a state of the brain while the feeling of pain is another state.

There is no problem with the substances

There is no problem with the substances because the religious concept of "soul" is unnessesary.

Properties (attributes)


There are no problems with attributes (properties).

Different classes of attributes








Problems of attributes

There are no problems with attributes (properties).

There is no problem between facts and values

The ethical axioms are not necessary truths because they are not truths of any kind. Truth is a predicate of statements; but the linguistic expression of ethics are not statements.

They are directives. A directive can not be classified as true or false; these predicates do not apply because directive sentences of a logical nature different dromthat of indicative senstenses , or statements. 

1951. Hans Reichenbach:  The Rise of Scientific Philosophy. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01055-0, p. 180.

There is no problem between facts and values. Facts are true or false, values are not true or false (Hume's guillotine).

We have no need to call principles of the particular discipline metaphysics.

We will call speculation "speculation" and not metaphysics. We accept the curriculum of speculations in the universities.

We have no need to call excessively subtle or recondite reasonings metaphysics.

If we have a need to consider ontology (theory of the existence) we will say that we are considering ontological questions. There is no problems with the concept of "exist". The word has different meanings depending on contexts.

Manifesto (continued)

For these attitudes toward questions of life also showed a noteworthy agreement, although these questions were not in the foreground of themes discussed within the Circle.

For these attitudes are more closely related to the scientific worldconception than it might at first glance appear from a purely theoretical point of view.:  For instance, endeavours toward a new organization of economic and social relations, toward the unification of mankind, toward a reform of school and education, all show an inner link with the scientific world-conception; it appears that these endeavoursare welcomed and regarded with sympathy by the members of the Circle, some of whom indeed actively further them.

The Vienna Circle does not confine itself to collective work as a closed group. It is also trying to make contact with the living movements of the present, so far as they are well disposed toward the scientific world-conception and turn away from metaphysics and theology.

No theogoly necessary

Contemporary logical empiricism will not include the theology to the definition of the science. We are using the concept "conception of reality", not concept "world-conception".

Manifesto (continued)

The Ernst Mach Society is today the place from which the Circle speaks to a wider public. This society, as stated in its program, wishes to "further and disseminate the scientific world-conception.

Scientific conception of reality

We have no need to use the concept "scientific conception of the reality". There are true conception in the science and there is wrong conceptions in the science.

Manifesto (continued)

It will organize lectures and publications about the present position of the scientific world-conception, in order to demonstrate the significance of exact research for the social sciences and the natural sciences.

Importance of natural sciences

The logical empiricism accepts the signifigance of the natural sciences.

Manifesto (continued)

In this way intellectual tools should be formed for modern empiricism, tools that are also needed in forming public and private life. By the choice of its name, the society wishes to describe its basic orientation: science free of metaphysics. This, however, does not mean that the society declares itself in programmatic agreement with the individual doctrines of Mach. The Vienna Circle believes that in collaborating with the Ernst Mach Society it fulfils a
demand of the day: we have to fashion intellectual tools for everyday life, for the daily life of the scholar but also for the daily life of all those who in some way join in working at the conscious  re-shaping of life. The vitality that shows itself in the efforts for a rational transformation of the social and economic order, permeates the movement for a scientific world-conception too. It is typical of the present situation in Vienna that when the Ernst Mach Society was founded in November 1928, Schlick was chosen chairman; round him the common work In the field of the scientific world-conception had concentrated most strongly.

Schlick and Philipp Frank jointIy edit the collection of Monographs on the Scientific World-Conception [Schriften zur wissenschaftlichen Weltauffassung) in which members of the Vienna Circle preponderate.


The scientific world conception is characterised not so much by theses of its own, but rather by its basic attitude, its points of view and direction of research. The goal ahead is unified science. The endeavour is to link and harmonise the achievements of individual
investigators in their various fields of science. From this aim follows the emphasis on collective efforts, and also the emphasis on what can be grasped intersubjectively; from this springs the search for a neutral system of formulae, for a symbolism freed from the slag of historical languages; and also the search for a total system of concepts.

Neutral system of formulae

The logical empiricism searches for a neutral system of formulae, for a symbolism freed from the slag of historical languages; and also the search for a total system of concepts.

Manifesto (continued)

Neatness and clarity are striven for, and dark distances and unfathomable depths rejected. Inscience there are no 'depths'; there is surface everywhere: all experience forms a complex network, which cannot always be surveyed and,can often be grasped only in parts.

Experience forms a complex network

The logical empiricism understands that all experience forms a complex network, which cannot always be surveyed and,can often be grasped only in parts.

Manifesto (continued)

The Everything is accessible to man; and man is the measure of all things.

Is a man the measure of all thing

Logical empiricism thinks that there is some empirical truth in an old phrase "man is the measure of all things".

Manifesto (continued)

Here is an affinity with the Sophists, not with the Platonists'; with the Epicureans, not with the Pythagoreans; with all those who stand for earthly being and the here and now. The scientific world-conception knows no unsolvable riddle. Clarification of the traditional philosophical problems leads us partly to unmask them as pseudo-problems, and partly to transform them into empirical problems and thereby subject them to the judgment of experimental science. The task of philosophical work lies in this clarification of problems and assertions, not in the propounding of special 'philosophical' pronouncements.

Clarification of concepts

Logical empiricism thinks that the task of philosophical work lies in this clarification of problems and assertions, not in the propounding of special 'philosophical' pronouncements.

Manifesto (continued)

The method of this clarification is that of logical analysis; of it, Russell says (Our Knowledge of the External World, p. 4) that it

"has gradually crept into philosophy through the critical scrutiny of mathematics... It represents, I believe, the same kind of advance as was introduced into physics by Galileo: the substitution of piecemeal, detailed and verifiable results for large untested generalities recommended only by a certain appeal to imagination."

Elements of Analytic Philosophy

Logical empiricism thinks that there is no need to call the logical analysis "analytic philosophy". The father of the term "analytic philosophy" is Arthur Pap (Elements of Analytic Philosophy, New York: Macmillan, 1949) who was opponent of the logical empiricism.

Manifesto (continued)

Ernst Mach society believe, the same kind of advance as was introduced into physics by Galileo: the substitution of piecemeal, detailed and verifiable results for large untested generalities recommended only by a certain appeal to imagination."

It is the method of logical analysis that essentially distinguishes recent empiricism and positivism from the earlier version that was more biological- psychological in its orientation. If someone asserts "there is a God", "the primary basis of the world is the unconscious", "there is an entelechy which is the leading principle in the living organism"; we do not say to him: "what you say is false"; but we ask him: "what do you mean by these statements?"

Then it appears that there is a sharp boundary between two kinds of statements. To one belong statements as they are made by empirical science; their meaning can be determined by logical analysis or, more precisely, through reduction to the simplest statements about the empirically given.

The other statements, to which belong those cited above, reveal themselves as empty of meaning if one takes them in the way that metaphysicians intend. One can, of course, often re-interpret them as empirical statements; but then they lose the content of feeling which is usually essential to the metaphysician.

The metaphysician and the theologian believe, thereby misunderstanding themselves, that their statements say something, or that they denote a state of affairs.

Analysis, however, shows that these statements say nothing but merely express a certain mood and spirit. To express such feelings for life can be a significant task.

But the proper medium for doing so is art, for instance lyric poetry or music. It is dangerous to choose the linguistic garb of a theory instead: a theoretical content is simulated where none exists.

If a metaphysician or theologian wants to retain the usual medium of language, then he must himself realise and bring out clearly that he is giving not description but expression, not theory or communication of knowledge, but poetry or myth.

If a mystic asserts that he has experiences that lie above and beyond all concepts, one cannot deny this. But the mystic cannot talk about it, for talking implies capture by concepts and reduction to scientifically classifiable states of affairs.

The emotive meaning

Logical empiricism admits that the emotional expressions have an emotive meaning but it rejects the conception that such propositions can be true or untrue. Perhaps it is wrong to say that they have no meaning.

This is a first place in the manifesto which uses the word knowledge.

I have said abive that the nowledge is not a concept of the philosophy.

This means that I will give the space for correspondence theory of the empirical truth.

Next we will ive a citation of new way to see the concept od truth:

Source: https://www.bu.edu/wcp/IntroV6.htm

Jaakko Hintikka takes a critical look at theories of truth and what has held them back, and with unabashed advocacy argues that the development of IF-logic opens up new prospects for being able to define truth for our actual, natural languages.

Supporting at least a pre-theoretic correspondence view of truth, Hintikka also starts with Aristotle's dictum and Tarski's definition of truth for formal languages.

However, Hintikka diagnoses Tarski's result on the undefinability of truth as "merely a flaw in ordinary first-order logic," one easily corrected by introducing variable independence.

The result is IF-logic, "our true basic logic," a logic within which a truth predicate can be defined. This definability is not surprising when one is made aware of the fact that IF-logic is equivalent to the S11 fragment of second-order logic, since a truth predicate for this fragment is definable by a formula in the fragment.

Indeed, the proof that IF-logic has a definable truth predicate proceeds through S11. However, the thrust of Hintikka's work is to initiate a basic shift of what our underlying logic is, and he takes the properties of IF-logic as fundamental.

Indeed, Hintikka advocates the specific form of the truth definition for IF-logic, one formulated through semantic games of verification and falsification.

He considers these games to be "constitutive of the concept of truth."

According to him however, because of

"a mistake of the Wittgensteinians and of the constructivists"

this approach will not satisfy them; they confuse the language games of natural language that serve to define what it means for a sentence to be true with those structured "language games" like his that enable us to come to know the truth of a sentence.

Hintikka concludes by asserting that

"an objective correspondence notion of truth is imbedded in our own language. If we understand that language, we understand the notion of truth."

Taking IF-logic as the basis Hintikka, like Sandu, brings out what a commitment to that logic would entail: First, one gives up "the wild-goose chase of compositionality"; second, one gives up classical negation, at least for the full logic; third, axiomatic set theory becomes

"useless as a vehicle for theoretically satisfactory truth definitions."

These amount to radical departures from the usual context provided by first-order logic, departures more fully explored and argued for by Hintikka in his book The Principles of Mathematics Revisited (1996).

Manifesto (continued)

The scientific world-conception rejects metaphysical philosophy. But how can we explain the wrong paths of metaphysics? This question may be posed from several points of view: psychological, sociological and logical. Research in a psychological direction is still in its early stages; the beginnings of more penetrating explanation may perhaps be seen in
the investigations of Freudian psychoanalysis. The state of sociological investigation is similar; we may mention the theory of the 'ideological
superstructure'; here the field remains open to worthwhile further research.

he scientific world-conception rejects metaphysical philosophy. But how can we explain the wrong paths of metaphysics? This question may be posed from several points of view: psychological, sociological and logical. Research in a psychological direction is still in its early stages; the beginnings of more penetrating explanation may perhaps be seen in
the investigations of Freudian psychoanalysis. The state of socio
advanced is the clarification of the logical origins of metaphysical aberration, especially through the works of Russell and Wittgenstein. In metaphysical theory, and even in the very form of the questions, there are two basic logical mistakes: too narrow a tie to the form of traditional languages and a confusion about the logical achievement of thought. Ordinary language for instance uses the same part of speech, the substantive, for things ('apple') as well as as for qualities {'hardness'), relations ('friendship'), and processes ('sleep'); therefore it misleads , one into a thing-like' conception of functional concepts (hypostasis, substantialization). One can quote countless similar examples of linguistic misleading, that have been equally fatal to philosophers.

The second basic error of metaphysics consists in the notion that thinking can either lead to knowledge out of its own resources without using any empirical material, or at least arrive at new contents by an inference from given states of affair. Logical, investigation, however, leads to the result that all thought and inference consists 'of nothing but a transition from statements to other statements that contain nothing that was not already in the former (tautological transformation). It is therefore not possible to develop a metaphysic from 'pure thought,'.

Logical empiricism admits that it is possible to do much of metaphysics using only own brains. Without any empirical material this leads very often to bad concepts and false or unjustified propositions.

Manifesto (continued)

In such a way logical analysis overcomes not only metaphysics in the proper, classical sense of the word, especially scholastic metaphysics and that of the systems of German idealism, but also the hidden metaphysics of Kantian and modern apriorism. The scientific world-conception knows no unconditionally valid knowledge derived from pure reason, no 'synthetic judgments a priori' of the kind that lie at the basis of Kantian epistemology and even more of all pre- and post-Kantian ontology and

Some conceps of Immanuel Kant

First we will present some critics on the concepts used by Immanuel Kant.

The terms a priori ("from the earlier") and a posteriori ("from the later") are used in philosophy (epistemology) to distinguish two types of knowledge, justification, or argument:

A priori knowledge or justification is independent of experience (for example "All bachelors are unmarried"). Galen Strawson has stated that an a priori argument is one in which

"you can see that it is true just lying on your couch. You don't have to get up off your couch and go outside and examine the way things are in the physical world. You don't have to do any science."

A posteriori knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence

"Some bachelors I have met are very happy".

Analytic propositions are true by virtue of their meaning, while synthetic propositions are true by how their meaning relates to the reality.

Synthetic propositions are true by how their meaning relates to the world.

Quine's views on the a priori and analytic


  1. Quine's contemporaries, the Logical Empiricism, took the traditional view that mathematics, logic, geometry were a priori. Quine, however, shared the same view that J.S. Mill did with respect to a priori knowledge, namely, that it's still empirical (a posteriori) in nature. He thought that mathematics, logic, geometry and other similar areas are not really a priori but are known via empirical evidence.
  2. Quine attacked the notion of a priori knowledge by attacking the analytic/synthetic division. He believed we were unable to articulate what analyticity is because we are unable to articulate what synonymy is. According to Quine, there is no fact that can determine whether words have identical meaning.
  3. Quine was not as hostile towards traditional questions in a priori metaphysics (e.g. Do universals exist? Do we have freewill? Do abstract objects exist? Is the mind physical? etc.) as compared to the Logical Empiricists. The logical empiricists considered all questions in philosophy and metaphysics (and religion and ethics) to be nonsensical becase they were not empirically testable nor anserable through empirical methods. However, Quine was hostile towards treating those questions as a priori questions, but he was not hostile to the questions themselves per se. In many ways, he is credited (or blamed) with inspiring a new acceptance of metaphysical questions in the contemporary scene. Metaphysical claims can, on his view, be treated as supported in the same way scientific claims are supported. Infamously, he argues that abstract objects exist by arguing that we use them in mathematics, which we use in physics, which is well supported; so, we have indirect empirical evidence that mathematical objects exist.
  4. Quine was more hostile towards some endeavors and less hostile towards others. He thinks that some approaches to metaphysics were worse off than others. In general, he respects those claims that can be tied in some way, likely quite indirect as illustrated above, to empirical science. Thus for example, he was skeptical of philosophy but confident in mathematics when trying to answer the question "do numbers exist?"

What is the synonym

We can use following attributes of the variable x:







A synonym is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language.

Words that are synonyms are said to be synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is called synonymy.

The word comes from Ancient Greek syn (σύν)  ("with") and onoma (ὄνομα) ("name"). An example of synonyms are the words begin, start, and commence.

Words can be synonymous when meant in certain senses, even if they are not synonymous in all of their senses.

For example, if we talk about a long time or an extended time, long and extended are synonymous within that context.

Synonyms with exact interchangeability share a single seme (seme, the smallest unit of meaning recognized in semantics), refers to a single characteristic of a sememe., whereas those with inexactly similar meanings share a sememe and thus overlap within a semantic field (n linguistics, a semantic field is a set of words grouped by meaning referring to a specific subject).

As we have seen there is no problem to list the types of the analytic sentences. .

Formal synonymy

We can define the formal synonymity as follows:
  1. Sentences N1(x) ⇔ N2(x) where N1 and N2 are names, are synonymous.
  2. Sentences A(x) ⇔ B(x) where A and B are properties, are synonymous.
  3. Sentences A(x1,x2,x3,...xn) ⇔ B(x1,x2,x3,...xn) where A and B are properties, are synonymous.
  4. Sentences B(A(x1,x2,x3,...xn)) ⇔C(x1,x2,x3,...xn) where A. B  and C are properties, are synonymous.
  5. Sentences B(A(x1,x2,x3,...xn)) ⇔D(C(x1,x2,x3,...xn)) where A, B, C  and D are properties, are synonymous.
  6. We can generalixe the composition in (5) to more and two properties.
  7. We can have differen amount of properties whic are equivalent.

We will define that only formally synonymous attribute sentences are analytic.

The formally synonymous sentences are analytically true or analytically false.

  1. Truth by definition
  2. Logical truth
  3. Mathematical truth
  4. Truth in calculus

It is possible that there are other types of sentences which are true by definition.

We call our conception weak empiricism.

The strong empiricism is the conceptions of J. S. Mill and Willard Orman van Quine.

The logical empiricism belongs to weak empiricism.

Interpretations and Quine

An interpretation is an assignment of meaning to the symbols of a formal language. Many formal languages used in mathematics, logic, and theoretical computer science are defined in solely syntactic terms, and as such do not have any meaning until they are given some interpretation. The general study of interpretations of formal languages is called formal semantics.

The most commonly studied formal logics are propositional logic, predicate logic and their modal analogs, and for these there are standard ways of presenting an interpretation.

In these contexts an interpretation is a function that provides the extension of symbols and strings of symbols of an object language.

For example, an interpretation function could take the predicate T (for "tall") and assign it the extension {a} (for "Abraham Lincoln"). Note that all our interpretation does is assign the extension {a} to the non-logical constant T, and does not make a claim about whether T is to stand for tall and 'a' for Abraham Lincoln.

Nor does logical interpretation have anything to say about logical connectives like 'and', 'or' and 'not'. Though we may take these symbols to stand for certain things or concepts, this is not determined by the interpretation function.

An interpretation often (but not always) provides a way to determine the truth values of sentences in a language. If a given interpretation assigns the value True to a sentence or theory, the interpretation is called a model of that sentence or theory.

If we take interpretations of sentences, all sentences are empirical (Quine is partially right.)

Interpretations and Quine

An interpretation is an assignment of meaning to the symbols of a formal language. Many formal languages used in mathematics, logic, and theoretical computer science are defined in solely syntactic terms, and as such do not have any meaning until they are given some interpretation. The general study of interpretations of formal languages is called formal semantics.

The most commonly studied formal logics are propositional logic, predicate logic and their modal analogs, and for these there are standard ways of presenting an interpretation.

In these contexts an interpretation is a function that provides the extension of symbols and strings of symbols of an object language.

For example, an interpretation function could take the predicate T (for "tall") and assign it the extension {a} (for "Abraham Lincoln"). Note that all our interpretation does is assign the extension {a} to the non-logical constant T, and does not make a claim about whether T is to stand for tall and 'a' for Abraham Lincoln.

Nor does logical interpretation have anything to say about logical connectives like 'and', 'or' and 'not'. Though we may take these symbols to stand for certain things or concepts, this is not determined by the interpretation function.

An interpretation often (but not always) provides a way to determine the truth values of sentences in a language. If a given interpretation assigns the value True to a sentence or theory, the interpretation is called a model of that sentence or theory.

If we take interpretations of sentences, all sentences are empirical (Quine is partially right.)

Critic against Quine, Putnam, Kripke and Hintikka

Toni Kannisto has in his article (https://www.academia.edu/7040202/Analyyttinen_synteettinen-erottelu_ja_metafysiikan_mahdollisuus) expressed that Willard Orman van Quine, Saul Kripke and Jaakko Hintikka are using wrong interpretations of Immanuel Kants concepts "a priori", "a posteriori", "analytic", "synthetic".

You can read this artikle in Internet so we will not comment it.

Because Saul Kripke is very influential we comment his assertion that  is synthetic a priori.

Kripke (Kripke, Saul, Naming and Necessity, Oxford, United Kingdom, Basil Blackwell Pub.1980, p. 48) defines:

“Let’s call something a rigid designator if in every possible world it designates the same object,” while non-rigid designators would not do so.

Saul Kripke argues that there are metaphysically necessary truths that are not truths of pure logic. Indeed, he argues that there are metaphysically necessary truths that are not a priori.

For example, on his view, that

water is H2O

is metaphysically necessary but a posteriori. He recognizes that there could have been substances that resemble water—substances that share water’s superficial qualities, such as its taste and visual appearance—but with a different molecular structure. But, he argues, these substances would not be water.

Philosophes must read the follo?ing article which is written by a professor of philosophy.


As a common man I will present a few words.

The formal synonymity is as follows:

Water(x) ? H2O(x)

This is a definition and therefore this is not a posteriori.

If we will not use this as definition we have no justification to say that there is an equivalence.

That the formula H2O is very recent invention of science has no signifigance.

As a teacher of physics I was showing that the water is H2O using electrolysis of the water. See the picture below.


As David Barnett (link above) says, using same logic with Hilary Putnam and Saul Kripke we should write:

sand is SiO2.
It is curious that the philosophers with extensive scholarship in mathematics and logic will go out of control with very simple linguistic things.


The moped has run away.

I have several philosophy books with are wondering how we can define a general dog. I have the Lapponian herder which has a name "Beana". It is looks average dog but it has
moore wolf than dogs in general.

I know that dogs and wolfs belong to the same species.

How to define a dog if wolfs are dogs and dogs are wolfs?

Are the genes the proper names of the individuals?

We have a good proposal for the proper names of the organic beings: use genetic codes.

identical twins

Identical homosexuals.

Identical twins have have not same genetic code:

Identical, or monozygotic, twins come from the same fertilized egg. So, at some point during cell division (before 14 days post-conception), identical twin embryos share virtually all of their DNA. During early fetal development, however, identical twins undergo more than 300 genetic mutations, or copy errors, on average.

As human cells divide trillions of times during their lifespan, a few hundred genetic mutations could lead to millions or trillions of genetic differences in the DNA of identical twins over the years.

Chemical factors can furthermore activate or suppress gene expression, which means that the same subset of genetic material can lead to the formation of different proteins.

Viruses can posses identical gemone but I have not seen examples of such viruses in philosophy books.

Identical ships


Two identical boats. Both have a name Theseus.

Many contemporary philosopher are changing the planks of the boat and then wondering if the boat can have the same proper name as it originally had.

I have a better example. Le us build two identical boats and let us sell them without naming for two purchaser. They are putting the boats to different seas but the accidentally give them the same name.

My opinion is that the philosophers are not very technical people. Nowadays nobody is repairing boats. Almost all will byu a new boat.

My conlusions

My conclusion is that the problem of the identtity does not belong to the philosophy. There are two kinds if the identity:

  1. Formal identity (for example in mathematics and
  2. empirical identity (for example identical twins.)

In mathematics we use the symbol =.

It is possible to use only two axioms:

Ref: x = x

LL: x = y → [φ(x) → φ(y)],

The other characteristic properties of identity, symmetry (x = yy = x), and transitivity (x = y & y = zx = z), may be deduced from Ref and LL.

(See http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-relative/)

We have much of definitions in mathematics

Definitions in mathematics form a solid and completely adequate foundation upon which we base all our mathematical reasoning.

A mathematical definition of a concept gives necessary and sufficient conditions for a creature to be an instance of that concept.

For example, the definition of a prime number is:

A number is a prime number if and only if it is a natural number greater than 1 with exactly two divisors.

It is clear that this deninition is a priori and analytic.

Against analytic philosophy

Next we show some critics against the logical empiricism.

Arthur Pap says in "An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science" (New York: The Free Press, 1962 ppp. 107-) that the axioms of Euclidean geometry are synthetic a priori.

Arthur Pap defines the concepts differently of above.

Arthur Pap was not quite a Logical Empiricist. He wrote his dissertation in philosophy of science under Ernest Nagel, and he published a textbook in the philosophy of science at the end of his tragically short career, but most of his work would be classified not a logical empiricism.

He took some stands that went against Logical Empiricist and was a persistent if friendly critic of the movement. Pap creted theory of a “functional a priori” in which fundamental principles of science are hardened into definitions and act as criteria for further inquiry.

Pap was strongly influenced by the pragmatists C. I. Lewis and John Dewey in developing this alternative theory of a priori knowledge.

Using Poincaré’s conventionalism as a springboard, Pap attempted to substantiate these views with examples from physics.

Pap, as well as Lewis and Dewey, developed an alternative theory of the a priori in the 1950s that never quite took hold, despite the fact that their views are very intriguing and similar to Michael Friedman’s recent work on the constitutive a priori.

Dewey says of fundamental principles that “while they are derived from examination of
methods previously used in their connection with the kind of conclusion they have produced, they are operationally a priori with respect to further inquiry” (Dewey, John. 1938/1986. Logic: The Theory of Inquiry,NewYork:Holt,Rinehart&
Winston, Repr. Collected Works of John Dewey: The Later Works, vol. 12, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.1938/1986, 21).

In his dissertation, Pap againuotes Dewey, again without citation, but this time he uses a slightly different phraseology:

“Hooke’s law remains refutable by experience, even though it may provisionally function as
'a priori with respect to further operations, in Dewey’s phrase” (1946, 30).

In Dewey as in Pap, what starts out as empirical knowledge ends up being fixed and taken for granted, that is, it functions as a priori knowledge. Most important to note is the temporal aspect of the a priori in this conception
—that is the point of the “with respect to further operations [or inquiry]” language.

A functionally a priori principle started out as provisional and empirical and will be treated as a priori at some other point in time or in some other context.

On this view, everything is ultimately provisional, but some elements of our knowledge must be taken as fixed at a given point in order to pursue further inquiry.

As Pap emphasizes in the introduction to his work, this temporal aspect of functionally a priori knowledge is the crucial point that allowed him to see his way out of his discomfort over the positivists’ treatment of the a priori.

The same temporal solution can be applied to
the problem of distinguishing between analytic and synthetic statements, given that what was once synthetic can be taken to be analytic and what was once analytic, in being questioned, can be taken as synthetic and empirical, at a different time and in a different context.

As some of his contemporary critics noted, one may wonder why Papm wants to hold onto the notion of a priori knowledge when, in many waysthe functional a priori is not a priori at all in the traditional sense. It would perhaps be better to say that Pap and the pragmatists have a  theory of what was formerly taken to be a priori knowledge and to drop the usage of ‘a priori’ altogether. It is the neo-Kantian heritage that makes Pap hold onto this language.

Here is Pap’s defense of his use of the term ‘functional a priori’:

The theory of the a priori which will, in this essay, be presented and applied to physical principles, may be called functional insofar as the apriori is characterized in terms of functions which propositions may perform in existential inquiry, no matter whether they be, on formal grounds, classified as analytic or as synthetic. It may also be called contextual; for statements of the form “x is a priori” or “x is a posteriori”
(where the admissible values of x are propositions) will be treated as elliptical or incomplete. A proposition which is a priori in one context of inquiry, may be a posteriori in another context. (1946, viii).

In his discussion of the “hardening” empirical generalizations to definitions, Pap opens with the distinction between real and nominal definitions. Real definitions are based on facts in the world, while nominal definitions are purely verbal. He then endorses Hilbert’s notion of implicit definition of the primitive terms of geometry and extends this to cases in natural science, specifically Newtonian mechanics. The central claim of Pap ’s functional theory of the a priori is that empirical (and hence contingent) statements may sometimes function as temporarily fixed principles. They are taken for granted as true and used as guideposts by which phenomena are interpreted, but they can
be changed later. “As inductive generalisations become increasingly confirmed they tend to be used as principles by which the ‘phenomena’ are interpreted.

For example, within Newtonian dynamics it would hardly ever occur to a physicist to explain the negative outcome of an astronomical prediction in terms of a failure of the general equation of motion; assuming the latter to be valid, the discrepancy between observation and prediction will ‘prove’ to him that something is wrong with his assumptions concerning the initial and boundary conditions ” (Pap 1946, 28).

The role of mathematics in physical theory is a case in point. Mathematical statements did not start out as empirical and become hardened into principles that have the status of a priori knowledge. The functional theory of a priori knowledge is neutral with regard to theories of the status of mathematics.

Pap’s functional theory of a priori knowledge is grounded in pragmatism and neo-Kantianism.

Pap, present alternatives to the Logical Empiricist conception of a priori knowledge.


Arthur Pap’s Functional Theory of the A Priori,
David J. Stump, University of San Francisco

Article is published in HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Fall 2011), pp. 273-290.

Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science
Article DOI: 10.1086/659342

Against analytic philosophy: Arthur Pap (Elements of Analytic Philosophy, New York: Macmillan, 1949, p. 120) says "The epistemological is problem is the reliability of perception as a source of knowledge of physical facts."

Wrong. The reliability is a problem but the perception is an ultimate tool to get and verify empirical truth.

The main error of the analytic philosophy is the confusing between physics and philosophy. It is found in the dissertation of Arthur Pap (The a priori in physical theory. New York: King's Crown Press, 1946).

Manifesto (continued)

The judgments of arithmetic, geometry, and certain fundamental principles of physics, that Kant took as examples of a priori knowledge will be discussed later. It is precisely in the rejection of the possibility of' synthetic knowledge a priori that the basic thesis of modern empiricism lies. The scientific worldconception knows only empirical statements about things of all kinds, and analytic statements of logic and mathematics.

Manifesto (continued)

In rejecting overt metaphysics and the concealed variety of apriorism, all adherents of the scientific world-conception are at one. Beyond this, the Vienna Circle maintain the view that the statements of (critical) realism and idealism about the reality or non-reality of the external world and other minds are of a metaphysical character, because they are open to the same objections as are the statements of the old metaphysics: they are meaningless, because unverifiable and without content. For us, some- , thing is 'real' through being incorporated into the total structure of experience.

External reality

We cite Hans Reichenbach

Hans Reichenbach (1891 – 1953) was a leading philosopher of science, educator and proponent of logical empiricism. Reichenbach is best known for founding the Berlin Circle, and as the author of The Rise of Scientific Philosophy.


Using the results if the analysis of inductive inference we can say: we have good reasons to posit the existence of the external world as well as that of personalities. All our knowledge is posits; so, our most general knowledge, that of the existence of the physical word and us human beings within is a posit.

1951. Hans Reichenbach: The Rise of Scientific Philosophy. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01055-0, p. 268.

We cite truthpizza


Bob Korn.
Bob Korn has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, where he specialized in Artificial Intelligence.

He recently retired after working 25 years as a software engineer doing systems programming and computer aided design. This work kept him financially afloat while in his spare time he would think about truth, how the brain works, and solving the world's problems.

He is married to a former middle school math teacher, and has one son who has recently completed his Ph.D. in mathematics at M.I.T.


"An important property of any statement or claim is whether it is testable. Are there means by which we could decide whether this statement is true? What would we expect to observe if the statement is true? What would we expect not to observe?

Most everyday statements are easily tested. If someone says it is raining, this can be tested by looking out the window. We would expect to see droplets falling through the air and puddles on the ground with ripples from the falling drops.

We would not expect to see sunshine and dry pavement. Other statements are much harder to test, like "The universe is expanding." Scientists do have ways of testing this, however, mainly by observing a color shift in the light from stars that occurs if they are moving away from us at a high rate of speed.

If a statement is completely untestable, it implies that the statement has no consequences. There is no difference between the statement being true and being false.

It is reasonable to consider such a statement to be meaningless. If I claimed I was Julius Caesar in a previous life, but I couldn't remember anything that Caesar knew, nor in any significant way did I have characteristics the same as his, my claim would be completely untestable. It would also be safe to regard it as meaningless.

There are two problems with untestable claims.
  1. One is that there is no reason to care about the truth of the claim if there are, in fact, no consequences. Who cares if I was Julius Caesar in a previous life if nobody is affected in any way by that fact?
  2. The second problem is that the person making the claim could have no way of knowing it was true if it is untestable. How exactly did I determine that I was Caesar in a previous life if in fact that doesn't have any detectable consequences?
The main danger from untestable statements is that we may mistakenly judge the originator as having some deep insight. Fortune tellers and others who claim to have mystical knowledge will often make claims that are either completely untestable or are extremely difficult to test. They can do this without having to worry about being shown to be wrong, since it is nearly impossible to gather any evidence to refute their claims.

Often the reason something is untestable is vagueness. When a statement is sufficiently vague, it is effectively untestable. Suppose you are told you will have bad luck. Does that mean the next time you get to a traffic signal it will be red instead of green, or might it mean you will die a horrible death within the next week? Will this bad luck occur within the next five minutes or the next twenty years?

The chances are that unless a person's luck is consistently very bad or very good, we would be hard pressed to say whether this statement was confirmed or not. It is easy to imagine that someone could find excuses to believe they had bad luck even though their luck on the average was no different from anyone else's.

Sometimes the situation is even more severe than mere vagueness - even in the most extreme situations we can neither confirm nor deny the truth of some statements. Consider "We are one with the universe" or "People have a natural right to own property."

These statements lack any observable consequences. I do not know of any way I could present evidence to either confirm or refute either of these statements. Although both of these statements carry with them a sense of importance, they are totally untestable.

Rather than worrying about whether they are true or false, we might do best to regard them as meaningless until such time as someone clarifies them in such a way as to imply some consequences.

One common category of assertion that is effectively untestable is those that depend on definitions. We frequently hear the claim that "abortion is murder."

The truth of this assertion depends on the definition of "murder". Often we will judge definitions by what is in a dictionary or what is common usage. This does not seem adequate in this case, since the implication of the statement is that abortion is morally wrong because murder is morally wrong.

Most people would agree that what is morally right or wrong should not depend on either the whims of dictionary writers or the results of public opinion polls about word usage. "Abortion is murder" could legitimately be part of a larger argument in which the author provides a definition of murder and perhaps relates it to a basis for moral beliefs, but as it stands, it cannot be shown to be true or false.

The same problem occurs in other cases when the truth of statements is essentially dependent on the definition of a word that is not universally agreed on, such as "alcoholism is a disease" or "prostitution is a form of slavery". People who agree on what alcoholism is and what prostitution is would not necessarily agree on whether they are included in the definition of "disease" or "slavery" nor is there a practical test to determine who is right.

We could get farther by asking what policies are promoted by those making such statements and whether we think these policies would be beneficial. Definitions are based on human usage, not on any independently testable property of the universe.

An aspect of testability is falsifiability.

A reputed prophet Nostradamus made many vague claims, and with the right interpretations of some of his metaphors, some of the claims could be said to have come true. Over time we might note that Nostradamus has had several successes and no failures, so we might feel he has a good track record and should be taken seriously.

Suppose one of his claims was that "New City" will be destroyed in an earthquake. Even though we assume that "New City" is not the real name of the city, and we don't know when the earthquake was supposed to occur, we might agree that this hasn't happened.

On the other hand, we can't count this as a failure, since it might occur tomorrow or next year or some other time in the future. In fact it is impossible for this statement to fail - not because Nostradamus is so gifted, but because the prediction is stated in such a way that failure is impossible.

Similarly, if all a prophet's statements are failure-proof, the prophet is safe from contradiction, whether or not he or she knows anything at all.

A common criterion for whether a claim has scientific value is whether it is falsifiable. If the statement is false it ought to be possible for some evidence to show it is false. If, no matter what happens, the statement would not be shown false, then, even if it is true, anything could happen.

Nothing is ruled out.  Therefore the statement is not useful for science.

Another example of a statement that isn't falsifiable would be a claim that a tall man will have a positive influence on my life. If a tall man hires me for a job, I might be impressed that the prediction was true, but if not, how do I know that a tall man might not have influenced me in some other way, for example by previously turning down the job I was just offered?

The truth of a statement means it will not be found false, but if it could never be found false anyway, such "truth" doesn't count for anything. Looking for falsifiability helps prevent us from being fooled by statements that really don't tell us anything worthwhile.

We have to be careful in situations where something is very difficult to test or falsify. Some scientific claims can be very difficult to test, but have definite implications if we could make the right kind of observations.

The temperature inside of stars, for example, cannot be measured directly but there are certain implications such as what atomic reactions take place or how dense the star is. In science as well as prophesy we should not credit a person with being right until their idea has been successfully tested. If we can see the claim could never be tested or falsified, we should not attach importance to it."

Meaningless or useless

The concepts reality, external reality and other minds have testable effects to the whole of concepts we need.

We will correct the sentence

Rather than worrying about whether they are true or false, we might do best to regard them as meaningless until such time as someone clarifies them in such a way as to imply some consequences.

to the form

Rather than worrying about whether they are true or false, we might do best to regard them as useless until such time as someone clarifies them in such a way as to imply some consequences.


realism holds that the theory of knowledge, or epistemology, is different form a theory of being, or ontology.

There is a reality which exists independent of its human conception.

Critical realists believe that there are unobservable events which cause the observable ones; as such, the social world can be understood only if people understand the structures that generate such unobservable events.

This is important in the experimental context, because it allows the scientist to distinguish between the event and what causes it.

According to this theory, an individual conducting an experiment creates the conditions necessary for the experiment (observable event), but the results are caused by the underlying laws and mechanisms (unobservable events).

The critical side of this theory arises from the identification of epistemic fallacy – the idea of analyzing ontological statements in terms of epistemological statements. Epistemic fallacy is caused by a failure to recognize a difference between ontology and epistemology. The realism side of the theory focuses on the existence of real mechanisms which shape events.

“A central idea of CR is that natural and social reality should be understood as an open stratified system of objects with causal powers”

(Morton, P. (2006). Using realism to explain strategic information systems planning. JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application, 8(1)).

There are three strata, according to the theory:
  1. domains of real,
  2. actual, and
  3. empirical.
Domains of empirical include observable experiences. Domain of actual includes actual events which have been generated by mechanisms. Finally, the domain of real includes the mechanisms that have generated the actual events.

The realism theory can be applied to social science as well as natural science.

However the applications of this theory in social science are different from the natural.

Culture and society are generated by human activities; so society is continuously changing due to the dynamic nature of human actions.

As such, there is a mutually influential relationship where humans shape the society, which in its turn affects human activities.

Unlike natural laws, rules of culture and society are not universal but applicable only in a certain location and time.

Furthermore, social structures are open and cannot be artificially controlled in a laboratory type setting.

Therefore the realism theory does not have any predictive power, and the theory is used for its explanatory benefits only.

Critical theory requires a deep understanding of any social situation, going beyond the observable and investigating the mechanisms behind any event.

The focus of the theory is on ex-post explanations, as opposed to ex-ante predictions.

As such the major application of this theory in research is explaining the complex social events and ruling out any other potential explanations.

In information systems, critical realist theory primarily can be used to study how information is used by organizations and measure the perceived net benefits from using an information system.

Unrealism hypothesis

1. Evil demon


René Descartes.
The evil demon, sometimes referred to as the evil genius, is a concept in Cartesian philosophy.

In his 1641 Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes hypothesized the existence of an evil demon, a personification who is

"as clever and deceitful as he is powerful, who has directed his entire effort to misleading me."

The evil demon presents a complete illusion of an external world, including other minds, to Descartes' senses, where there is no such external world in existence.

The evil genius also presents to Descartes' senses a complete illusion of his own body, including all bodily sensations, when Descartes has no body.

Some Cartesian scholars opine that the demon is also omnipotent, and thus capable of altering mathematics and the fundamentals of logic, though omnipotence of the evil demon would be contrary to Descartes' hypothesis, as he rebuked accusations of the evil demon having omnipotence.

It is one of several methods of systematic doubt that Descartes employs in the Meditations (1641. Meditationes de prima philosophia (Meditations on First Philosophy, also known as Metaphysical Meditations. In Latin; a French translation, probably done without Descartes' supervision, was published in 1647. Includes six Objections and Replies. A second edition, published the following year, included an additional objection and reply, and a Letter to Dinet.)

2. The Dream Hypothesis

How could one doubt that one is sitting in a room, looking at a piece of paper? Descartes, sitting by the fire, begins by thinking about madmen. He says:

And on what grounds might I deny that my hands and the other parts of my body exist? -- unless perhaps I liken myself to madmen whose brains are so rattled by persistent vapors of melancholy that they are sure they are kings when in fact they are paupers, or that they wear purple robes when in fact they are naked, or that their heads are clay, or that they are gourds, or made of glass.

Descartes is perfectly willing to contemplate this possibility. He says:

...if I weren't a man accustomed to sleeping at night whose experiences while asleep where at least as far-fetched as those that madmen have while awake. How often, at night, I've been convinced that I was here, sitting before the fire, wearing my dressing gown, when in fact I was undressed and between the covers of my bed.

On the hypothesis it appears that one could doubt things close at hand, even that I am now sitting by the fire, wearing my dressing gown!

Here is the basis for a skeptical argument. It goes like this:

  1. I am sitting here in my study by the fire, in my dressing gown. (Knowledge claim)
    Presumably this claim is supported by strong evidence -- I see the fire, my dressing gown, I can feel the heat of the fire, etc.
  2. I am in bed with no clothes on. (Skeptical counter-claim to 1.)
    This too is supported by evidence -- I might be dreaming that I am in the study. This has happened to me many times before.
  3. 1 and 2 cannot both be true. (By the principle that reality is determinate.)
  4. One cannot determine which claim is true.
    If there is a genuine possibility that 1. might be false, Descartes must set aside his knowledge claim as dubious. This is a weaker requirement than that which the typical skeptic demands, i.e. that the evidence be equally balanced.)

“3. The Brain in a Vat” Argument


In Reason, Truth and History (Putnam, H. 1981, Reason, Truth, and History, Cambridge University Press), Hilary Putnam first presented the argument that we cannot be brains in a vat, which has since given rise to a large discussion with repercussions for the realism debate and for central theses in the philosophy of language and mind.


Hilary Putnam.

You are told to imagine the possibility that at this very moment you are actually a brain hooked up to a sophisticated computer program that can perfectly simulate experiences of the outside world.

Here is the skeptical argument. If you cannot now be sure that you are not a brain in a vat, then you cannot rule out the possibility that all of your beliefs about the external world are false.

Or, to put it in terms of knowledge claims, we can construct the following skeptical argument.

Let “P” stand for any belief or claim about the external world, say, that snow is white.

  1. If I know that P, then I know that I am not a brain in a vat
  2. I do not know that I am not a brain in a vat
  3. Thus, I do not know that P.

The Brain in a Vat Argument is usually taken to be a modern version of René Descartes' argument (in the Meditations on First Philosophy) that centers on the possibility of an evil demon who systematically deceives us. 

The hypothesis has been the premise behind the movie The Matrix, in which the entire human race has been placed into giant vats and fed a virtual reality at the hands of malignant artificial intelligence (our own creations, of course).

4. I do not exist


You can not prove to me that I am wrong when I will say "I do not exist".


  1. parametric simplicity
  2. operator simplicity
  3. symbol simplicity
  4. structural simplicity
  5. ontological simplicity

The putative role of considerations of simplicity in the history and current practice of science gives rise to a number of philosophical problems, including the problem of precisely defining and measuring theoretical simplicity, and the problem of justifying preferences for simpler theories.

These problems have turned out to be surprisingly resistant to resolution, and there remains a live debate amongst philosophers of science about how to deal with them.


On the other hand, there is no disputing the fact that practicing scientists continue to find it useful to appeal to various notions of simplicity in their work. Thus, in many ways, the debate over simplicity resembles other long-running debates in the philosophy science, such as that over the justification for induction (which, it turns out, is closely related to the problem of justifying preferences for simpler theories).

Many scientists continue to employ practices and methods that utilize notions of simplicity to great scientific effect, assuming that appropriate solutions to the philosophical problems that these practices give rise to do in fact exist, even though philosophers have so far failed to articulate them.

Simple arithmetic

The language of Presburger arithmetic contains constants 0 and 1 and a binary function +, interpreted as addition. In this language, the axioms of Presburger arithmetic are the universal closures of the following:

  1. ¬(0 = x + 1)
  2. x + 1 = y + 1 → x = y
  3. x + 0 = x
  4. x + (y + 1) = (x + y) + 1
  5. Let P(x) be a first-order formula in the language of Presburger arithmetic with a free variable x (and possibly other free variables). Then the following formula is an axiom:
(P(0) ∧ ∀x(P(x) → P(x + 1))) → ∀y P(y).

(5) is an axiom schema of induction, representing infinitely many axioms. Since the axioms in the schema in (5) cannot be replaced by any finite number of axioms, Presburger arithmetic is not finitely axiomatizable in first-order logic.

Presburger arithmetic cannot formalize concepts such as divisibility or prime number. Generally, any number concept leading to multiplication cannot be defined in Presburger arithmetic, since that leads to incompleteness and undecidability. However, it can formulate individual instances of divisibility; for example, it proves "for all x, there exists y : (y + y = x) ∨ (y + y + 1 = x)". This states that every number is either even or odd.

Simplicity and unrealism hypothesis

If we compare the hypothesis that there is external universe and the competiting four alternatives above theys are equal in the simplicity.

Many logical empiricists were thinking that the phenomenalism is simplest. My opinion is that it is simplest to suppose the external universe which is the cause to our perceptions.

This is not a priori supposition. This is a posteriori suppositition.

Simlicity belongs to the empirical science. The simplicity is often useful but the simplicity leads sometimes to erros. Our conception of the reality is allways a coarsening.

Our perceptions belong to the coarsenings.

Manifesto (continued)

Intuition which is especially emphasised by metaphysicians as a source of knowledge, is not rejected as such by the scientific world-conception. However, rational justification has to pursue all intuitive knowledge step by step. The seeker is allowed any method; but what has been found must stand up to testing. The view which attributes to intuition a superior and more penetrating power of knowing, capable of leading beyond the contents of sense experience and not to be confined by the shackles of conceptual thought - this view is rejected.


The logical empiricism admits that the intuition is important but that the intuitive ideas must justify using the methods of the sciences.

Manifesto (continued)

We have characterised the scientific world-conception essentially by two features. First it is empiricist and positivist: there is kowledge only from experience, which rests on what is immediately given.

Experimental truth

The logical empiricism will clarify that the experimental truth rests on experience. Definitional and axiomatic understanding is possible using only human brains.

We can not say that the definitions are true or false, the definitions are conventional. There are useful conventions ans useless conventions. Axiomatic symbol system is true if there are permitted symbol sets which are not derivable from axioms using rules. Is so we say that the axiomatic system is consistent.

Immediately given

The problem of "immediately given" belongs to the psychology, not to the philosophy. The problems of perception belogn to physics.

We can not deny that we will get information using our senses. Which of this information is true is the problem of the sciences, not a problem of the philosophy.

Manifesto (continued)

This sets the limits for the content of legitimate science.

Second, the scientific world-conception is marked by application of a certain method, namely logical analysis.

The aim of scientific effort is to reach the goal, unified science, by applying logical analysis to the empirical material.

Since the meaning of every statement of science must be statable by reduction to a statement about the given, likewise the meaning of any concept, whatever branch of science it may belong to, must be statable by step-wise reduction to other concepts, down to the concepts of the lowest level which refer directly to the given. If such an analysis were carried through for all
concepts, they would thus be ordered into a reductive system, a 'constitutive system'. Investigations towards such a constitutive system, the 'constitutive theory', thus form the framework within which logical analysis is applied by the scientific world-conception.


No consensus

The animals use the concept of the causality implicitly or explicitly.

The concept "causality" belongs to the empirical concepts.

It is not possible to prove the sentence "everything has a cause".

It is possible to present causal systems using everything has a cause and effectmathematical formulas.

There is no concensus of the definition of the causality.

It is probable that we will need several different types of causality.

Causal system

A causal system (also known as a physical or nonanticipative system) is a system where the output depends on past and current inputs but not future inputs i.e. the output y(to) depends on the input x(t) for values of t <= to (t = time).

Catholic christian Elizabeth Anscombe on causation

Anscome's definition of the causality

Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe (1919–2001), usually cited as G. E. M. Anscombe, was a British catholic philosopher.

Anscome's definition of the causality:

It is  this: causality consists in the derivativeness of an effect from its causes. This is the core, the common feature, of causality in its various kinds.

Effects derive from, arise out of, come of, their causes.


David Hume's conception of necessity

He takes it that what “necessity” really amounts to here is the firm mental conviction that we form, after observing repeated instances of A-type events being followed by B-type events, that A-type events will always in future be followed by B-type events.

That is, we expect what he calls “constant conjunction” of cause and effect.

The ambiguity comes to light when one considers the two components in Hume's account of causation:

  1. Hume is concerned to explain the psychological process by which we form beliefs about causes and effects. The mechanism is explained in terms of the theory of ideas and impressions.
  2. 'A caused B' is true only if a type B event always and everywhere follows from a type A event (the 'univeral generalization' requirement).

Whatever 'necessity' or compulsion we feel in believing that A caused B, the necessity that characterizes causation is the necessity of a universal generalization, nothing more or less.

B always follows from A, at every time and every place.

This is in itself a very powerful claim to make, and one which can never be conclusively verified in actual cases, but it is one which is fully consistent with - indeed necessitated by - Hume's rejection of any 'metaphysical' component in causation.

Now consider this claim in relation to the idea of singular causation, and in particular in learning situations where one grasps the meaning of 'cause'.

Anscombe would say that no-one in an everyday situation where causes and effects are identified is thinking of making such a huge claim. That is what her examples are meant to show. We know that Fred caught measles from Violet, without needing any concept of the Humean covering law that accounts for the causal connection.

The question of what causation is, is distinct from the question of how we know that a particular case is one of causation.

Hume is prepared to allow 'clear experiments' which lead to a strong and justified conviction that A caused B.

What this means, however, is universal generalization.

Anscombe, on the other hand, believes that given that we grasp the meaning of 'cause' through such clear experiments, the question whether a causal claim logically entails a universal generalization remains open.

Regularity and generalization may play a role in our grasp of causation but there is no reason why this role should be held to be constitutive of the very notion of a 'cause' in the way that Hume claims.

In principle, Hume indeed has no problem at all with the idea of a type A event which is so unique that it only ever occurs once in the history of the universe.

Hume would surely insist that you couldn’t say, in such a case, that A caused B. You would have to say that the “cocktail” caused B. That’s because, for Hume, causality implies constant conjunction, so it would be simply wrong to use the term even for patchy conjunction (where A-type events are quite often, but not always, followed by B-type events), let alone for a single isolated instance such as we’ve envisaged.

But this isn't necessary. Assume that the 'history of the universe' is some finite length of time. Then Hume can say that if at any time the history of the universe is repeated up to the time when A occurs, then B follows.

We have seen that Hume can allow single cases where we form the reasonable conviction that A caused B, and he can also allow cases where A causes B only on one occasion in the history of the universe. Both of these, I have argued, are fully consistent with a 'universal generalization' component in the analysis of causation.

This looks like a defence of Hume against Anscombe, to the effect that Hume does 'take singular causation seriously'.

Anscombe is making a stronger claim, to the effect that the universal generalization component is not part of the meaning of a 'cause'.

The examples she cites (such as the case of catching a contagious disease) are not sufficient to show this. On the other hand, all she has to do is raise a legitimate doubt about Hume's claim about universal generalization.

The discussion does not stop there, of course. The whole point of the universal generalization component is to find a substitute for the naive notion of 'coming from' that seems to be part of our understanding of causation.

If one rejects the Humean 'solution', then we are right back where we started.

But being once convinced that we know nothing farther of causation of any kind than merely the constant conjunction of objects, and the consequent inference of the mind from one to another, and finding that these two circumstances are universally allowed to have place in voluntary actions; we may be more easily led to own the same necessity common to all causes.

David Hume An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume, 1777, p.72.   

Common sense causality

Types of causal patterns

Below are six patterns that are embedded in many science concepts and elsewhere in the world. Causality in the real world seldom falls into one neat pattern or another. The patterns often work together or different parts of a system entail different patterns—making the causality even more complex.


Linear Causality

  • Cause precedes effect; sequential pattern
  • Direct link between cause and effect
  • Has a clear beginning and a clear ending
  • Effect can be traced back to one cause
  • One cause and one effect; additional causes or effects turn this pattern into domino causality

Domino Causality

  • Sequential unfolding of effects over time
  • An extended linear pattern that results in direct and indirect effects
  • Typically has a clear beginning and a clear ending
  • Can be branching where there is more than one effect of a cause (and these may go on to have multiple effects and so on.)
  • Branching forms can be traced back to "stem" causes
  • Anticipating outcomes involves deciding how far to trace effects. Short-sightedness can lead to unintended effects

Cyclic Causality

  • One thing impacts another which in turn impacts the first thing (or alternatively impacts something else which then impacts something else and so on, but eventually impacts the first thing)
  • Involves a repeating pattern
  • Involves feedback loops
  • May be sequential or may be simultaneous
  • Typically no clear beginning or ending (Sometimes you can look back in time to a beginning but often that results in the classic 'which came first, the chicken or the egg' problem.)


Spiraling Causality

  • One thing impacts another which in turn impacts the first thing (or alternatively impacts something else which then impacts something else and so on, but eventually impacts the first thing) with amplification or de-amplification of effects
  • Involves feedback loops
  • It is sequential as each event is a reaction to the one before it
  • Often a clear beginning and ending
  • It is difficult to anticipate outcomes of later feedback loops during earlier feedback loops


Relational Causality

  • Two things work in relation to each other to cause an outcome
  • It often involves two variables in comparison to each other
  • There may be a relationship of balance, equivalence, similarity or there may be a relationship of difference
  • If one thing changes, so does the relationship, therefore so does the outcome
  • If two things change but keep the same relationship, the outcome doesn't change

Mutual Causality

  • Two things impact each other
  • The impact can be positive for both, negative for both, or positive for one and negative for the other
  • The causes and effects are often simultaneous, but can be sequential
  • May be event-based or may be a relationship over time (such as the moss and the algae in lichen)

Game Theory by Probable Causation/Influence

Probable Causation/Influence (PI) Game Theory Simple Equation/Formula. Recall that:

  1. P(A-->B) = 1 + P(AB) - P(A)
  2. P'(A-->B) = 1 + P(B) - P(A), where P(B) < = P(A).
P is probability,
A and B are events.
--> is causes,
<= is less or equal.

We will restrict ourselves to (2) here.

How do you make P'(A-->B) maximum? Probability is always on a scale from 0 to 1 inclusive. So to make P'(A-->B) maximum, it has to be 1.

So we get:
  1. P'(A-->B) = 1 + P(B) - P(A) = 1.
The equation 1 + P(B) - P(A) = 1 is the same as P(A) = P(B):
  1. P(A) = P(B)
This says: the Probability of the Cause is (equal to) the Probability of the Effect. Formally:
  1. The Probability of the Cause is (equal to) the Probability of the Effect for the "winning Strategy" in PI Game Theory, no matter what A and B are as long as they are respectively Cause and Effect.
There is a simple translation of (5) into simple English:

  1. The Winner of any PI Game is the "Perfect Tracker" - the person or group (or whaever) who "tracks" his opponent perfectly, in the sense of matching his probability to the probability of the opponent.
Here are some examples.

  1. The "Perfect Spy": someone whose behavior and attitudes and thinking and so on are almost totally indistinguishable from the "Enemy's".
  1. The "Perfect Teacher": a teacher who looks like, talks like, thinks like, and so on, the student(s). This is obviously impossible unless the students resemble each other or one another enormously, and it is rather useless if they are all Dunces, although a teacher who is also a Dunce of the same type will at least be the winner among Dunces.
  1. The "Perfect Philosopher": someone like John Le Carre's Oxford Don/Professor, at least in philosophy, except that in this case he almost totally matches the leading political party's best M.P. (although under some conditions he might condescend to match an alternative party's best M.P.). Since it might take millions of years to get a philosophical M.P., various ruses or gambits may be required to transform the M.P. in the sense of "One-Upmanship" perhaps. He might be persuaded to visit Oxford often for example for a romantic interest :>) who absolutely will not tolerate romance without philosophy.
  1. The "Perfect Missile": for the more Violence-Oriented philosophers (I jest, I think), it is a fact that present mathematical Kalmer Filter-Predictor programs do guide missiles to perfectly or almost perfectly track targets. They are also usable for moon flights, for those slightly more restrained in their enthusiasm) Look up Kalmer Filter, for example, on the internet (http://bilgin.esme.org/BitsBytes/KalmanFilterforDummies.aspx).

The causal loop

A causal loop is a sequence of events

e1,. . .,en,

each element of which is one of the causes of the next event, and whose last event


is one of the causes of the first event


The events that make up a loop need not be complete causes of one another, nor do they need to be complete effects of one another. In a causal loop, the arrows of causation go around in a circle, but there might be additional arrows that lead into the circle, or arrows that lead out of it. If there are no such branches then the loop is said to be causally isolated.

Top-down causality

The source of the following thoughts:


A zombie idea is one that has been shown to be mistaken but that refuses to die. Top-down causation seems to fit that description. Even though there is near universal agreement that the fundamental laws of physics are sufficient to explain all observed phenomena.

Top-down is an approach to a problem that begins at the highest conceptual level and works down to the details. Simples example is top-down causation of the thermostat. In this example the top-down causality is oinly loop causality.

A standard interpretation of top-down causation is that

  1. there are naturally occurring phenomena—i.e., phenomena that are part of the material world—that are not (and most likely will never be) explainable by the fundamental laws of physics,
  2. other, autonomous, laws govern those phenomena,
  3. the entities those laws govern are higher level in the sense that they are composed of more elementary entities and of a size, scale, and granularity significantly larger than that of the particles of which they are composed, and
  4. the behavior of the entities those laws govern has an effect on lower level entities, including the fundamental particles of physics.

In other words, top-down causation claims that phenomena occurring among non-elementary entities and governed by their own autonomous laws are capable of affecting elementary particles.

A typical example is a wheel rolling down a hill. The action of the wheel is governed by the wheel’s geometry and the laws describing how a rolling circular object moves. Among the consequences of the wheel’s motion is that the (cycloidal) trajectory that the particles that make up the wheel follow is determined by the wheel’s shape and motion rather than by the fundamental laws of physics.

Part (b) does not necessarily imply that these other laws are mysterious—the mathematics of a rolling circle is not especially complex—only that they are not derivable from the fundamental laws of physics.

The laws of economics provide other examples. The “law” of supply and demand states that an excess of demand will result in an increase in price and that a deficit of demand will result in a reduction in price. It seems hopeless to attempt to reduce this law to or derive this law from the fundamental laws of physics. Yet economic laws have an effect on elementary particles as money and goods change hands—and thereby move around in space......

The preceding examples notwithstanding, top-down causation makes no scientific sense. If the behavior of a particle is determined (even probabilistically) by one set of laws (the fundamental laws of physics), that behavior can’t also be determined by another set of laws—unless the two sets of laws demand the same behavior of the particle.

But in that case, the second set of laws is redundant and can be discarded.

This is essentially Kim’s causal exclusion argument (e.g., Kim, Jaegwan, 2007, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough, Princeton University Press.), which makes top-down causation seem incoherent.

The examples do not provide sound evidence for top-down causation and that what they illustrate is something akin to top-down causation, which I call downward (top-down) entailment......

Sperry (Sperry, Roger, 1970 “An Objective Approach to Subjective Experience,” Psychological Review, Vol. 77) identified the apparent phenomenon:

I think of no simpler example to illustrate [downward causation] than the one of the wheel rolling downhill in which the displacement in time and space and the subsequent fate of the entire population of atoms, molecules, and other components within the system are determined very largely by the holistic properties of the whole wheel as a unit, like its shape, size, weight, etc....... 

......It’s fairly clear from a naturalist perspective that there can’t be anything like top-down causality.

Manifesto (continued)

Such investigations show very soon that traditional Aristotelian scholastic logic is quite inadequate for this purpose. Only modern symbolic logic ('logistic') succeeds in gaining the required precision of concept definitions and of statements, and in formalizing the intuitive process of inference of ordinary thought, that is to bring it into a rigorous automatically controlled form by means of a symbolic mechanism. Investigations into constitutive theory show that the lowest layers of the constitutive system contain concepts of the experience and qualities of the individual psyche; in the layer above are physical objects; from these are constituted other minds and lastly the objects of social science. The arrangement of.the concepts of the various branches of science into the constitutive system can already be discerned in outline today, but much remains to be done in detail. With the proof of the possibility and the outline of the shape of the total system of concepts, the relation of all statements to the given and with it the general structure of unified science become recognisable too.

A scientific description can contain only the structure (form of order) of objects: not their 'essence'. What unites men in language are structural formulae; in them the content of the common knowledge of men presents itself. Subjectively experienced qualities - redness, pleasure - are as such only experiences, not knowledge; physical optics admits only what is in principle understandable by a blind man too.

Subjectively experienced qualities

Subjectively experienced qualities - redness, pleasure - are as such only experiences, not true; physical optics admits only what is in principle understandable by a blind man too. This means that the colors are not counterexamples to the logical empiricism.

Manifesto (continued)


Foundations of Arithmetic

In the writings and discussions of the Vienna Circle many different problems are treated, stemming from various branches of science. Attempts are .made to arrange the various lines of problems systematically ,and thereby to clarify the' situation. The problems concerning the foundations of arithmetic have become of special historical significance for the development of the scientific world-conception because they gave impulse to the development of a new logic. After the very fruitful developments of mathematics in the 18th and 19th century during which more attention was given to the wealth of new results than to subtle examination of their conceptual foundations, this examination became unavoidable if mathematics were not to lose the traditionally celebrated certainty of its structure. This examination became even more urgent when certain contradictions, the 'paradoxes of set theory', arose. It was soon recognized that these were not just difficulties in a special part of mathematics, but rather they were general logical contradictions, 'antinomies', which pointed to essential mistakes in the foundations of traditional logic. The task of eliminating these contradictions gave a very strong impulse to the further development of logic. Here efforts for clarification of the concept of number met with those for an internal reform cf logic. Since Leibniz and Lambert, the idea had come up again and again to master reality through a greater precision of concepts and inferential processes, and to obtain this precision by means of a symbolism fashioned after mathematics. After Boole, Venn and others, especially Frege (1884), Schroder (1890) and Peano (1895) worked on this problem. On the basis of these preparatory efforts Whitehead and Russell (1910) were able to establish a coherent system of logic in symbolic form ('logistic'), not only avoiding the contradictions of traditional logic, but far exceeding that logic in intellectual wealth and practical applicability. From this logical system they derived the concepts of arithmetic and analysis, thereby giving mathematics a secure foundation in logic. Certain difficulties however remained in this attempt at overcoming the foundation crisis of arithmetic (and set theory) and have so far not found a definitively satisfactory solution. At present three different views confront each other in this field; besides the 'logicism' of Russell and Whitehead, there is Hilbert's 'formalism' which regards arithmetic as a playing with formulae according to certain rules, and Brouwer's 'intuitionism' according to which arithmetic knowledge rests on a not further reducible intuition of duality and unity [Zwei-einheit]. The debates are followed with great interest in the Vienna Circle. Where the decision will lead in the end cannot yet be foreseen; in any case, it will also imply a decision about the structure of logic; hence the importance of this problem for the scientific world-conception. Some hold that the three views are not so far apart as it seems. They surmise that essential features of all three will come closer in the course of future development and probably, using the far-reaching ideas of Wittgenstein, will be united in the ultimate solution. The conception of mathematics as tautolqgical in character, which is based on the investigations of Russell and Wittgenstein, is also held by the Vienna Circle. It is to be noted that this conception is opposed not only to apriorism and intuitionism, but also to the older empiricism (for instance of j, S. Mill), which tried to derive mathematics and logic in an experimental-inductive manner as it were. Connected with the problems of arithmetic and logic are the investigations into the nature of the axiomatic method in general (concepts of completeness, independence, monomorphism, unambiguity and so on) and on the establishment of axiom-systems for certain branches of mathematics.

The truth of the axiomatic system

Logical empiricism defines that the sentences of the axiomatic system (axioms, derived sentences) as tue. The truth of the an consistent axiomatic system is a part of the definition of the truth. The consistence means that there are symbol sequences which are not derivable for the axioms. Example: 2 + 0 = 4.

Wi cite Jaakko Hintikka (http://www.cairn.info/zen.php?ID_ARTICLE=RIP_234_0451):

Godel's results and ideas as well as their reception are such stuff as paradoxes are made of. His best known achievement is his first incompleteness theorem, which says that in any consistent axiomatization of elementary number theory there are true but formally unprovable propositions.

This result is often perceived as somehow showing that there are limitations of what can be done in mathematics by logical and axiomatic means.

The plain truth, endorsed by Godel himself, is quite different. Godel's first incompleteness theorem does not in any way restrict our possibilities of capturing mathematical truths by setting up axiom systems and by studying the logical consequences of the axioms.

What Godel-type results show is that those consequence relations cannot be exhaustively captured by purely mechanical (recursive, computable) rules. Godel's first incompleteness theorem thus marks certain limitations of what computers can do in mathematics, not of what humans can do (or what axiom systems can do, for that matter).

The "logical" reaction to such Godelian incompleteness would thus have been to emphasize the rule of those logical consequence relations that cannot be captured by mechanical (recursive) rules. For reasons to be discussed below, this nevertheless has not been the reaction of the majority of philosophers.

In some cases, reactions to Godel's incompleteness results are based on misunderstandings.


Again, it is nearly universally thought that Godel's second incompleteness theorem shows the impossibility of carrying out Hilbert's grand program of proving the model-theoretical consistency of significant mathematical theories by proving their proof-theoretical (syntactical) consistency, and proving all that by elementary means.

Godel's second incompleteness says that the consistency of an elementary number theory cannot be proved in that number theory itself, assuming that it has been axiomatized by means of the received first-order logic.

This logic has generally been taken to be the one and only basic logic, wherefore Godel's second incompleteness theorem does indeed seem to show the impossibility of carrying out Hilbert's project.

However, Jaakko Hintikka and his associates have shown that the received first-order logic is not the right basic logic. It is too poor in its expressive power to fulfill the job description of our basic logic.

Hintikka and Gabriel Sandu have also shown how the received logic can be replaced by a richer logic known as independence-friendly (IF) logic. Hintikka and Karakadilar have likewise shown that the proof-theoretical and the semantical consistency (in a weak sense codified in the so-called no counterexample interpretation) can be proved in a suitable elementary number theory based on IF logic.

Moreover, Hintikka has shown that the requisite proof can be thought of as being elementary. An important part of Hilbert's program can thus be realized, pace Godel's result, even though the consistency of full analysis cannot be established equally elementarily.

This result is important enough for the evaluation of Godel's work to deserve a brief description.

IF first-order logic is deductively incomplete, but it does admit of a complete and sound disproof procedure.

In a number theory based on it one can therefore use the diagonal lemma to construct a sentence that says, intuitively, "I am disprovable".

If it is true it is disprovable and hence false by the soundness of the disproof procedure. Hence it is false, and consequently its contradictory negation cannot be false, and hence cannot be disprovable. Hence not all sentences are dis provable, that is, the system is deductively consistent.

This line of reasoning can be carried out by means of IF logic, the reason being that the soundness and completeness of the IF disproof procedure can be proved by means of Konig's lemma which is a truth of IF logic.

What is paradoxical here is not just that the true implications of Godel's work have been misunderstood, often contrary to his own insights.

What is especially paradoxical is that in indirect ways these very misunderstandings have been encouraged by Godel's logical practice and by his philosophical views.

Perhaps the most important single instance of this strange tension is Godel's continued use of formal (syntactical) axiomatization as his standard approach to logic and to the foundations of mathematics.

As was in effect noted, the most general moral of Godel's first incompleteness theorem is that formal deduction is less basic than model theory, in that the crucial notion of mathematical truth can only be captured model-theoretically.

But instead of developing a systematic model theory, Godel conceived of the pursuit of mathematical truth (and of mathematical truths) as a search of new deductive-formal axioms.

This strange bias has directly or indirectly influenced the subsequent discussion. This discussion has been addressed mostly to such questions as the prospects of proof-theoretical (formal and deductive) methods, the search of new formal axioms, especially in set theory, and so on.

It is a paradox in the history of logic that even though Godel's incompleteness results strikingly demonstrated the need of a serious model theory, the logical discipline bearing this name came about only some twenty-five years later and then originally in the specialized form of a metatheory of algebra.

It is instructive here to recall that Godel's first incompleteness theorem loses its importance and indeed its meaning unless there is a robust objective notion of arithmetical truth to be compared with formal provability.

Calculus which is simpler than the mathematics

Calculus by  Walter R. Fuchs

Basic string (axiom)



Rule 1:

You can add the match for both sides of the string.


Rule 2:

You can add a match to the end of the string.


Rule 3:

You can add a paperclip to the end of the string.

The set of axioms and rules is not contadictory if there is a string which is not possible to derive from the axioms using rules.

The string


is not possible to derive. The calculus above is not contradictory.

Example of deriving:

U axiom





Example of the reverse deriving:





U axiom


Write a computer program which creates all valid string wit the lengt les or equal to 100.

Binary numbers as a calculus

We define natural binary numers as follows.

Basic string (axiom)



Rule 1:

You can add zero to the end of string.


Rule 2:

You can add one to the end of the string.


The set of axioms and rules is not contadictory if there is a string which is not possible to derive from the axioms using rules.

The string


is not possible to derive. The calculus above is not contradictory.

In this calculus 0 is not valid. We concludet that natural numbers do not include 0.

Contradictions are not allowed in the calculus

The calculus is consistent (not contadictory) if there is a symbol set  which is not possible to derive from the axioms using rules.

Decidability of the calculus

The calculus is decidable if every allowed set of symbols is either directly derivable or directly refutable (Carnap, see below).

If the symbol set (sentence) is refutable it is false.

Independence of the calculus

The calculus is independent if it not possible to derive the axiom from other axioms.

Rudophs Carnap's concept of calculus

Rudolph Carnaps 1937, The Logical Syntax of Language (p. 156-, 1937), Kegan Paul, defines a calculus (C) as pure syntactical system of symbols.

There are definitions of allowed symbol systems or sentences (rules of sentence formation, for example strings).

There  is a system of basic sentences (primitive sentences). We call basic sentences C-true.

There is a system of translation rules or basic rules (deduction rules).

We have two kinds of rules: derivation rules ond refutation rules. We say, that nes sentences are dericvable using basic sentences (axioms) and rules.

Further the calculus may contain definitions. The purpose of the definition is to introduce the new sign on the basis of primitive signs and the signs which are defined earlier.

Very known calulus is the sentential calculus of the symbolic logic.

Carnap defines proofs and derivations (p.159-). He also defines other concepts but just now we have no space to introduce all of them.

It is possible to extend the calculus adding more basic sentences and rules.

It is possible to restrict the calculus removing basic sentences and rules.

The Patrick Suppes' type of the symbolocal logic contains only rules. It derives the sentences from an empty sentence.

We can define a calculus which has only axioms without rules.

Manifesto (continued)

Foundations of Physics

Originally the Vienna Circle's strongest interest was in the method of empirical science. Inspired by ideas of Mach, Poincare, and Duhem, the problems of mastering reality through scientific systems, especially through systems of hypotheses and axioms, were discussed. A system of axioms, cut loose from all empirical application, can at first be regarded as a system of implicit definitions;that is to\say, the concepts that appear in the axioms are fixed, or as it were defined, not from their content but only from their mutual relations through the axioms. Such a system of ,axioms attains a meaning for reality only by the addition of further definitions, namely the 'coordinating definitions', which state What objects of reality are to be regarded as members of the system of axioms. The development of empirical science, which is to represent reality by means of as uniform and simple a net of concepts and judgments as possible, can now proceed in one of two ways, as history shows. The changes imposed by new experience can be made either in the axioms or in the coordinating definitions. Here we touch the problem of conventions, particularly treated by Poincare. ' he methodological problem of the application of axiom systems to reafity may in principle arise for any branch of science. That these investigations have thus far been fruitful almost solely for physics, however, can be understood from the present stage of historical development of science: in regard to precision and refinement of concepts; physics is far ahead of the other branches of science. Epistemological analysis of the leading concepts,of natural science has reed them more and more from metaphysical admixtures which had clung to them from ancient time. In particular, Helmholtz, Mach, Einstein, and others have cleansed the concepts of space, time, substance, causality, and probability. The doctrines of absolute space and time have been overcome by the theory of relativity; space and time are no longer absolute containers but only ordering manifolds for elementary processes. Material substance has been dissolved by atomic theory and field theory. Causality was divested of the anthropomorphic character of 'influence' or 'necessary connection' and reduced to a relation among conditions, a functional coordination. Further, in place of the many laws of nature which were considered to be strictly valid, statistical laws have appeared; following the quantum theory there is even doubt whether the concept of strictly causal lawfulness is applicable to phenomena in very small space-time regions. The concept of probability is reduced to the empirically graspable concept of relative frequency. Through the application of the axiomatic method to these problems, the empirical components always separate from the merely conventional ones, the content of statements from definitions. No room remains for a priori synthetic judgments. That knowledge of the world is possible rests not on human reason impressing its form on the material, but on the material being ordered in a certain way. The kind and degree of this order cannot be known beforehand. The world might be ordered much more strictly than it is; but it might equally be ordered much less without jeopardising the possibility of knowledge. Only step by step can the advancing research of empirical science teach us in what degree the world is regular. The method of induction, the inference from yesterday to tomorrow, from here to there, is of course only valid if regularity exists. But this method does not rest on some a priori presupposition of this regularity. It may be applied wherever it leads to fruitful results, whether or not it be adequately founded; it never yields certainty. However, epistemological reflection demands that an inductive inference should be given significance only insofar as it can be tested empirically. The scientific world-conception will not condemn the success of a piece of research because it has been gathered by means. that are inadequate, logically unclear or empirically unfounded. But it will always strive at testing with clarified aids, and demand an indirect or direct reduction to experience.

Time and space

Time and space in physics

The basic physical quantities are:

Base quantity
Length l
Mass m
Time t
Electric current
Temperature T
Amount of
Luminous intensity

In physics the time is a basic quatity.

The space is a concept of the geometry. The area and the volume are concepts of the geometry and the derived concepts of of the physics.

The coordinate free triangle.

There are different kinds of the geometry, for example the coordinate free geometry, coordinate geometry (analytic geometry) and the algebraic geometry.

There are different physical interpretations of the different geometries.

If we define that the line is a path of the photon in the space we will get a very strange geometry. The line of the photon can be something which we call a circle in the common sense speech.

The reality has no geometry. The geometry is a human way to deal the information. The question of which is a correct väärägeometry of the reality is a curved question.

Time in the philosophy

Materialist ontology


Victor Strenger.

In short, quantum physics has not done away with matter. Matter can be defined as stuff that kicks back when you kick it. When you kick a rock, it kicks back. And when you kick an electron, it kicks back. And that's no lie.

Victor Strenger, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/materialism-deconstructed_b_2228362.html 02/01/2013

Please answer each of the following 20 questions with either Yes or No.

Answer Yes only where you are prepared to commit to the existence of the proposed item, and No otherwise.

Please also answer No if you do not understand the question or are genuinely unable to decide.

For scoring, just count up the number of questions that you answer with a Yes.
  1. Do you exist? Yes/no
  2. Does existence exist Yes/No
  3. Do apples exist? Yes/No
  4. Do electrons exist? Yes/No
  5. Do rainbows exist? Yes/No
  6. Do colours exist? Yes/No
  7. Does light exist? Yes/No
  8. Does matter exist? Yes/No
  9. Does energy exist? Yes/No
  10. Does darkness exist? Yes/No
  11. Does a vacuum exist? Yes/No
  12. Do triangles exist? Yes/No
  13. Does the number 3 exist? Yes/No
  14. Does the number zero exist? Yes/No
  15. Does the number ? (pi) exist? Yes/No
  16. Does the infinity exist? Yes/No
  17. Does the number i exist? Yes/No
  18. Does Pythagoras's Theorem exist? Yes/No
  19. Does soul exist? Yes/no
  20. Does Sherlock Holmes exist? Yes/No
  21. Does Santa Claus exist? Yes/No
  22. Does God exist? Yes/No

Manifesto (continued)

Foundations of Geometry

Among the questions about the foundations of physics, the problem of physical space has received special significance in recent decades. The investigations of Gauss (1816), Bolyai"(1823), Lobatchevski (1835) and others led to non-Euclidean geometry, to a realisation that the hitherto dominant classical geometric system of Euclid was only one of an infinite set of systems, all of equal logical merit. This raised the question, which of these geometries was that of actual space. Gauss had wanted to resolve this question by measuring the angles of a large triangle. This made physical geometry into an empirical science, a branch of physics. The problems were further studied particularly by Riemann (1868), Helmholtz (1868) and Poincare (1904). Poincare especially emphasised the link of physical geometry with all other branches of physics: the question concerning the nature of actual space can be answered only in connection with a total system of physics. Einstein then found such a total system, which answered the question in favour of a certain non-Euclidean system. Through this development, physical geometry became more and more clearly separated from pure mathematical geometry. The latter gradually became more and more formalised thrugh further development of logical analysIs. First it was arithmetised, that is, interpreted as the theory of a certain number system. Next it was axiomatised, that is, represented by means of a system of axioms that conceives the geometrical elements (points, etc.) as undefined objects, and fixes only their mutual relations. Finally geometry was logicised, namely represented as a theory of certain structural relations. Thus geometry became the most important field of application for the axiomatic method and for the general..theory of relations. In this way, it gave the strongest impulse to the development of the two methods which in turn became so important for the development of logic itself, and thereby again for the scientific world-conception. The relations between mathematical and physical geometry naturally led to the problem of the application of axiom systems to reality which, as mentioned, played a big role in the more general investigations about the foundations of physics.

The truth of the axiomatic geometry

Logical empiricism defines that the sentences of the axiomatix as tue. The truth of the an consistent axiomatic system is a part of the definition of the truth. The consistence means that there are symbol sequences which are not derivable for the axioms. Example: S ? S, S is a straight line.

Manifesto (continued)

Problems of the Foundations of Biology and Psychology

Metaphysicians have always been fond of singling out biology as a special field. This came out in the doctrine of a special life force, the theory of vitalism. The modern representatives of this theory endeavour to bring it from the unclear, confused form of the past into a conceptually' clear formulation. In place of the life force, we have 'dominants' (Reinke, 1899) or 'entetechies' ,(Driesch, 1905). Since these concepts do not satisfy the requirement of reducibility to the given, the scientific world-conception rejects them as metaphysical. The same holds true of so-called 'psychovitalism' which puts forward an intervention of the soul, a 'role of leadership of the mental in the material'. If,. however, one digs out of this metaphysical vitalism the empirically graspable kernel, there remains the' thesis that the processes of organic nature proceed according to laws that cannot be reduced to physical laws. A more precise analysis shows that this thesis is equivalent to the assertion that certain fields of reality are not subject to a uniform and pervasive regularity. It is understandable that the scientific world-conception can show more definite confirmation for its views in those fields which have already achieved conceptual precision than in others: in physics more than in psychology. The linguistic forms which we still use in psychology today have their origin in certain ancient metaphysical notions of the soul. The formation of concepts in psychology is made difficult by these defects of language: metaphysical burdens and logical incongruities. Moreover there are certain factual difficulties. The result is that hitherto most of the concepts used in psychology are inadequately defined; of some, it is not known whether they have meaning or only simulate meaning through usage. So, in this field nearly everything in the way of epistemological analysis still remains to be done; of course, analysis here is more difficult than in physics. The attempt of behaviorist psychology to grasp the psychic through the behavior of bodies, which is at a level accessible to perception, is, in its principled attitude, close to the scientific world conception.

Foundations of the Social Sciences

As we have specially considered with respect to physics and mathematics, every branch of science is led to recognise that, sooner or later in its development, it must conduct an epistemological examination of its foundations, a logical analysis of its concepts. So too with the social sciences, and in the first place with history and economics. For about a hundred years, a process of elimination of metaphysical admixtures has been operating in these fields. Of course the purification has not yet reached the same degree as in physics; on the other hand, the task of cleansing is less urgent perhaps. For it seems that even in the heyday of metaphysics and theology, the metaphysical strain was not partictilarly strong here;. maybe this is because the concepts in this field, such as war and peace, import and export, are closer to direct perception than concepts like atom and ether. It is not too difficult to drop concepts like 'folk spirit' and instead to choose, as our object, groups of individuals of a certain kind. Scholars from the most diverse trends, such as Quesnay, Adam Smith, Ricardo, Comte, Marx, Menger, Walras, Miiller-Lyer, have worked in the sense of the empiricist, anti-metaphysical attitude. The object of history and economics are people, things and their arrangement.


The modern scientific world-conception has developed from work on the problems just mentioned. We have seen how in physics, the endeavours to gain-tangible results, at first even with inadequate or still insufficiently clarified scientific tools, found itself forced more and more into methodological investigations. Out of this developed the method of forming hypotheses and, further, the axiomatic method and logical analysis; thereby concept formation gained greater clarity and strength. The same methodological problems were met also in the development of foundations research in physical geometry, mathematical geometry and arithmetic, as we have seen. It is mainly from all these sources that the problems arise with which representatives of the scientific world-conception particularly concern themselves at present. Of course it is still clearly noticeable from which of the various problem areas the individual members of the Vienna Circle come. This often results in differences in lines of interests and points of view, which in turn lead to differences in conception. But it is characteristic that an endeavour toward precise formulation, application of an exact logical language and symbolism, and accurate differentiation between the theoretical content of a thesis and its mere attendant notions, diminish the separation. Step by step the common fund of conceptions is increased, forming the nucleus of a scientific world-conception around which the outer layers gather with stronger subjective divergence. Looking back we now see clearly what is the essence of the new scientific world-conception in contrast with traditional philosophy. No special 'philosophic assertions' are established, assertions are merely clarified; and at that assertions of 'empirical science, as we' have seen when we discussed the various problem areas. Some representatives of the scientific world-conception no longer want to use the term 'philosophy' for their work at all, so as to emphasise the contrast with the philosophy of (metaphysical) systems even more strongly. Whichever term may be used to describe such investigations, this much.is certain: there is no such thing as philosophy as a basic or universal science alongside or above the various fields of the one empirical science; there is no way to genuine knowledge other than the way of experience; there is no realm of ideas that stands over or beyond experience. Nevertheless the work of 'philosophic' or 'foundational' investigations remains important in accord with the scientific world-conception. For the logical clarification of scientific concepts, statements and methods liberates one from inhibiting prejudices. Logical and epistemological analysis does not wish to set barriers to scientific enquiry; on the contrary, analysis provides science with as complete a range of formal possibilities as is possible, from which to select what best fits each empirical finding (example: non-Euclidean geometries and the theory of relativity). . The representatives of the scientific world-conception resolutely stand on the ground of simple human experience. They confidently approach the task of removing the metaphysical and theological debris of millennia. Or, as-some have it: returning, after a metaphysical interlude, to a unified picture of this world which had, in a sense, been at the basis of magical beliefs, free from theology, in the earliest times. The increase of metaphysical and theologizing leanings which shows itself today in many associations and sects, in books and journals, in talks and university lectures, seems to be based on the fierce social and economic struggles of the present: one group of combatants, holding fast to traditional social forms, cultivates traditional attitudes of metaphysics and theology whose content has long since been superseded; while the other group, especially in central Europe, faces modern times, rejects these views and takes its stand on the ground of empirical science. This development is connected with that of the modern process of production, which is becoming ever more rigorously mechanised and leaves ever less room for metaphysical ideas. It is also connected with the disappointment of broad masses of people with the attitude' of those who preach traditional metaphysical and theological doctrine. So it is that in many countries the masses now reject these doctrines much more consciously than ever before, and along with their socialist attitudes tend to lean towards a down-to-earth empiricist view. In previous times, materialism was the expression of this view; meanwhile, however, modern empiricism has shed a number of inadequacies and has taken a strong shape in the scientific world-conception. Thus, the scientific world-conception is close to the life of the present. Certainly it is threatened with hard struggles and hostility. Nevertheless there are many who do not despair but, in view of the present sociological situation, look forward with hope to the course of events to come. Of course not every single adherent of the scientific world-conception will be a fighter. Some, glad of solitude, will lead a withdrawn existence on the icy slopes of logic; some may even disdain mingling with the masses and regret the 'trivialized' form that these matters inevitably take on spreading. However, their achievements too will take a place among the historic developments. We witness the spirit of the scientific world-conception penetrating in growing measure the f9.r.tp.sof personal and public life, in education, upbringing, architecture, and the shaping of economic and social life according to rational principles. The scientific world-conception serves life, and life receives it.

Members of the Vienna Circle

Gustav Bergmann
Rudolf Carnap
Herbert Feigl
Philipp Frank
Kurt GOdel
Hans Hahn
Viktor Kraft
Karl Menger
Marcel Natkin
Outo Neurath
Olga Hahn-Neurath
Theodor Radakovic
Moritz Schlick
Friedrich Waismann

Those sympathetic to theVienna Circle

WaIter Dubislav
Josef Frank
Kurt Grelling
Hasso Hiirlen
E. Kaila
Heinrich Loewy
F. P. Ramsey
Hans Reichenbach
Kurt Reidemeister
'Edgar Zilsel

Leading representatives of the scientific world-conception

Albert Einstein
Bertrand Russell
Ludwig Wittgenstein

The pamplet Wissenschaftliche Weltauffssung

Der Wiener Kreis does not give an author's name on the title page - unless one considers 'Der Wiener Kreis' as author, being printed in smaller type. This pample tis the product of teamwork; Neurath did the writing, Hahn and Carnap edited the text with him; other members of the Circle were asked for their comments and contributions. (H. Feigl mentions F. Waismann and himself, see: 'Wiener Kreis in America' in Perspectivesin American History, 11, 1968.)See also H. Neider's remarks in his contribution to our first chapter; he was a witness,as I was myself.(The publisher, Artur Wolf,also published the first colour book of the Social and Economic Museum in Vienna.) Carnap and Hahn's widow gave us their permission to include the pamphlet among Outo Neurath's writings. In fact, the name Wiener Kreis (Vienna Circle) was invented and suggested by Neurath. (See the Neurath-Carnap correspondence in a later volume in this series.)


In his text, Russell wrote about 'logical atomism', not specifically of 'logical analysis'.


Cybernetics is an approach for exploring regulatory systems, their structures, constraints, and possibilities.

Cybernetics is relevant to the study of systems, such as mechanical, physical, biological, cognitive, and social systems.

Cybernetics is applicable when a system being analyzed is involved in a closed signaling loop; that is, where action by the system generates some change in its environment and that change is reflected in that system in some manner (feedback) that triggers a system change, originally referred to as a "circular causal" relationship.

Fundamental questions, cybernetic answers

What is?

This question defines the domain of ontology.

We think that the fundamental stuff of being, the essence of the universe, consists of elementary processes or actions, rather than matter, energy or ideas.

Complex organizations, such as atoms, molecules, space and time, living beings, minds and societies emerge out of these actions through the process of evolution.

Ontology is
  1. a conception concerned with the nature and relations of being,
  2. a particular conception about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence

Why is there something rather than nothing?

  1. It is possible that the universe is infinite to both directions of the time.
  2. It is possible that the universe is infinite only in future. If so the universe arose spontaneously, through self-organizing evolution, based on the self-evident principles of variation and natural selection. Any possible variation (for example a "quantum fluctuation of the vacum") would be sufficient to set the self-organizing process in motion, thus generating a complex universe with its diverse components and structures.
  3. It is possible that the universe is finite to both directions of the time.

Why is the world the way it is?

The specific state of the universe or the world in which we live is partially a historical accident, since evolution is an indeterministic process, partially the result of a lawful process of self-organization, which leads predictably to higher levels of organization through the mechanism of metasystem transition.

Metasystem Transition (MST), the evolutionary process by which higher levels of complexity and control are generated.

Where does it all come from?

If the universe is infinite to both dimensions we are only one process in this universum.

If the universe has a beginning, we can reconstruct in some detail the subsequent stages in the evolution of the universe, leading from the Big Bang, elementary particles, atoms and molecules to living cells, multicellular organisms, animals, people and society.

Thus the history of evolution, conceived as a sequence of metasystem transitions, tells us how and in which order all the different types of phenomena we see around us have arisen.

Where do we come from?


Humans evolved out of animals that had the capacity to learn associations from the environment, by additionally acquiring the capacity to think, that is, autonomously control these associations. Human thought is rooted in the evolutione of symbolic language.

Evolution has no purpose. (Richard Dawkins (1986). The Blind Watchmaker. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-31570-3)


1. to have a conscious mind, to some extent of reasoning, remembering experiences, making rational decisions, etc.
2. to employ one's mind rationally and objectively in evaluating or dealing with a given situation:
Think carefully before you begin.
3. to have a certain thing as the subject of one's thoughts:
I was thinking about you. We could think of nothing else.
4. to call something to one's conscious mind:
I couldn't think of his phone number.
5. to consider something as a possible action, choice, etc.:
She thought about cutting her hair.
6. to invent or conceive of something:
We thought of a new plan.
7. to have consideration or regard for someone:
Think of others first.

Who are we?

As far as we know, humans occupy the provisionally most advanced level in the hierarchy of metasystems.

Our capacity for thought distinguishes us from the animals by giving us uniquely human characteristics, such as self-consciousness, tool making, imagination, planning, play, sense of humor and esthetic feelings.

Where are we going to?

The theory of metasystem transitions helps us to extrapolate present, on-going progress into the future.

Recent developments point to a new metasystem transition which will bring us to a yet higher level of complexity or consciousness, transcending individual thought.

This level is perhaps best described by the metaphor of the social superorganism and its global brain.

What is the purpose of it all?

Evolution does not have a purpose, in the sense of a fixed goal to which it is advancing. However, although evolution is largely unpredictable, it is not random either. 

Sometimes selection can be seen as having the implicit goal of maximizing survivability or fitness. This implies a preferred direction of evolution, which is in practice characterized by increasing complexity, adaptivity and intelligence.

Is there a God?

Since the mechanisms of self-organizing evolution satisfactorily explain the origin and development of the universe, and our place in it, there is no need to postulate a  god, in the sense of a conscious entity outside of the universe which created that universe.

It is possible to define a concrete god, for example "god is the universe". This is manipulation using lkanguage and we will not accept suct manipulation.

What is good and what is evil?

The evolutionary mechanism of natural selection makes an implicit distinction between "good" or "fit" situations (those which survive in the long term), and "bad" or "unfit" ones (those which are eliminated sooner or later).

Therefore, it is possible  equate good or higher values with anything that contributes to survival and the continuation of the process of evolution, and evil with anything that destroys, kills or thwarts the development of fit systems.

In practice it is a society which is trying to compel citizens to the values of its leaders.

Of course there is a social pressurre which helps the leaders.

The good example is Boris Jeltsin. He was changin all values in Russia.

What is truth?

The word ‘true’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘treowe’ meaning ‘believed’. ‘Believe’ itself is from ‘gelyfan’, ‘to esteem dear’. So etymologically, ‘truth’ would be something believed to be of some value, rather than necessarily being correct. ‘Believe’ is still used in the older sense, as in “I believe in democracy” – a different sense to ‘believing in Father Christmas’. Such ambiguity facilitates equivocation – useful to politicians, etc, who can be economical with the truth. One function of language is to conceal truth.

There are no absolute truths. The truth of a theory is merely its power to produce predictions that are confirmed by observations. However, different theories can produce similar predictions without one of them being right and the other wrong. "True" knowledge is the one that best survives the natural selection for predictive power.

What is consciousness?


  1. aware of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.
  2. fully aware of or sensitive to something (often followed by of):
    conscious of one's own faults; He wasn't conscious of the gossip about his past.
  3. having the mental faculties fully active:
    He was conscious during the operation.
  4. known to oneself; felt:
    conscious guilt.
    aware of what one is doing:
    a conscious liar.
  5. aware of oneself; self-conscious.
  6. deliberate; intentional:


  1. the state of being conscious; awareness of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.
  2. the thoughts and feelings, collectively, of an individual or of an aggregate of people: the moral consciousness of a nation.
  3. full activity of the mind and senses, as in waking life: to regain consciousness after fainting.
  4. awareness of something for what it is; internal knowledge: consciousness of wrongdoing.
  5. concern, interest, or acute awareness: class consciousness.
  6. the mental activity of which a person is aware as contrasted with unconscious mental processes. 
  7. philosophy: the mind or the mental faculties as characterized by thought, feelings, and volition.

Cybernetic explanation of consciousness

Even the most primitive cybernetic agent must be able to sense its environment in order to reach its goals.

More complex agents can integrate different sensations into a global awareness of their situation, and use subsequent experiences to learn and improve their mental functioning.

Only people are moreover conscious of their own experiences, and thus able to control them.

Such consciousness is an eminently subjective relation between the agent and the relevant internal and external aspects of its situation. It is not some mysterious kind of substance or fluid, and there is no intrinsically "hard" problem of consciousness.

Do we have a "free will"?

The unpredictability implied by quantum mechanics has done away with the Newtonian world view, in which all future events are predetermined. In our evolutionary worldview, there always is a choice: a variety of possibilities, some of which are retained by selection. The defining characteristic of a cybernetic agent is some degree of control over that selection. Because of their capacity for thought, people, moreover, are not only free to choose between given possibilities, but able to conceive novel possibilities and explore their consequences.

How should we act?

Effective action is based on a clear sense of goals or values, and a good model of the environment in which you try to reach these goals. By applying problem-solving methods, you can explore the possible situations in your model to find the most efficient path from your present situation to your goal. You can then try out this action plan in practice, taking into account the feedback you get in order to correct your course.

How can we be happy?

People are happy when they are "in control", that is, feel competent to satisfy their needs and reach their goals. Happiness is most common in societies which provide sufficient wealth, health care, education, personal freedom and equality. Happy people tend to be self-confident, open to experience and have good personal relations. Promoting these social and personal values should increase our overall quality of life.

Why cannot we live forever?

Evolution has predisposed us to age and die because fitness is achieved more easily by fast reproduction than by long life. Aging is the result of a variety of deterioration processes. Therefore, it is unlikely that we will achieve biological immortality in the near future, in spite of a constantly increasing life span. 

What is the meaning of life?

This question in a sense summarizes all previous questions. It is usually understood as:

"What are the highest values, the Supreme Goals which I should try to achieve?".

We stress that every human being must freely set those goals for himself or herself.

The supreme goal which we choose derives logically from our conception of the reality: to make a constructive contribution to the evolution of humanity, in order to maximize our long-term chances of survival (immortality).

In biology the meaning of life is to increase evolutionary fitness.

See on article on meaning of life in this book!

The Meaning

Meaning of the meaning

The word "meaning" has many meanings
  1. Meaning (existential), the worth of life in contemporary existentialism
  2. Meaning (linguistics), meaning which is communicated through the use of language
  3. Meaning (non-linguistic), a general term of art to capture senses of the word "meaning", independent from its linguistic uses
  4. Meaning (philosophy of language), definition, elements, and types of meaning discussed in philosophy
  5. Meaning (psychology), epistemological position, in psychology as well as philosophy, linguistics, semiotics and sociology
  6. Meaning (semiotics), the distribution of signs in sign relations
  7. The meaning of life, a notion concerning the nature of human existence
  8. Why are we here? Do we serve a greater purpose beyond the pleasure or satisfaction we get from our daily activities – however mundane or heroic they may be? Is the meaning of life internal to life, to be found inherently in life’s many activities, or is it external, to be found in a realm somehow outside of life, but to which life leads?

Meaning as purpose or meaning as sinificant


  1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
  2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
  3. determination; resoluteness.
  4. the subject in hand; the point at issue.
  5. practical result, effect, or advantage


Something that is conveyed as a meaning often obscurely or indirectly.

The quality of conveying or implying
  • The quality of being important (for example moment)
  • The quality of being statistically significant

The Meaning of Life


In German:

Bei der Frage nach dem Sinn des Lebens geht es um die auf einen Zweck gerichtete (teleologische) Bedeutung des Lebens im Universum an sich oder um die biologische und sozio-kulturelle Evolution, insbesondere des Homo sapiens.

In English:

The question of the meaning of the life
deals with the purposeful (teleological) meaning of the life in the universe in general or the purpose of the socio-cultural evolution, particulary of Homo sapiens.

Questions about the meaning of life have been expressed in a broad variety of ways, including the following:
  1. What is the meaning of life?
  2. What's it all about? Who are we?
  3. What is the origin of life?
  4. What is the nature of life? What is the nature of reality?
  5. What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of one's life?
  6. What is the significance of life?[
  7. What is meaningful and valuable in life?
  8. What is the value of life?
  9. What is the reason to live? What are we living for?

Kurt Baier and the meaning of the life


Kurt Baier.

Kurt Baier gives a classical answer to these questions in his article "The meaning of life" (inaugural lecture at the Canberra university October 15, 1957).

Why this answer is unknown to the almost all philosopher? It is unknown because philosophers have their prejudices. The origin of the prejudices is the religioius culture.

Baier writes:

The medieval Christian world picture assigned to man a highly significant, indeed the central part in the grand scheme of things. The universe was made for the express purpose 'of providing a stage on which to enact a drama starring Man in the title role.

To be exact, the world was created by God in the year 4004 B.C. Man was the last and the crown of this creation, made in the likeness of God, placed in the Garden of Eden on earth, the fixed centre of the universe, round which revolved the nine heavens of the sun, the moon, the planets and the fixed stars, produc ing as they revolved in their orbits the heavenly harmony of the spheres.


And this gigantic universe was created for the enjoyment of man, who was originally put in control of it. Pain and death were unknown in paradise. But this state of bliss was not to last.


Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree of knowledge, and life on this earth turned into a death-march through a vale of tears.


Then, with the birth of Jesus, new hope came into the world. After He had died on the cross, it became at least possible to wash away with the purify ing water of baptism. some of the effects of Original Sin and to achieve salvation. That is to say, on condition of obedience to the law of God, man could now enter heaven and regain the state of everlasting, deathless bliss, from which he had been excluded because of the sin of Adam and Eve.

To the medieval Christian the meaning of human life was therefore perfectly clear. The stretch on earth is only a short interlude, a temporary incarceration of the soul in the prison of the body, a brief trial and test, fated to end in death, the release from pain and suffering.

What really matters, is the life after the death of the body. One's existence acquires meaning not by gaining what this life can offer but by saving one's immortal, soul from death and eternal torture, by gaining eternal life and everlasting bliss.

The scientific world picture which has found ever more general acceptance from the beginning of the modern era onwards is in profound conflict with all this. ...

Man, instead of occupying the centre of creation, proved to be merely the inhabitant of a celestial body no different from millions of others.


Furthermore, geological investigations revealed that the universe was not created a few thousand years ago, but was probably millions of years old. 
As the natural sciences developed, however, more and more things in the universe came to be explained without the assumption of a supernatural creator. Science, moreover, could explain them better, that is, more accurately and more reliably.
Hence many scientists and educated men have come to feel that the Christian attitudes towards the world and human existence are inappropriate. They have become convinced that the universe and human existence in it are without a purpose and therefore devoid of meaning.

Baier says tha there are several kinds of the expanations, for example the causal explanation and the taleological explanation.


Causality is and is not:
  1. The relationship between something that happens or exists and the thing that causes it
  2. The idea that something can cause another thing to happen or exist.
  3. Conditional statements are not statements of causality. An important distinction is that statements of causality require the antecedent to precede or coincide with the consequent in time, whereas conditional statements do not require this temporal order. Confusion commonly arises since many different statements in English may be presented using "If ..., then ..." form (and, arguably, because this form is far more commonly used to make a statement of causality). The two types of statements are distinct, however.
  4. Correlation does not imply causation.


Examples: Scientists found no causality between the events. A pinprick causes pain. Brain damage causes mental illness. When behavior is accounted for in terms of future events, such an account is referred to as a teleological explanation.

For example, the behavior of human beings is often teleological. A person who buys an airplane ticket, reads a book, or cultivates the earth is trying to achieve a certain end: getting to a given city, acquiring knowledge, or getting food.

Objects and machines made by people also are usually teleological: a knife is made for cutting, a clock is made for telling time, a thermostat is made to regulate temperature. Similarly features of organisms are teleological as well: a bird's wings are for flying, eyes are for seeing, kidneys are constituted for regulating the composition of the blood.

The features of organisms that may be said to be teleological are those that can be identified as adaptations, whether they are structures like a wing or a hand, or organs like a kidney, or behaviors like the courtship displays of a peacock. Adaptations are features of organisms that have come about by natural selection because they serve certain functions and thus increase the reproductive success of their carriers.

Baier writes:

The truth is that these two kinds of explanation are equally explanatory, equally illuminating, and equally full and final, but that they are appropriate for different kinds of explicanda.


When in an uninhabited forest we find what looks like houses, paved streets, temples, cooking utensils, and the like, it is no great risk to say that these things are the ruins of a deserted city, that is to say, of something man-made. In such a case, the appropriate explanation is teleological, that is, in terms of the purposes of the builders of that city.


On the other hand, when a comet approaches the earth, it is similarly a safe bet that, unlike the city in the forest, it was not manufactured by intelligent creatures and that, therefore, a teleological explanation would be out of place, whereas a causal one is suitable.

It is easy to see that in some cases causal, and in others teleological explanations are appropriate.

Baier lists many difficulties answering questions. He draws following conclusions:

...scientific explanations are no worse than any other. All that has been shown is that all explanations suffer from the same defect: all involve a vicious infinite regress.

....science is not merely limited to the exploration of a tiny corner of the universe but that, however far our probing instruments may eventually reach, we can never even approach the answers to the last questions:  Why is there a World at all rather than nothing?  and 

flat earth

Why is the world such as it is and not different?  Here our finite human intellect bumps against its own boundary walls.

Is it true that scientific explanations involve an infinite vicious regress? Are scientific explanations really only provisional and incomplete?

The crucial point will be this. Do all contingent truths call for explanation? Is the principle of sufficient reason sound? Can scientific explanations never come to a definite end?

It will be seen that with a clear grasp of the nature and purpose of explanation we can answer these questions.


Explaining something to someone is making him understand it.

This involves bringing together in his mind two things, a model which is accepted as already simple and clear, and that which is to be explained, the explicandum, which is not so. Understanding the explicandum is seeing that it belongs to a range of things which could legitimately have been expected by anyone familiar with the model and with certain facts.

...“Are scientific explanations true and full explanations or do they involve an infinite regress, leaving them for ever incomplete?

....Unvexing— explanations are real and complete explanations. Can there be an infinite regress, then, in the case of model-explanations?


Take the following example. European children are puzzled by the fact that their antipodean counterparts do not drop into empty space. This perplexity can be removed by substituting for their explanatory model another one.

The European children imagine that throughout space there is an all-pervasive force operating in the same direction as the force that pulls them to the ground.

We must, in our revised model, substitute for this force another acting everywhere in the direction of the centre of the earth.

Having thus removed their perplexity by giving them an adequate model, we can, however, go on to ask why there should be such a force as the force of gravity, why bodies should “naturally,” in the absence of forces acting on them, behave in the way stated in Newton’s laws.


And we might be able to give such an explanation. We might for instance construct a model of space which would exhibit as derivable from it what in Newton’s theory are “brute facts.” Here we would have a case of the brute facts of one theory being explained within the framework of another, more general theory.

And it is a sound methodological principle that we should continue to look for more and more general theories. Note two points, however. The first is that we must distinguish, as we have seen, between the possibility and the necessity of giving an explanation.

Particular occurrences can be explained by being exhibited as instances of regularities, and regularities can be explained by being exhibited as instances of more general regularities.


Such explanations make things clearer. They organize the material before us. They introduce order where previously there was disorder.

But absence of this sort of explanation (model-explanation) does not leave us with a puzzle or perplexity, an intellectual restlessness or cramp.

The unexplained things are not unintelligible, incomprehensible, or irrational. Some things, on the other hand, call for, require, demand an explanation. As long as we are without such an explanation, we are perplexed, puzzled, intellectually perturbed.

We need an unvexing-explanation. Now, it must be admitted that we may be able to construct a more general theory, from which, let us say, Newton’s theory can be derived.

This would further clarify the phenomena of motion and would be intellectually satisfying. But failure to do so would not leave us with an intellectual cramp. The facts stated in Newton’s theory do not require, or stand in need of, unvexing explanations.


They could do so only if we already had another theory or model with which Newton's theory was incompatible. They could not do so, by themselves, prior to the establishment of such another model.

The second point is that there is an objective limit to which such explanations tend, and beyond which they are pointless. There is a very good reason for wishing to explain a less general by a more general theory.

Usually, such a unification goes hand in hand with greater precision in measuring the phenomena which both theories explain.
general theory

Moreover, the more general theory, because of its greater generality, can explain a wider range of phenomena, including not only phenomena already explained by some other theories but also newly discovered phenomena, which the less general theory cannot explain.

Now, the ideal limit to which such expansions of theories tend is an all embracing theory which unifies all theories and explains all phenomena.

Of course, such a limit can never be reached, since new phenomena are constantly" discovered. Nevertheless, theories may be tending towards it.

Baier continues:


......What about our most serious question, “Why is there anything at all?”

......let us be quite clear what is to be explained. There are two facts here, not one.

The first is that the universe exists, which is undeniable. The second is that the universe must have originated out of nothing, and that is not undeniable.

It is true that, if it has originated at all, then it must have originated out of nothing, or else it is not the universe that has originated.

But need it have originated?

...... assume that the universe really has originated out of nothing. Even that does not prove that the universe has not existed for ever.

If the universe can conceivably develop out of nothing, then it can conceivably vanish without remainder.

......The concept of time hardly applies to such universes. It does not make sense to ask whether one of them is earlier or later than, or perhaps simultaneous with, the other because we cannot ask whether they occupy the same or different spaces.

......We cannot therefore make any statement about their mutual spatio-temporal relations.


......Let us suppose for a moment that we understand what is meant by saying that the universe originated out of nothing and that this has happened only once. Let us accept this as a fact.

Does this fact call for explanation? It does not call for an unvexing-explanation. That would be called for only if there were a perplexity due to the incompatibility of an accepted model with some fact.

In our case, the fact to be explained is the origination of the universe out of nothing, hence there could not be such a perplexity, for we need not employ a model incompatible with this. If we had a model incompat- ible with our “fact,” then that would be the wrong model and we would sim— ply have to substitute another for it.

The model we employ to explain the origin of the universe out of nothing could not be based on the similar origins of other things for, of course, there is nothing else with a similar origin.

......If we assume that every thing has an origin, we need not, indeed it is hard to see how we can, assume that the totality of things has an origin as well. There is therefore no perplexity, because we need not and should not assume that the universe has originated out of nothing.

If, however, in spite of all that has been said just now, someone still wishes to assume, contrary to all reason, that the universe has originated out of nothing, there would still be no perplexity, for then he would simply have to give up the principle which is incompatible with this assumption, namely, that no thing can originate out of nothing.

After all, this principle could allow for exceptions. We have no proof that it does not. Again, there is no perplexity, because no incompatibility between our assumption and an inescapable principle.

But it might be asked, do we not need a model-explanation of our supposed fact? The ansWer is No. We do not need such an explanation, for there could not possibly be-a model for this origin other than this origin itself. We cannot say that origination out of nothing is like birth, or emergence, or evolution, or anything else we know for it is not like anything we know. In all these cases, there is something out of which the new thing has originated.

To sum up. The question, “Why is there anything at all?” looks like a perfectly sensible question modelled on “Why does this exist?” or “How has this originated?” It looks like a question about the origin of a thing. However, it is not such a question, for the universe is not a thing, but the totality of things.


There is therefore no reason to assume that the universe has an origin. The very assumption that it has is fraught with contradictions and absurdities. If, nevertheless, it were true that the universe has originated out of nothing, then this would not call either for an unvexing or a model-explanation.

It would not call for the latter, because there could be no model of it taken from another part of our experience, since there is nothing analogous in our experience to origination out of nothing. It would not call for the former, because there can be no perplexity due to the incompatibility of a well- established model and an undeniable fact, since there is no undeniable fact and no well-established model.

If, on the other hand, as is more probable, the universe has not originated at all, but is eternal, then the question why or how it has originated simply does not arise. There can then be no question about why anything at all exists, for it could not mean how or why the universe had originated, since ex hypothesi it has no origin. And what else could it mean?


......we must bear in mind that the hypothesis that the universe was made by God out of nothing only brings us back to the question who made God or how God originated. And if we do not ?nd it repugnant to say that God is eter nal, we cannot find it repugnant to say that the universe is eternal. The only difference is that we know for certain that the universe exists, while we have the greatest difficulty in even making sense of the claim that God exists.

......scienti?c explanations are real and full, just like the explanations of everyday life and of the traditional religions. They differ from those latter only in that they are more precise and more easily disprovable by the observa tion of facts.

My main points dealt with the question why scientific explanations were thought to be merely provisional and partial.

The first main reason is the misunderstanding of the difference between teleological and causal explana tions. It is first, and rightly, maintained that teleological explanations are answers to “Why?”-questions, while causal explanations are answers to “How?”-questions.

It is further, and wrongly, maintained that, in order to obtain real and full explanations of anything, one must answer both “Why?” and “How?” questions.


In other words, it is thought that all matters can and must be explained by both teleological and causal types of explanation.

Causal explanations, it is believed, are merely provisional and partial, waiting to be completed by teleologicalexplanations.

Until a teleological explanation has been given, so the story goes, we have not really understood the explicandum.

...both types are equally real and full explanations. The difference between them is merely that they are appropriate to different types of explicanda.

It should, moreover, be borne in mind that teleological explanations are not, in any sense, unscientific.

They are rightly rejected in the natural sciences, not however because they are unscientific, but because no intelligences or purposes are found to be involved there.

On the other hand, teleological explanations are very much in place in psychology, for we ?nd intelligence and purpose involved in a good deal of human behaviour.

It is not only not unscienti?c to give teleological explanations of deliberate human behaviour, but it would be quite unscientific to exclude them.

The second reason why scientific explanations are thought to be merely provisional and partial, is that they are believed to involve a vicious infinite regress.

Two misconceptions have led to this important error.

The first is the general misunderstanding of the nature of explanation, and in particular the failure to distinguish between the two types which I have called model- and unvexing explanations, respectively.

If one does not draw this distinction, it is natural to conclude that scientific explanations lead to a vicious infinite regress.

For while it is true of those perplexing matters which are elucidated by unvexing-explanations that they are incomprehensible and cry out for explanation, it is not true that after an unvexing-explanation has been given, this itself is again capable, let alone in need of, a yet further explanation of the same kind.


Conversely, while it is true that model-explanations of regularities can themselves be further explained by more general model-explanations, it is not true that, in the absence of such more general explanations, the less general are incomplete, hang in the air, leaving the explicandum incomprehensible and crying out for explanation.

The distinction between the two types of explanation shows us that an explicandum is either perplexing and incomprehensible, in which case an explanation of it is necessary for clari?cation and, when given, complete, or it is a regularity capable of being subsumed under a model, in which case a further explanation is possible and often profitable, but not necessary for clarification.

The second misconception responsible for the belief in a vicious infinite regress is the misrepresentation of scientific explanation as essentially causal. It has generally been held that, in a scientific explanation, the explicandum is the effect of some event, the cause, temporally prior to the explicandum.

Combined with the principle of sufficient reason, (the principle that anything is in need of explanation which might conceivably have been different from what it is), this error generates the nightmare of determinism. Since any event might have been different from what it was, acceptanceof this principle has‘ther consequence that every event must have a reason or explanation.

But if the reason is itself an event prior in time, then every reason must have a reason preceding it, and so the in?nite regress of explanation is necessarily tied to the time scale stretching infinitely back into the endless past.

It is, however, obvious from our account that science is not primarily concerned with the forgé ing of such causal chains. The primary object of the natural sciences is not historical at all. Natural science claims to reveal, not the beginnings of things, but their underlying reality. It does not dig up the past, it digs down into the structure of things existing here and now.

Some scientists do allow themselves to speculate, and rather precariously at that, about origins. But their hard work is done on the structure of what exists now. In particular those explanations which are themselves further explained are not explanations linking event to eyent in a gapless chain reaching back to creation day, but generalisations of theories tending towards a unified theory.

Our conclusion in the previous section has been that science is in principle able to give complete and real explanations of every occurrence and thing in the universe. This has two important corollaries:

(i) Acceptance of the scientific world picture cannot be one’s reason for the belief that the universe is unintelligible and therefore meaningless, though coming to accept it, after having been taught the Christian world picture, may well have been, in the case of many individuals, the only or the main cause of their belief that the universe and human existence are meaningless.

(ii) It is not in accordance with reason, to reject this pessimistic belief on the grounds that scientific explanations are only provisional and incomplete and must be supplemented by religious ones;

In fact, it might be argued that the more clearly we understand the explanations given by science, the more we are driven to the conclusion that human life has no purpose and therefore no meaning.

The science of astronomy teaches us that our earth was not specially created about 6,000 years ago, but - evolved out of hot nebulae which previously had whirled aimlessly through space for countless ages. As they cooled, the sun and the planets formed. On one of these planets at a certain time the circumstances were propitious and life developed. But conditions will not remain favourable to life.


When our solar system grows old, the sun will cool, our planet will be covered with ice, and all living creatures will eventually perish. Another theory has it that the sun wiil explode and that the heat generated will be so great that all organic life on" earth will be destroyed.

That is the comparatively short history and prospect of life on earth. Altogether it amounts to very little when compared with the endless history of the inanimate universe.

Biology teaches us that the species man was not specially created but is merely, in a long chain of evolutionary changes of forms of life, the last link, made in the likeness not of God but of nothing so much as an ape.

The rest of the universe, whether animate or inanimate, instead of serving the ends of man, is at best indifferent, at worst savagely hostile.

Evolution to whose operation the emergence of man is due is a ceaseless battle among members of different species, one species being gobbled up by another, only the ?ttest surviving.

Far from being the gentlest and most highly moral, man is simply the creature best fitted to survive, the most efficient if not the most rapacious and insatiable killer.

And in this unplanned, fortuitous, monstrous, savage world man is madly trying to snatch a few brief moments of joy, in the short intervals during which he is free from pain, sickness, persecution, war or famine until, finally, his life is snuffed out in death. Science has helped us to know and understand this world, but what purpose or meaning can it find in it?

Complaints such as these do not mean quite the same to everybody, but one thing, I think, they mean to most people: science shows life to be meaningless, because life is without purpose. The medieval world picture provided life with a purpose, hence medieval Christians could believe that life had a meaning. The scienti?c account of the world takes away life’s purpose and with it its meaning.

There are, however, two quite different senses of “purpose.” Which one is meant? Has science deprived human life of purpose in both senses? And if not, is it a harmless sense, in which human existence has been robbed of purpose?

Could human existence still have meaning if it did not have a purpose in that sense?

What are the two senses? In the first and basic sense, purpose is normally attributed only to persons or their behaviour as in “Did you have a purpose in leaving the ignition on?” In the second sense, purpose is normally attributed only to things, as in “What is the purpose of that gadget you installed in the Workshop?” The two uses are intimately connected.

We cannot attribute a purpose to a thing without implying that someone did something, in the doing of which he had some purpose, namely, to bring about the thing with the purpose.

Of course, his purpose is not identical with its purpose. In hiring labourers and engineers and buying materials and a site for a factory and the like, the entrepreneur’s purpose, let us say, is to manufacture cars, but the purpose of cars is to serve as a means of transportation.

..... Science has not only not robbed us of any purpose which we had before, but it has furnished us with enormously greater power to achieve these purposes.

Instead of praying for rain or a good harvest or offspring, we now use ice pellets  or artificial insemination.

By contrast, having or not having a purpose, in the other sense, is value neutral. We do not think more or less highly of a thing for having or not having a purpose. “Having a purpose,” in this sense, confers no kudos, “being purposeless” carries no stigma.

A row of trees growing near a farm may or may not have a purpose: it may or may not be a windbreak, may or may not have been planted or deliberately left standing there in order to prevent the wind from sweeping across the fields.

We do not in any way disparage the trees if we say they have no purpose, but have just grown that way. They are as beautiful, made of as good wood, as valuable, as if they had a purpose.

And, of course, they break the wind just as well. The same is true of living creatures.


We do not disparage a dog when we say that it has no purpose, is not a sheep dog or a watch dog or a rabbiting dog, but just a dog that hangs around the house and is fed by us.

If, at a garden party, I ask a man in livery, “What is your purpose?” I am insulting him. I might as well have asked, “What are you for?” Such questions reduce him to the level of a gadget, a domestic animal, or perhaps a slave. I imply that we allot to him the tasks, the goals, the aims which he is to pursue; that his wishes and desires and aspirations and purposes are to count for little or nothing. We are treating him, in Kant’s phrase, merely as a means to our. ends, not as an end in himself.

The Christian and the scientific world pictures do indeed differ fundamentally on this point. The latter robs man of a purpose in this sense. It sees him as a being with no purpose allotted to him by anyone but himself. It robs him of any goal, purpose, or destiny appointed for him by any outside agency.


The Christian world picture, on the other hand, sees man as a creature, a divine artefact, something halfway between a robot (manufactured) and an animal (alive), a homunculus, or perhaps Frankenstein, made in God’s laboratory, with a purpose or task assigned him by his Maker.

However, lack of purpose in this sense does not in any way detract from the meaningfulness of life. I suspect that many who reject the scientific outlook because it involves the loss of purpose of life, and therefore meaning, are guilty of a confusion between the two senses of “purpose” just distinguished.

......These people mistakenly conclude that there can be no purpose in life because there is no purpose of ‘ life; that men cannot themselves adopt and achieve purposes because man, unlike a robot or a watchdog, is not a creature with a purpose.
baby walking

But it does not imply that life can have no meaning. It merely implies that it must have a different meaning from that which it was thought to have. Just as it is a great shock for a child to find that he must stand on his own feet, that his father and mother no longer provide for him, so a person who has lost his faith in God must reconcile himself to the idea that he has to stand on his own feet, alone in the world except for whatever friends he may succeed in making.

......we call a person’s life meaningful not only if it is worthwhile, but also if he has helped in the realization of some plan or purpose transcending his own concerns.

......We can say which is more and which is less worth while, but we cannot say which is worth while and which is not. In order to determine the latter, we must introduce a standard. But what standard ought we to choose?

Ordinarily, the standard we employ is the average of the kind. We call a man and a tree tall if they are well above the average of their kind. We do not say that Jones is a short man because he is shorter than a tree.

......The same principles must apply to judging lives. When we ask whether a given life was or was not worth while, then we must take into consideration the range of worthwhileness which ordinary lives normally cover.

......A good and worthwhile life is one that is well above average. A bad one is one well below.

......We judge a life more significant if the person has contributed to the happiness of others, whether directly by what he did for others, or by the plans, discoveries, inventions, and work he performed. Many lives that hold little in the way of pleasure or happiness for its owner are highly significant and valuable, deserve admiration and respect on account of the contributions made.

It is now quite clear that death is simply irrelevant. If life can be worthwhil at all, then it can be so even though it be short.


And if it is not worthwhile at all, then an eternity of it is simply a nightmare. It may be sad that we have to leave this beautiful world, but it is so only if and because it is beautiful. And it is no less beautiful for coming to an end. I rather suspect that an eternity of it might make us less appreciative, and in the end it would be tedious.

......I attempted to show that, if we accept the explanations of natural science, we can not believe that living organisms have appeared on earth in accordance with the deliberate plan of some intelligent being. Hence, on this view, life cannot be said to have a purpose, in the sense in which man-made things have a purpose.

Hence it cannot be said to have a meaning or significance in that sense. However, this conclusion is innocuous. People are disconcerted by the thought that life as such has no meaning in that sense only because they very naturally think it entails that no individual life can have meaning either.


......Morality is not the meting out of punishment and reward. To be moral is to refrain from doing to others what, if they followed reason, they would not do to themselves, and to do for others what, if they followed reason, they would want to have done. It is, roughly speaking, to recognize that others, too, have a right to a worthwhile life.

......Conclusion I have tried to establish three points:

(i) that scientific explanations render their explicanda as intelligible as prescientific explanations; they differ from the latter only in that, having testable implications and being more precisely formulated, their truth or falsity can be determined with a high degree of probability;

(ii) that science does not rob human life of purpose, in the only sense that matters, but, on the contrary, renders many more of our purposes capable of realization;

(iii) that common sense, the Christian world view, and the scientific approach agree on the criteria but differ on the standard to be employed in the evaluation of human lives; judging human lives by the standards of perfection, as Christians do, is unjustified; if we abandon this exces sively high standard and replace it by an everyday one, we have no longer any reason for dismissing earthly existence as not worthwhile.

On the basis of these three points I have attempted to explain why so many people come to the conclusion that human existence is meaningless and to show that this conclusion is false.

optimism kills

In my opinion, this pessimism rests on a combination of two beliefs, both partly true and partly false: the belief that the meaningfulness of life depends on the satisfaction of at least three conditions, and the belief that this universe satisfies none of them. The conditions are, first, that the universe is intelligible, second, that life has a purpose, and third, that all men's hopes and desires can ultimately be satisfied.

It seemed to medieval Christians and it seems to many Christians today that Christianity offers a picture of the world which can meet these conditions. To many Christians and non-Christians alike it seems that the scientific world picture is incompatible with that of Christianity, therefore with the view that these three conditions are met, therefore with the view that life has a meaning.

Hence they feel that they are confronted by the dilemma of accepting either a world picture incompatible with the discoveries of science or the view that life is meaningless. I have attempted to show that the dilemma is unreal because life can be meaningful even if not all of these conditions are met. My main conclusion, therefore, is that acceptance of the scientific world picture provides no reason for saying that life is meaningless, but on the contrary every reason for saying that there are many lives which are meaningful and significant.

But here lies the rub,  it will be said.  Surely, it makes all the difference whether there is an after-life. This is where morality comes in.  It would be a mistake to believe that. Morality is not the meting out of punishment and reward.


To be moral is to  what, if they followed reason, they would not do to themselves, and to do for others what, if they followed reason, they would want to have done. It is, roughly speaking, to recognize that others, too, have a right to a worthwhile life.

Being moral does not make one own life worthwhile, it helps others to make theirs so. Conclusion I have tried to establish three points:

(i) that scientific explanations render their explicanda as intelligible as pre-scientific explanations; they differ from the latter only in that, having testable implications and being more precisely formulated, their truth or falsity can be determined with a high degree of probability;

(ii) that science does not rob human life of purpose, in the only sense that matters, but, on the contrary, renders many more of our purposes capable of realization;

(iii) that common sense, the Christian world view, and the scientific approach agree on the criteria but differ on the standard to be employed in the evaluation of human lives; judging human lives by the standards of perfection, as Christians do, is unjustified; if we abandon this exces sively high standard and replace it by an everyday one, we have no longer any reason for dismissing earthly existence as not worthwhile.

On the basis of these three points I have attempted to explain why so many people come to the conclusion that human existence is meaningless and to show that this conclusion is false.


In my opinion, this pessimism rests on a combination of two beliefs, both partly true and partly false: the belief that the meaningfulness of life depends on the satisfaction of at least three conditions, and the belief that this universe satisfies none of them. The conditions are, first, that the universe is intelligible, second, that life has a purpose, and third, that all men hopes and desires can ultimately be satisfied.

It seemed to medieval Christians and it seems to many Christians today that Christianity offers a picture of the world which can meet these conditions. To many Christians and non-Christians alike it seems that the scientific world picture is incompatible with that of Christianity, therefore with the view that these three conditions are met, therefore with the view that life has a meaning. Hence they feel that they are confronted by the dilemma of accepting either a world pic ture incompatible with the discoveries of science or the view that life is meaningless.


I have attempted to show that the dilemma is unreal because life can be meaningful even if not all of these conditions are met.

My main conclusion, therefore, is that acceptance of the scientific world picture provides no reason for saying that personal life of the man is meaningless, but on the contrary every reason for saying that there are many lives which are meaningful and significant.

Julian Baggini and the meaning of the life

Julian Baggini.

Julian Baggini has a book on the meaning of the life:
Julian Baggini, What’s It All About: Philosophy & The Meaning of Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

Few of his toughts.

Baggini proceeds to investigate six ways (helping others, serving humanity, being happy, becoming successful, enjoying each day, and freeing your mind) that might provide life with meaning.

His concludes that all of them may be part of a good or meaningful life, but they are not all of it.

They do not guarantee that our lives are meaningful because, of any of them, we can still ask: is such a life meaningful?

What all this means is that we are threatened with meaninglessness.

According to Baggini our choices are to accept that:
  1. life is meaningless;
  2. the question is meaningless; or
  3. meaning is impossible to discover.
Regarding 1—while life is not meaningful in an objective sense, it can still be subjectively meaningful.

Regarding 2—while life is not the kind of thing that can bear meaning, it cannot bear meaning anymore than sound can bear color, it can have meaning for the person living it.

Regarding 3—although we cannot know the meaning of life with certainty, we can still find our lives meaningful by living them.


One might say that such a life is not sufficiently examined and thus not worth living, but that is mere intellectual snobbery.

Unexamined lives can be worth living if the people living them find them worthwhile.

So a life can be subjectively meaningful despite the lack of any objective meaning.

Baggini’s admits

“This kind of rationalistic-humanistic approach leaves many unsatisfied.
”[i] A fundamental objection to such an approach is that it separates morality from meaning. Can human values really be enough to ground value?"

In response Baggini says:

  1. we might say that certain people have meaningful but immoral lives; or
  2. we could say that subjective meaning is a necessary but not sufficient condition for meaningful life—the life must also be moral.

As to the charge that this second response is ad hoc, Baggini reminds the reader that life is meaningful only if it is worth living.

god sex

And this is to recognize that all humans have an equal claim to a good life and to make someone’s life go worse is a moral wrong.

Baggini also reminds readers that simply because life has to have value in itself and for the person living it

“does not … mean that the only person able to judge the value is the person living the life…

”[ii] Individuals may be mistaken about the value of their lives; just because they think they have meaningful lives does not make them so.

Baggini concludes his deflationary account of meaning by saying that the meaning of life is available to all, not only to the guardians who claim a monopoly on it.


His view thus challenges the power of those who would control us, and gives us the responsibility of determining meaning for ourselves.

But knowing about the meaning of life does not provide a recipe for living it. It is hard to live meaningfully, it is an ongoing project, and one is never finished with the task.

Also people are different so we cannot offer an instruction manual for all—only suggest a framework within which persons might live meaningfully.