[lit-ideas] Re: criteria

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 18:59:05 +0000 (UTC)

Popper's account throws some light on these issues. 

Rather than speak of "causal laws" etc. [laws do not cause anything except in 
the presence of initial conditions and may exist without actually causing 
anything], P uses the term "natural laws" to refer to laws of nature. 

These laws are invariants (which means they can include probabilistic laws 
provided the probabilities are invariants i.e. an account using variant 
probabilities is not an account in law-like terms, unless the variation is 
itself explained by way of a further law-like correlation). 

At its simplest, a "natural law" may have the form of a 'universal 
generalisation' ['UG'], such as "All xs are ys". But a "natural law" goes 
further than a mere UG because it asserts that the law-like connection is true 
by necessity ["law"] rather than merely contingently ["accident"]. This kind of 
"necessity" is not "logical necessity" but necessity of a type relevant to the 
level at which the law operates: so a natural law of physics is true by 
physical necessity, a chemical law is true by chemical necessity etc. This 
means all "natural laws" are logically contingent i.e. no "natural law" may be 
deduced from logic. So when we speak of "e = mc2" as true by necessity we mean 
it expresses a law or necessity of physics and not that it expresses any law or 
necessity of logic.

Such natural laws are doubly unverifiable. They are unverifiable in that no 
amount of instances, of an x correlated with y, can show that "All xs are ys" 
(that is, they are unverifiable because there is no valid inductive way to 
proceed logically from a finite set of examples to the truth of a UG). In 
addition, the "necessity" element of a natural law is never verifiable - that 
is, even if "All xs are ys" that itself provides no proof as to whether this 
correlation is true by necessity or only true contingently. These two points 
can also be made as follows: we can never observe whether "All x are ys", and 
we can never observe whether "All xs are ys" is true by necessity or only 
contingently. As neither the universality nor the necessity of a law-like claim 
is observable, neither may be 'verified' by observation. 

That does not mean we can have no science dealing with "natural laws" - it only 
means that science cannot proceed by verification through observation. Science 
deals with "natural laws" by tests that operate in a purely negative way: that 
is, while neither the universality nor necessity of a proposed "natural law" 
can be verified, their universality and necessity can be falsified by finding a 
single counter-example. But failure to find a counter-example merely shows that 
a proposed "natural law" has withstood all present tests: it cannot prove it 
will survive all future tests. So even the most successful scientific theories, 
that have withstood the most severe tests without any counter-example, do not 
demonstrate that there is a "natural law" such as they propose. 

So science can only falsify specific proposals that there is a "natural law" of 
some testable sort, but it is beyond the realm of any scientific testing as to 
whether there are any "natural laws" at all. That means any assertion of a 
specific "natural law" contains a metaphysical element insofar as its truth, 
rather than falsity, is asserted - for it is only testable/scientific insofar 
as it is falsifiable, which is to say its truth is only testable by showing its 
falsity [tests can only show the assertion is false they cannot show it is 

A fortiori, assertions like "There exist natural laws" or even "There exists at 
least one natural law" - which are not even falsifiable - remain forever and 
entirely metaphysical. 

Yet Popper asserts that "There exist natural laws" is true, and its truth can 
be argued for. He defends this assertion as part of what he calls "metaphysical 

However, even if this assertion were false [and there were no natural laws], it 
would not impact on scientific method and its rationality.


     On Friday, 20 February 2015, 11:15, Adriano Palma <Palma@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

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div.yiv2151612412WordSection1 {}-->Sorry Omar, Hume if not Kant determined that 
in pretty clear (or minimally to me convincing) fashion. The existence of 
causal laws, namely the nomic nature of nature  is, at best, assumed by 
sciences or general knowledge, it is not itself an empirical finding of anybody 
or of any individual.       From: Omar Kusturica [mailto:omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx]
Sent: 20 February 2015 13:05
To: Adriano Palma
Subject: Re: criteria    I am not sure that these examples constitute 
metaphysical statements. If "vague statements" are defined in a non-vague way, 
the claim that there are vague statements could be empirically verifiable. I 
don't think that it is something that can be deduced a priori. So presumably 
with "causal laws."    O.K.    On Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 11:43 AM, Adriano Palma 
<Palma@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote: Then, a metaphysical statement can be true (e.g. 
there are laws, for instance, to pick easy cases ‘there are laws of 
consequence” “ there are causal laws” “there are vague statements”) none of 
this is in physics, it may be worthwhile that metaphysics, even for 
Aristotelians, is what comes after physics. Nothing ever proposed a 
verifiability “criterion” that meets its own constraints, let alone a minimal 
of intelligence applied to it. Even Carnap understood it was bullshit by 
empiricist standards, not to mention Quine. Wittgensten, as usual, was confused 
since he had “pictures” and not theories of anything in particular. It may be a 
good ploy to be read non stop by the English department and the adverstising 
companies, who love Wittgenstein, I was told by two colleagues     
From:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]On 
Behalf Of Omar Kusturica
Sent: 20 February 2015 12:35
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: The nothing noths   Hm... surely it is possible to 
argue that certain statements that purport to be metaphysical are actually 
nonsense without making the sweeping claim that they all are. Neither is it 
necessary to posit the criterion of empirical verifiability for statements to 
be meaningful as the positivists did. (It might be argued that statement has to 
be meaningful in at least some sense in order for us to be able to tell whether 
it expresses an empirically verifiable proposition.) Here are some of the 
possibilities:   A statement in metaphysics [a metaphysical statement, 
proposition] may have at least three values: 1. It may be nonsense -- i.e. an 
undefined combination of words. (Of course this might be the value of a 
statement in any subject, not just philosophy.) 2. It may be a disguised rule 
of grammar (PP p. 312) -- rather than the statement of fact ("real definition") 
its author the metaphysician intends it to be. 3a. It may be a suggestive 
picture -- i.e. one that suggests images to us, but that takes us no further. 
The proposition 'It's 5 o'clock on the sun' illustrated by "a grandfather clock 
which points to 5" (PI§ 350), and maybe the "questions without answers", are 
examples of these. Many such pictures give a false account of the way we use 
some "sign" or other of our language -- i.e. they are a mistaken understanding 
of the sign's "grammar" (The distinction between a sign and its use in the 
language), e.g. the word 'mind' as the name of an invisible object. 3b. Or it 
may be a way of looking at things -- i.e. speculation that is not subject to 
falsification by anomaly. (Note that some scientific theories are also ways of 
looking at things -- that is, ways of summarizing [organizing] a selected set 
of data [Every scientific theory is facts plus imagination] -- that are not 
falsifiable, e.g. the heliocentric and geocentric models of the solar system.) 
Of course it may also simply be an idle picture -- although note well that 
metaphysicians know that their pictures cannot be compared with "perceptible 
reality" -- i.e. that their metaphysical propositions are not empirical 
propositions -- and therefore it does not trouble them that their speculative 
propositions cannot be verified or tested by experience. For, metaphysics says, 
"Our experience is only experience of appearances, not of reality itself"; cf. 
Plato's cave image (Republic515c). Which statement may be an example of senses 
(2) or (3a) of the word 'metaphysics'. Some religious pictures may resemble 
these "idle pictures", because they also are not hypotheses; however, pictures 
in religion are used very differently from the way metaphysicians use pictures, 
e.g. they are not speculative. 3c. Or it may be a picture that it is "logically 
impossible" for us to be taught how to apply: "How is this picture, e.g. 
Michelangelo's God creating Adam (LC, p. 63), to be compared with what it is 
said to be a picture of?" But there is no answer -- i.e. the word 'compare' is 
not defined in this particular case; indeed, the artist did not intend for a 
comparison to be made. Source: http://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/logwit24.html   
On Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 11:14 AM, Redacted senderJlsperanza@xxxxxxx for DMARC 
<dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote: On p. 121 of "Quaestio Subtilissima", D. 
P. Henry proposes this
formalisation of

i. The Nothing noths

(He distinguishes this  from

ii. The nothing noths.)

iii. ͻ[[Λ]](Λ)

The use of "[[...]]" Henry borrows from Oxford philosopher A. N. Prior.

On p. 120, he notes that the 'the' "portents some sort of singularity",
which Henry symbolises as

iv. sol(Λ)

Henry says that (iv)  justifies "the use of the capital initial letter".

Henry concludes the section on Heidegger with the remark that (i) can thus
be seen as being sensical and "a truth derivable from the deductive
metaphysics" which he is constructing.

I agree with J. L. Scherb that this was a "pre-war debate" (pre-Second
World War) between Rudolf Carnap and Martin Heidegger about allegedly (as  D.
P. Henry has it) meaningless metaphysical statements such as  "The Nothing
noths" ("Das  Nichts

Within the mainstream of  20th century analytical  philosophy  this
statement, "The Nothing noths"  has come to be regarded as  obvious metaphysical

And it was Sir Freddie Ayer who brought the news to Oxford. It is said that
 Oxford could not BEAR with the 'enfant terrible' -- but I WOULD
distinguish  between a Carnapian scientist approach and Ayer's, which was 
towards  empiricist epistemoly in general -- and Ayer did not stay at Oxford
for long,  finding a post in London. In terms of the history of philosophy,
this is seen as  Oxford never having 'bought' the idea that metaphysical
statements were, as Ayer  thought he had shown, after Carnap, 'meaningless'.
There were hordes of  philosophers practicising metaphysics THEN (think
Collingwood) as there are  hordes of philosophers practising metaphysics NOW at

As we all know, this led to an unfortunate confrontation between
analytical  and continental  philosophy -- with Sartre assuming the  
position and generalising it: "Das Nichts nichtet" and  consciousness is "le
néant néantisant".

The judgement of "The Nothing noths" as nonsense was somewhat 'corrected'
by D. P. Henry.

But the conflict still seems to exist.

Henry's remark didn't find its way to  a  greater  audience, because Henry
didn't *prove* his claim in a   canonical way, and because Henry's remark
may be alleged to contains  an ambiguity, which may give rise to criticism.

The required disambiguation, together with the missing proofs, can be given
 within the ontology introduced by Stanisław Leśniewski -- notably
protothetic -- that Grice adored ("protothetic (why?)" -- "Aspects of Reason" --
Grice had a taste for a Polish neologism).

Ludger Honnefelder calls the systems Stanisław Leśniewski, which  were
developed roughly at the same pre-war time  (1913-1939), a new  beginning of

They systems of Stanisław Leśniewski (that Henry learned via Geach --
whose  mother was Polish) provide the missing link (to use a  metaphor) between
Heidegger and Carnap (and Ayer).

The systems of Stanisław Leśniewski can thus be regarded as an ontological
 (if not metaphysical) supplement to and a  partial correction of  Michael
Friedman's essay on Heidegger, Carnap and Cassirer.

A  hermeneutical conclusion may be drawn from this that allows  for a
reconciliation between two types of

This is possible not only in terms of Cassirer's observations,  but also
along the lines of "logical form", broadly conceived -- as  Henry suggested.

The hermeneutical outcome suggests that one CAN make use  of PRECISE logic
tools in a more general  way than Carnap himself  allowed (if not Ayer and
less so Grice), alla D. P. Henry, without having  to declare that at a few
central  statements of Heidegger's   Fundamentalontologie are pure nonsense --
but rather pretty illuminating --  if you think of them ("and even if you



Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic
Grice, "System Q"
Grice, "Philosophical Eschatology".
Henry, Quæstio subtilissima.
Ryle, Review of Heidegger, "Sein und Zeit", Mind, 1929, vol. 38. 

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