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Language, Truth and Logic Unknown Binding – 1946

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; 2nd ed edition (1946)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007IUGFE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
The traditional disputes of philosophers are, for the most part, as unwarranted as they are unfruitful. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By GregFenn on 4 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
This book expresses the core theory of Logical Positivism in its more developed form. In short: a factually significant proposition (i.e. a proposition that actually says something about the observable world) must be verifiable or falsifiable at least in principle, by some possible observations which would increase or decrease the probability of the propostion being true. The only other meaningful statements are tautologies, they say the same thing twice: a tautology is true of false in virtue of the defintions of terms used. Or put another way, in analytic language one may say anything they want and make up any defintions with the one condition that one may not contradict oneself. This doctrine (of logical positivism in general) derives from classic empiricism, which asserts that all knowledge of the world must derive solely from sense-data (using our 5 senses) and our human ability to conceptualise and organise such data.
From these claims, Ayer developes the emotivist theory of values and argues that literal assertions about God, of any supernatural entity, or of literally 'good' or 'evil' behaviour are literally senseless (they say nothing at all about the empirical world). Religious and moral language do, of course, have aethetic value in so much as they express how we feel about the world.
He also explains how Mathematical reasoning is possible and how Mathematically theories can be described as 'true' - Maths is a form of analytic reasoning so that a Mathematician may say anything he wants and define any symbol however he wants (i.e. lays down axioms and definitions) so long as he does not contradict himself. Theorums can be derived by carefully investigating what is implied by these axioms and defintions.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Andy Leppard on 1 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
I read Ayer's obituary in the Telegraph and he seemed like an interesting man, so I bought this book.

As a teenage layperson, I found it VERY heavy-going, I kept a dictionary nearby to refer to and my copy is littered with notes to myself on word meanings. It was worth the perseverance to discover so much. His debunking of inexact, ambiguous metaphysics really helped me to make the switch from being a wooley agnostic to a fully confirmed atheist.

Say what you like about positive optimism, it's Ayer's use and insistance of the importance of accuracy of meaning and expression in communication that I responded to.

This book modified my outlook on life and I have given away and bought the book 4 times now.
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By Hobbit on 12 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I will not add much to the other very positive reviews. The one negative review is I think unfair. Ayer developed his views expressed in the book while in Vienna in the 1936. It is written with the enthusiasm of a young man and is a great read. Basically his view is that statements are only meaningful if they are based on logical argument (which gives one mathematics) or they have some empirical input (which gives one all the physical sciences). Otherwise they are meaningless. Goodbye theology. I think this is generally correct in that we can all think of theological debates that have continued for centuries without resolution and which have no means of resolution. Such an activity is pointless (and in my view, highly immoral). My criticism would be that we use the words "know" and "knowledge " in another sense. "I know how to read" (or write etc). This is quite a correct use of "know". It defines a skill and we do describe skills as knowledge but they cannot be achived by logical thought or experiment. They are acquired by lots of practice and can only be taught to other people if they are prepared to make the same effort (e.g.playing the piano!). Hence I feel that the definition of knowledge needs extending to cover skills. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and discussing it with various colleagues who also study philosophy with me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Wesley Corbett on 30 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Philosophers know that the thesis presented here is as dead as a dinosaur but this book should not just be read out of historical interest, the remnants that can be salvaged provide the groundwork for our modern philosophical framework.

Things of interest: Analyticity, Ignosticism, Descriptivism, Verificationism and a pro-scientific/anti-metaphysical outlook.

I think the weakest part of the book above anything else is on Ethics so go and read Kant afterwords to make up for it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many valid criticisms that can be made of Ayer's attack on metaphysics and the book is now 80 or so years old, but I still think this is a brilliant book. It is written with an unusual amount of energy for a philosophical text, and at times you can almost feel the angry passion of a young man with a clear vision of what is wrong and how it should be put right. I think this is worth reading for at least a couple of reasons. Firstly, as philosophy books go, it is very clear and enjoyable. Secondly, although philosophy has advanced and rejected some of his key ideas, understanding what has come since is a lot easier if you understand what Ayer said.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Mar. 2001
Format: Paperback
This book, which landed like a bombshell in the philosophical world of the 1930s, remains a thought-provoking read. In it, Ayer posits his own brand of highly sceptical empiricism. In the first chapter he sweepingly characterizes most philosophical enquiry up to the time of writing as pointless, and many of its theories and preoccupations as meaningless. Whatever is not empirically verifiable cannot be commented on, and to do so, in Ayer's view, is to spout nonsense. While Ayer's youthful writing sometimes makes unwarranted leaps of reasoning that make him vulnerable to criticism (as his opponents certainly realized), its vigour is also refreshing among the dryness of most analytic philosophy. I recommend this unreservedly as a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in philosophy.
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