Language and Logical Positivism

Topics: Logical positivism, Philosophy of language, Empiricism Pages: 4 (1353 words) Published: December 7, 2010

If asked “What is language?” one would try to define it in his or her own words or possibly look the word up in the dictionary. Language, by definition, is “the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community” (Merriam-Webster). Though the association between this word and its simple definition is what would be widely accepted by our society, philosophers or more specifically logical positivists would argue against the simplicity of language. According to the man who pioneered the logical positivist movement, Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Language is a part of our organism and no less complicated than it” (Wittgenstein). But first, we must have an understanding of what logical positivism is and what this school of philosophy believes. Logical positivists’ view is solely based on something called verification and meaning. To understand what verification and meaning is, there are two other very vital elements in understanding logical positivism: tautologies and empirical statements. Tautologies are statements that are known to be true through logical analysis or the meaning of words. For instance, mathematics would be a tautology because it is a logical truth, as well as an existing statement that would say that water is H2O. On the other hand, an empirical statement is almost the exact opposite. Empirical statements are statements known to be true through observation only. An example of an empirical statement would be to say that a man is wearing a black coat. Surely, a person can observe the statement that that same man is indeed wearing a black coat if he or she actually saw the man. But even if our eyes tell us that it is a black coat, how do we really know if the coat is a black coat or not? Since there is no real way, scientifically nor mathematically, in proving that his coat is actually black, we must assume that the statement is an empirical statement. Now that tautologies and empirical...
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