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Logical Positivism vs. Objectivism

Logical Positivism vs. Objectivism

Richard Shedenhelm

3 Mins
January 26, 2011

Question: How does Objectivism as presented here vary from the contexture we know as logical positivism?

Answer: Allow me in a very broad way to highlight how the Objectivist position differs from of logical positivism on four main points:

1. Contrary to logical positivism, the cognitive meaning of a statement is not equal to its means of verification. Instead, the meaning of a statement is the existential facts identified by the statement. Not all statements need to be themselves empirically verifiable: human knowledge is a hierarchy based on the immediately given, but by a process of abstraction we can generalize to discover new relationships. Statements are comprised of concepts—and some, but certainly not all, concepts have direct perceptual referents.

2. Contrary to logical positivism, the laws of logic and mathematics are not conventional. Instead, the laws of logic are based on fundamental ontological facts. The purpose of logic in general is to render our conceptual reasoning to be in accord with the status of non-contradiction among existents and causation among processes of change. This is true of both deductive and inductive logic. Mathematical concepts can be meaningful, that is refer to facts of reality, albeit at a high level of abstraction. The natural numbers, which themselves are referential, form the basis for all other mathematical concepts.

3. Contrary to logical positivism, ethical statements are not just reports of our emotional commitment. Instead, ethical claims are cognitive and identify basic facts of human needs and capacities. Value is a species of fact, and ethical propositions are genuinely informative. The purpose of ethics is to systematically discover by reason what fundamental values humans need to survive and what courses of psychological and existential action are appropriate to achieve those values.

4. Contrary to logical positivism, the purpose of philosophy is not limited to clarifying the terms used in the special sciences, nor is the method of modern science the only appropriate method of philosophy. The purpose of philosophy is to provide every person a coherent and unified account of the basic facts of existence, means of knowledge, and source of valuation. Philosophy does so not by examining the meaning of symbols but by making broadly inductive generalizations.