[lit-ideas] Re: Copy of The Philosophy of Logical Atomism, 1918 version...

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 13 Sep 2015 20:01:28 +0000 (UTC)

Pears writes (p.XI):"Thetwo views may be combined without any
incoherence.Theyshare the same conclusion, logical atomism, and they
bothincorporatethe assumption of a general correspondencebetweenlanguage and
reality. They differ only in their methodsofestablishing the conclusion.
According to one view, it is estab-lishedempirically, like the conjecture that
every even number isthesum of two prime numbers, while the other view takes it
tobeprovable, as it is hoped that the arithmetical conjecture will beprovedone
day. So Russell was not wrong when he allowed bothviewsto be represented in his
treatment of logical atomism."
There is a lead up and follow-on to this and both may be read to put it in
context. There remains the following puzzle: Pears speaks of a conjecture "like
the conjecture that every even number is thesum of two prime numbers", and says
this example illustrates one of the two delineated "methods ofestablishing the
conclusion", and further says "According to one view, it is
establishedempirically." But such a conjecture cannot be established
empirically i.e. by 'observation'. We cannot ever observe*, for example,
whether "every even number is thesum of two prime numbers".**
Even the empiricist view of such conjectures is not that they are established
"empirically" (by way of observation) but analytically: hence the view we may
find in Hume and expounded in, say, Ayer's Hume-based version of "Logical
Positivism" Language, Truth and Logic - that the only true propositions with
sense are those true by virtue of the meaning of their terms (analytically
true) and those verifiable by sense experience (empirically true).
Is this just a slip by Pears? A slip where he does not mean such claims or
conjectures are
"established empirically" (as this is not even the view of the empiricist)?
Does Pears instead mean by "established empirically" that they are established,
on one view, 'according to an empiricist theory of knowledge' (even though this
empiricist theory of knowledge holds that such claims are _not_ "established
empirically")? But this would make Pears' expression the very opposite of what
he terms "tolerably clear".

JLS has spoken of Pears' "genius" and perhaps will find it no trouble to clear
this one up.
DnlLdn*Observe in an empiricist sense
** We cannot "observe" an even number or a prime number either, in an
empiricist sense of "observe"

On Sunday, 13 September 2015, 11:54, Donal McEvoy
<donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:


Pears'  commentary is about as long as the sum of Russell's eight lectures,
but it's often more informative.>
True to type, Pears writes about these issues with not even a nod to what
Popper would, or might, say (though inevitably Wittgenstein is given
significant space). This might be justified if Popper were of marginal
importance to these issues, and not arguably the most important theorist of
knowledge of the last century. Though I doubt Pears could show that Popper's
theory of knowledge' has no importance to these issues, that doesn't stop him
writing as if it is.
Pears might be "often more informative" than Russell but that does not mean 
that, in a wider sense, Pears is truly 'well-informed' philosophically. Without
wishing to suggest Pears' commentary does not have its merits, the bubble some 
people live their intellectual lives in is truly shocking: we should experience
the same kind of shock reading this stuff as we would if we read a paper by a
Christchurch scientist in 1985  which defended a new version of Lamarckism
(without referencing Darwin) or weighed up the pros and cons of
phlogiston-theory (for these 'logical atoms' are a kind of philosophical
'phlogiston'). Somehow many of us don't.

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