Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Vienna Circle Squared


Ernest Partridge

(Unpublished ms., 1962).


The date on this manuscript (1962) indicates that it was completed when I was teaching at the Fieldstone School in the Bronx, or if later in the year, at Paterson State College. However, I believe that earlier versions (not now in evidence) date from work on my Master’s Thesis, which was completed in 1961. One member of my Thesis committee was Dr. Sterling M. McMurrin, who was a determined old-school logical positivist, and I felt that I had to anticipate and respond to his positivistic analyses of my Thesis. The paper was not written as an assignment for any specific class. (2009)



Few philosophical movements have arisen with such bold pretensions and ambitious hopes as those which attended the rise of Logical Positivism. Here, it was claimed, were to be found the insights that would revolutionize philosophy. No longer would philosophy dispute, or be remote from the work of science. The significant work of the human intellect could now be conveniently classified into throe general areas: the search for empirical ("cognitive") knowledge, which is science; the logical structuring and semantic clarification of science, which is philosophy, and the stimulation and satisfaction of human perceptions and emotions, which are the arts. No longer need time and talent be wasted in the interminable and meaningless harangues of classical philosophy, or the futile search for "deeper" yet cognitive meaning in the arts. Through the positivistic insights, we might tidy up the work of intellect by separating the cognitive from the emotive and the meaningful from the meaningless. It was to be the work of the philosopher -- which is to say the positivist -- to maintain the order and harmony in the intellectual establishment, through the explication and application of indisputable rules of logic, norms of language and criteria of meaning.But such a schema was not to be established. It could not. It was a plan for the gods, and not for scientists, philosophers, artists or positivists. It was a regime believed infallible, since it was thought to be based, not upon empirical theories (which are fallible), but upon explicitly stipulated decisions and rules of logic and or language. Thus, since they supposed that they had, not a theory, but an activity of regulation and clarification, the positivists also believed that they could profitably guide the scientific search for facts without themselves being open to factual refutation.

The logical positivists attempted to orient the meaning of propositions to the world of experience. To this end, they formulated several criteria of meaning, some quite strict, others much more generous. Among them: (A) "A proposition is meaningful only if it is verified." This view, which has virtually no adherents, would, deny moaning to all hypotheses not confirmed, and would acknowledge only proven laws and facts. All theoretical investigation would accordingly be meaningless. It is clearly unacceptable: We raise it only because it has boon falsely attributed to many innocent positivists. (b) "The meaning of a proposition is the method of its verification." [Schlick 146] But if one is to verify a proposition, does this not indicate a clear distinction between the task of verification and that which is verified -- the proposition? Meaning is not a method: methods serve meanings., (c) "A statement has meaning only if it is verifiable." The crucial term hero is "verifiable," which is offered as a tool, not a synonym, of meaningfulness. Various analysts take the term to mean "verifiable" as a technical possibility, as an empirical possibility not contrary to natural laws), or as a logical possibility (not involving a tautology or a contradiction -- which is the mast liberal interpretation) (d) "A statement has moaning only if it is confirmable" (again, the moat generous interpretation would insist only that confirmation be logically possible – a concept that we will explore later in this paper). Here the requirement of complete verification, even as a logical possibility, is replaced by a "weaker" requirement of incomplete evidential support.1



It would be impractical and unwise to discuss all of the criteria outlined above. We shall instead consider some representative (if sometimes extreme) views of Moritz Schlick, the "hub" of the Vienna Circle. Schlick defends three concepts in particular that we shall find reason to question: (a) an absolute conception of meaning based upon (b) "logical possibility" which rests upon (c) the "rules of language." (The test of "logical possibility is "conceivability," as we shall consider below). But let us hear from Schlick himself:

The possibility of verification does not rest on any "experiential truth," on the law of nature or any other true general proposition, but is determined solely by our definitions, by the rules which we which have been fixed in our language, or which we can pick arbitrarily at any moment. All these rules ultimately going to extensive [i.e., ostensive] definition... and through them verifiability is linked to [sense data] ... no rule of expression presupposes any law or regularity in the world ... but it does present both data and situations, to which names can be attached. The rules of language are rules of the application of language; so there must be something to which it can be applied. [Schlick 157. My italics. EP]....

The height of the tower cannot be 100 feet and 150 feet at the same time; a child cannot be naked undressed at the same time – not because we are unable to imagine it, but because our definitions of height of the numerals, or the terms "naked" and "dressed", are not compatible with the particular combinations of those words in our examples. "They are not compatible with such combinations" means that the rules of our language have not provided any use for such combinations; they do not describe any fact ... The result of our considerations as this: verifiability which is the sufficient and necessary condition of meaning, is a possibility of the logical order; [my italics, ep]. It is created by constructing the sentence in accordance with the rules by which its terms are defined ... Grammatical rules are not found anywhere in nature but are made by men and are, in principle arbitrary; you cannot give meaning to a sentence by discovering a method of verifying it, but only by stipulating how it shall be done. [Schlick .55]


[A] fictitious world may be empirically impossible, because incompatible with the actual laws of nature – though we cannot at all be sure of this – it is logically possible [if we are able] to give a description of it. [Schlick .64]


The dividing line between logical possibility and impossibility of verification is absolutely sharp and distinct; there is no gradual transition between meaning and nonsense. For either you have given to grammatical rules for verification, or you have not...

Empirical possibility is determined by the laws of nature, but meaning and verifiability are entirely independent of them. Everything that I can describe or define is logically possible – and definitions are in no way bound up in natural laws. [Schlick .156-7].

Apparently, Schlick’s absolutism rests upon language, or, more specifically, upon the "rules of language." But I fail to find here any acknowledgment of the imperfections of human language which, I submit, are painfully commonplace. By "rules of language" he means, I presume, definitions and grammatical norms. But whose definitions and whose norms? Where do we find these definitions? The dictionary? And whose dictionary and what edition? Dictionaries are compiled from surveys of actual usage – usage which is, of course, broad and fluctuating. Consider this observation of Allen W. Read:

In the compilation of the Oxford English dictionary, the intermediate or transitional quotations were discarded as being "ambiguous" or "not clear," and the resulting patterns are false to actual usage. The theoretical fluidity of these features that are abstracted from a social setting is hard for many people to admit, especially philosophers. [!!!] Bloomfield has stated the principle that "every utterance of a speech-form involves a minute semantic innovation."2 [Read 41]

Has Schlick thus ignored the fact that language (with the possible exception of purely formal language – i.e. logic) is inevitably vague and ambiguous – at least to some extent.3 What word do we understand so well that we know it’s "real" meaning – wholly and completely? We are familiar enough with those endless arguments over what such-and-such word really means; but if we have the beginnings of philosophical sophistication, we recognize these to be verbal arguments, that is, arguments over arbitrary and variable usages.

It may be replied at the positivist is concerned, not with the definitions that are found in dictionaries, but in definitions that are completely and explicitly stipulated for our use. These meanings may be complete and agreed upon. But this is only an apparent escape. Stipulated definitions are made in terms of conventional words, or if not, the definitions of the words in the stipulation use conventional meetings, etc. Somewhere, somehow, conventional natural language must be involved in any stipulation. One can stipulate as much as he pleases, but eventually he must come down to ordinary usage. The so-called ultimate ostensive definitions that some analysts believed to underlie all meaningful empirical discourse are in fact ideal fictions that logicians (and logical atomists in particular) like to talk about when they speak of their "perfect" or "logical" languages. But the bases of meaning in the natural languages (which, at least to a significant degree, underly the languages of the sciences) is convention and, only remotely and vaguely, ostensive definitions. As John Hospers puts it:

A definition is no stronger than the words in it, just as the chain is no stronger than the weakest link. Every time you think you have an airtight rule for "X," it can turn out that the very constituents of the rule are not airtight themselves; the plugs have been put in to fill up the gaps have to be filled up themselves. This phenomenon is sometimes called "the open texture of language."

This is just a way language is built. As long as words are built upon the basis of previous imprecise words, and those have heard of others, this phenomenon will continue. [Hospers 49].

In sum, and contrary to Moritz Schlick, the "rules of language" do in fact "presupposed laws or regularities in the world:" they are the regularities of how people who in the world conventionally use their languages, and the fact that no empirical term can be wholly free of vagueness and ambiguity. Apparently the meanings of words are related to those who use them, and the clarity of terms is always less than complete. "The rules of language" are shaky foundations indeed for an absolutism: an absolutism that Schlick alluded to when, as quoted above, he stated that "the dividing line between a logical possibility and impossibility of verification is absolutely sharp and distinct."



Schlick’s concept of "logical possibility," we recall rests upon "the rules of language" which designates the meanings of words and relationships among them in phrases and sentences. Since he believes these "rules" to be explicit and complete, Schlick further holds that propositional meanings are likewise absolute. But even if we accepted Schlick’s belief that carefully stipulated meanings and grammatical rules (specific "rules of language") are simple, plain and concrete – and, of course, we do not – we must still reject an extension of this absolutism to propositional meanings. Propositions are not merely organized aggregations of meanings, and thus subject to the same rules and composed of the same arbitrary qualities, as words and grammar. On the contrary, propositions relate meanings and thus refer to relationships between the referents of the component word-meanings; that is to say, they refer to relationships in the world. What empiricist would wish to suggest that relationships in the world can be judged possible or impossible (even "logically" so) simply by analyzing the relationships between meanings in a proposition?4 Of course, some terms are so related in meaning that they might involve a contradiction if they both appeared in certain types of sentences (to use Schlick’s example, "the child was naked, ut wore a long nightgown"). But while formal rules of contradiction can be expressed logically, the question of whether or not certain terms entail contradictions in certain forms of sentences is a question of usage – a contingent empirical question. To answer these questions we must consult either a lexicographer or the person who stipulated that particular meaning and, in both cases, we must expect a less than absolute answer. For example, Schlick believes that the sentence "the campanile is 100 feet and 150 feet high" is inconceivable and logically impossible. He sees a contradiction and, on the face of it, so do I.. But I also see a tower 100 feet high, with a 50 foot foundation below the ground. If the words are interpreted so as to fit a certain logical form, then it is a contradiction. If they are so interpreted as not to fit this form, it is not. But this is a question of usage, or of intention; that is to say, it is an empirical question.

This leads to our next question: just what does Schlick mean by logical possibility? He says that "not only can the logician be an empiricist at the same time; he must be one if he wants to understand what he himself is doing." [Schlick 157] Or again,, "I call a fact or a process ‘logically possible’ if it can be described; i.e., if the sentence which is supposed to describe it obeys the rules of grammar we have stipulated for our language." [Schlick 154] Logician Alonzo Church defines "logic" as an investigation of "the structure of propositions and of deductive reasoning which abstracts from the content of propositions which come under consideration and deals only with their logical form. [Church 170] not logic a purely formal enterprise, and thus by its own rules, independent of experience? It would seem that both tradition and current professional usage would support this conception. Yet Schlick suggests that a logician must be an empiricist, and that logical possibility can be tested by "describability."

Schlick’s criterion of "logical possibility" seems to have wandered well beyond the province of "logic" on board as the term is currently understood and used by logicians. Apparently, since he believes that with due caution we can have absolute meanings of terms, and combine these into absolute propositions, we need only exchange such terms for the variable’s (the "X’s" and "Y’s") in propositional functions to have propositions every bit as simple and cut-and-dried as the logical forms. This, I submit, is a most perilous assumption. The meanings of words are necessarily and forever involved in the morass of human caprice and confusion. We might strive for some position and succeed quite well for many purposes, but a word in a natural language will never be so simple and clear of connotation, vagueness and ambiguity as a logical variable such as A, B, C, or x, y, z. I would suggest that form, and form only, be the province of logic It may be wise to test propositions logically for formal consistency and to analyze and combine premises to discover what implications may be involved. But, in so doing, we must standardize our terms and axiomatize their relationships (i. e., transform our terms into logical variables) so that, as our assumptions are logically examined, empirical information will be systematically excluded, to be reinstated only as the variables are interpreted as empirical terms. Anything else, whatever it is, by stimulating or even scientifically productive, but it will not be logic – at least a pure logic. Logic has been wisely limited to a formal science. I see no warrant in extending its application to either empirical meanings or facts.



To the logical positivist, a proposition is true if the state of affairs designated by the proposition corresponds to actual facts. Like meaning, truth is absolute – there’s no such thing, says the positivists, as a proposition that is "more or less true." For, he argues, is not a state of affairs either flatly the case or not the case, regardless of whether we know is or not? And, accordingly, is not a proposition either true or false? This might be argued if we could know precisely what is being asserted by proposition. But if we acknowledge that words must, in principle, fail absolute precision of meaning, how are we to argue that sentences may express propositions which assert states of affairs with complete and unambiguous clarity. And without such clarity how then can there be an exact correspondence between an assertion and a fact? Let us consider as a simple example, the sentence "there is a dog in the next room." This is as plain and simple an assertion as we could reasonably ask for. Is not its meaning (and therefore its mode of verification or conceivability, not to mention its logical possibility) quite obvious – is not plainly true or false? For practical purposes the meaning of the statement is quite cut-and-dried. But even here, we are not totally assured either of its meaning or of its verification. We are told for example, whether the picture of the dog on the wall, or the dog shaped paperweight will render the statement true. Probably not, and with a slight clarification, we will then look for a "live dog." But then further clarifications are in order: which adjoining room is the "next room," or will either room answer the question? Does the "room" include the closet, the window sill, or the doorway? When the dog in the room? When its nose is in the door? When all but its tail is through the doorway? Is this strange creature "really" a dog, or is it a fox, a wolf, or whatnot? And so on. If the person who utters the statement is available, he will perhaps supply answers to our qualifications (and thus present increasingly specific new sentences), until our questions become ludicrously trivial. Then he will probably display a justifiable exasperation at our pettiness, feeling that his original statement was precise enough to express his essential message – as it probably was. If we read the statement, then we will be able only to surmise what may have been meant by the person who wrote it. In both cases, the meaning might be identified as a state of mind, or intention, that is expressed by the sentence.5 The meaning could be expressed in different sentences, or even in a different language, but the meaning, that is, the "intention" of the speaker would be the same. And in all cases the meaning would be less than absolutely precise. Some statements are "relatively precise;" such statements as "there is a dog in the next room." Some are less precise in meaning, such as; "the fall of Rome came with the barbarian invasions," and "neuroses are commonly manifestations of child repressions."

Is truth, then, an absolute quality of propositions? If "raw propositions" cannot assert a state of affairs with total completeness (and apparently they cannot) – if we cannot say with absolute certainty, what would completely verify the proposition (e. g . Seeing a "genuine" dog "really" in that room) – then we have no exact replica in our minds of any actual state-of-affairs. We can come close, very close, quite close enough for many of our purposes, but an exact correspondence will, in principle, forever elude us, and so too will "the whole truth." Accounts of facts are not the facts they assert, nor can they be. Propositions do not possess the certainty, the "hardness," of the facts-in-themselves which they purport to assert.


Meaning, as we have previously noted, is commonly associated (by contemporary philosophical analyst) with verifiability or confirmability. For some positives, the meaning of a proposition is the conception of its verification; to others, the conceivability of the verification is a necessary and sufficient condition of meaningfulness. These criteria arise from a conception of "cognitive meaning" as the quality of being either true or false. For us to speak intelligibly of the truth value of a proposition, we must be able to conceive of an experience that would indicate whether or not the proposition is in fact true or false. It is not necessary, say the positivists, that the verification be achieved, or even that it be practically possible, but it must at least be conceivable. To Schlick, this means that it must be consistent with the meanings assigned to the terms and with the rules of logic and discourse, which is to say, "logically possible."6

The verifiability criterion of meaning (or, as it is otherwise known, "the empirical meaning criterion") has many features to recommend it, but as we have before, many of its advocates have been too bold in their hopes for its application and utility. It is certainly worthwhile to distinguish between logical validity of actual truth, as it is to point out the relevance of experience to the question of the truth or falsity of our assertions. It is also handy to have a ready guide with which we might determine whether or not we are wasting our time when we ask certain questions. But this final advantage, that of the "handy guide," has perhaps been too eagerly sought, and much of the mystery and scope of human experience and language has thus been slighted.

The exaggerated ambition of the early positivistic criterion has been recognized and at least partially corrected. But in the process, much of its early uniqueness has been compromised, and probably wisely so. The early positivists called upon the philosophers, philosophical analysts, and scientists to re-examine their assumptions and their methods. Time has shown that the positivists have accommodated themselves to other analysts and to the scientists at least as much as these others have heeded the challenges of the positivists.

Simply stated, the most significant revision of logical positivism has been the following; it was first insisted that for an assertion to be meaningful, it must be possible (if not technically, but at least conceivably) for some experience, some fact, to settle the question of its truth. Now all that is commonly asked is that it be conceivable for some experience to have bearing upon the truth of the assertion. The requirement of "verifiability" has been replaced by that of partial "confirmability." As C. I. Lewis sees it:

Reference to verifiability as essential to meeting is only a roundabout way of pointing out that unless you are somehow prepared to recognize the factuality you assert, in case that factuality should be, or could be, presented to you, your verbal expression is not a matter-of-fact statement because it affirms nothing intelligible. Any conditions of verification over and above this one requirement that a matter-of-fact assertion must have empirical science – whether these further conditions be "practical" or "theoretical" – are irrelevant to the question of meaningfulness. [Lewis 391]

This conception is extreme in its liberality – few empiricists (or scientists) would argue that it is too restrictive. Lewis is a pragmatist, not a positivist, and there’s much more substance to contemporary positivism than this. Nevertheless, this passage indicates how generous the empirical meaning criterion has become with some contemporary thinkers. The retreat from the requirement of verifiability to that of confirmability is noted by Hempel:

The earlier insistence that each statement of empirical science should be fully verifiable or falsifiable by mens of observational evidence has been modified in two respects: (1) by the recognition of the scientific hypothesis cannot, as a rule, be tested in isolation, but only in combination with other statements... and (2) by replacing the overly rigid standard of complete verifiability or falsifiability by the more liberal requirement that a system of hypotheses must be capable of being more or less highly confirmed by observational evidence. [Hempel 43].

This modification is both necessary and wise, for some very significant scientific assertions would be, according to a strict verifiability criterion, meaningless. "Natural laws" for example, hold for all the indicated cases, past, present, and future. If all the virtually infinite instances implied by a natural laws are not individually confirmed as, of course, they cannot be, the law is not fully verified; it may only be highly and, for practical purposes, indisputably confirmed.7 Moreover, the condition for verifying a statement about the past would be for a person now to experience the event in the past – a logical impossibility. Statements about the past are meaningful on the basis of evidential traces of past events (e. g., records, artifacts, etc.), but these indications are forever incomplete; that is, they can confirm but never verify a statement about the past. [Hospers 97] Finally, if, as we have suggested, empirical terms are in principle imprecise to some degree, owing to the limitations of natural languages, it will be impossible to conceive with total clarity, or to confront the total certainty, a verifying event.

The positivist might reply that, while we cannot in fact, or even with any logical possibility, be confronted with an historical event, we can conceive of what such an event might be. Also while we cannot confront all cases covered by a natural law, we can conceive of what such a confrontation might be. Perhaps so, but why use the terms "verifiability" or "verifiability in principle" to denote this "conceivability?" Does the term "conceivability" refer to anything other than that sometimes vague intuition or picture-in-the-head that is popularly associated with word "meaning"? Perhaps it may, but I confess that we might well wonder just how much more is meant by the term "conceivability." Have not the positivists, with this term "conceivability," arrived dangerously close to their point of departure – the common sense conception of "meaning?"

But could not a conceived-of state of affairs or verifying event be stipulated to mean such-and-such an assertion? And if so, would this not remove the stigma of fallibility and imprecision? This interpretation might be acceptable, but it would be trivial, and it would in no way involve objective verifying events. It is nothing more than a matter of stipulating that "by proposition X I mean this conception that I now have." Even here, the exact conception (in the mind of the stipulator) will be both private and forever gone in the next moment. Moreover, the communication will be only partial and imperfect to all those to whom the definition is expressed. Or, if the definition of the proposition is ostensive (i. e., "by proposition X I mean that state of affairs), the indicated state of affairs will be variably preconceived and variably remembered by all who encounter it. Absolute meaning, truth, verification, and conceivability, are unattainable ideals – that useful fictions – and they must remain so. Such is the finite lot of mankind, positivist to the contrary notwithstanding.

By attempting to base their concepts of verifiability upon what they believed to be strict logical foundations, many positivists overlooked the relevance that verification must have to contingent empirical reality. This oversight is understandable since such an acknowledgment would only undermine the absolute logical models that the positives have set up. For example, let us now recall Schlick’s belief that "verifiability, which is the sufficient and necessary condition of meaning, is a possibility of the logical order; it is created by constructing the sentence in accordance with the rules by which its terms are defined." Or "everything that I can describe is logically possible." And finally, "the possibility of verification does not rest on any ‘experiential truth,’ on a law of nature or of ay other true general proposition, but is determined solely by our definitions, by the rules that have been fixed by our language. [Schlick 155-7]

But is concept "everything that I can describe" a "logical" concept? It appears to be a quite explicit reference to "real" things that exist out in the world of experience. Consider also the work of verifiable." It seems to suggest (in the suffix "-able") a possibility to be realized in the future. Moreover, a "verification" could hardly involve anything less than a confrontation with the empirical world, for such a confrontation were unnecessary, what warrant would thre be for using this word? How, then, can Schlick be so certain – so logically certain – about a reference to future empirical events? If his "meaning" is logically determined, what relevance should such empirical events have to it? Could we not imagine a verifying event, only to find (when we encountered reality) that such an event was impossible and that the question of the truth of our proposition was in the way settled? Do we not sometimes discover verifying procedures, long after entertaining a proposition? Do we not indeed have to have the "meaning" of a proposition somehow "in mind" in order to ask how it is to be verified Is not the question of verifiability at least partially contingent upon our weak and fallible knowledge of the field of verification, namely, physical reality?



The positivist’s search for an absolute criterion of meaning and verification has prejudiced his attempt to establish a close rapport with the work of the empirical sciences, for much significant exploratory theorizing (which often must utilize vague and tentative concepts) is simply inadmissible by such a strict criterion. An unyielding position that does not acknowledge the use of vague and ambiguous language must thus be so confining as to deny significance in a very wellsprings of original scientific thinking. The history of science is too rich in examples of the refinement of humble conceptions into significant in penetrating the scientific terminology to warrant such a narrow analytic procedure. Such refinement is indeed one of the most significant outcomes of scientific investigation. We have learned, through the work of science (particularly the life and social sciences), that the failure of a scientific hypothesis to present exact terms with precise meanings involving explicit conceptions and rules of verification need not necessitate a rejection of the hypothesis on the grounds of "meaninglessness." And so, we must add our knowledge of the practical work of science to our reasons for rejecting the absolutistic conception of meaning and verification.

On the other end, the fact that many early working hypotheses are necessarily vague and tentative, should not excuse those formulations which are so stated as to be irrelevant to any empirical confrontation. Vagueness and tentativeness in scientific hypotheses must be corrected with deliberate speed. While some important theories might be at first quite primitive, and even pre-scientific, those who examine such theories must adopt valid procedures of investigation and must seek increasingly specific formulations have significant confirmations. And so, the positivist’s ideals of "absolute" meaning and verification, for all their difficulties, remain useful (though fictional) goals toward which the proponents of primitive scientific hypotheses might well aspire.

To a philosophical analyst, cognizant of the nature and weakness of natural language and the workaday methods of scientific research, a modified empirical meaning criterion remains a useful critical device. As such an analyst, while properly critical of the extremes of early logical positivism, nonetheless acknowledges his considerable debt to the enduring contributions of the movement of analytic philosophy and to the philosophy of science.



1.    It is of the very nature of [certain] propositions that their truth cannot be established with certainty by any finite series of observations." A. J. Ayer [Ayer 37].

2.    Hempel too notes that "the conception of an analysis of ‘the’ meaning of a given expression presupposes that the conditions of its application are (1) well determined for every user of the language and are (2) the same for all users during the period of time under consideration... Clearly neither of the of [these presuppositions] is fully satisfied by any natural language." [Hempel 9-10]

3.    A. J. Ayer admits that he once made this oversight: "[A] difficulty which I overlooked in my original attempt to formulate the principle of verification is that most [I would say all, ep] empirical propositions are in some degree vague. Thus what is required to verify a statement about a material thing is never that he occurrence of one or another of the sense of contents that fall within a fairly indefinite range... There is never any set of observation statements of which it can be truly said that precisely they are entailed by any given statement about a material thing." [Ayer 12].

4.    Such a belief might require the positivists to reconsider their rejection of synthetic a priori propositions.

5.    "Meaning is not inherent in words and sentences; it is given them by their human users. Strictly speaking, it is not sentences that mean at all; we speak as if this were so, but this way of speaking is and ellipsis; actually it is we who mean various things by our sentences." [Hospers 75].

6.    Schlick does not mean to say that "conceivability" and "logical possibility" are synonymous. He regards conceivability to be the essential test of such possibility (i.e., while something might be logically possible but inconceivable, perhaps to the frailty of human imagination, nothing could be both logically possible and conceivably

7.    "The application of a law is infinite in extent; verifying it would mean making an infinite number of confirmations; and it would generally be held that it is not logically possible to perform an infinite number of acts of confirmations in a finite length of time." [Hospers 198]. Ayer substantially concurs with the above remark of Hospers: "The question that must be asked about any putative statement of fact is not, ‘would any observations make its truth and falsehood logically certain?,’ but simply, ‘what any observations be relevant to the determination of its truth or falsehood"?" [Ayer 38].



Ayer, A. J., Language, Truth and Logic. New York, Dover. n.d.

Church, Alonzo, "Logic." Dictionary of Philosophy, D. D. Runes (ed), Ames, Iowa, Littlefield Adams & Co., 1955, p.170.

Hempel, Carl G., "Foundations of Concept Formation in Empirical Sciences, " International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Vol. II, No. 7, 1952.

Hospers, John, An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1957

Lewis, C. I., "Some Logical Considerations Concerning the Mental," Readings in Philosophical Analysis, Feigl and Sellars, eds., New York, Appleton,Century Crofts, 1949.

Read, Allen Walker, "The Term ‘Meaning’ in Linguistics," ETC., XIII, No. 1 (Autumn, 1955), p. 41.

Schlick, Moriz, "Meaning and Verification," Readings in Philosophical Aanalysis, Feigl and Sellars, eds., New York, Appleton,Century Crots, 1949. P.146ff.




Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .