Thursday, July 28, 2016

Verifiability is Truth

A.J. Ayer
When it comes down to it, there’s enough mystery in the knowable world that we don’t need to resort to mysticism, religion, or high level metaphysics. Perhaps the empiricists and analytic philosophers have it right. David Hawkes makes the following remark in his essay on the art critic Dave Hickey in the TLS, (“Everyone’s a Critic,” 5/27/16), “Hickey’s intellectual hero is J.L. Austin, the English analytic philosopher who developed the concept of the 'performative' statement. A 'performative' is a sign or series of signs that achieves an objective effect in the real world, as when a priest declares a couple married.” How simple and lacking in any temptation towards the divine, the infinite or metaphysical! And signs can literally be that. For instance take the classic “Stop” sign or the triangular warning to “Yield,” which are the victims of their own ubiquitousness. We take them for granted because they don’t furnish us with a manual on how to deal with our problems, but on a daily basis they are what makes life possible simply because they save our lives. And what good is Kant’s categorical imperative or Heidegger’s “Dasein,” or “being there,” if the very states they refer to doesn’t comprise the certainty of an oncoming car. Reality may only appear to us as the shadow on the wall of the caves that we inhabit, but so what? Why is it so bad to limit propositions to tautologies like “a rose is a rose?” Verifiability not beauty is truth. If it’s ultimately impossible to parse out the truth, then why bother?  Why not make your bible A.J. Ayer’s Language, Truth and Logic?

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