Philosophy students often hear about the logical positivists, or the logical empiricists, or the Vienna Circle, and wonder what all that’s about, and whether there is any value in it. Here is a recent article on finding some value in their cherished verification principle:
“In particular, the verification principle seems like it’s an interesting tool to apply when you’re suspicious of something – when you think things don’t quite add up…. One problem with conspiratorial thinking is that – while often motivated by a critical instinct which is fundamentally laudable – the conspiracy theorist is typically not … the sort of person who, as yet, knows how to think properly. Thus conspiratorial thinking often assumes nonsense epistemic principles like Jim Garrison’s time and propinquity – the idea, pioneered by the godfather of Kennedy Assassination conspiracies, that we can get to the truth by mapping how (for instance) two individuals are secretly linked by having been in the same place at the same time (the Pepe Silvia way of understanding reality).”
One thought on “Some value in the old verification principle”
I think the verification principle is useful but we can’t forget the context in which it was developed. Science was uncovering some pretty illogical truths at the turn of the century and even the very notion of objective observation was being challenged. The old guard wanted the verification principle to maintain some status quo and maintain a hard distinction between science and mysticism. In doing so, they made it impossible for science to do its job. By making the verification principle a necessary component of the epistemology of modern science, in order to feel in control, they unwittingly ignored the truths nature was giving us. While I understand there are many wildly imaginative conspiracy theories and the logic behind them are not sound, I am continually surprised at the validity of many conspiracy theories as information becomes declassified over time.