Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic was the first systematic presentation in English of the doctrines of logical positivism. While a student at Oxford University, Ayer spent the academic year 1932-1933 in Vienna attending the lectures and meetings of a group of philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists who called themselves the Vienna Circle. He quickly absorbed the basic tenets of the Vienna Circle and wrote Language, Truth, and Logic shortly after his return to England.
Ayer accepts the traditional empiricist view of philosophers such as David Hume that all genuine propositions either are analytic (in the sense, for Ayer, of being true solely by virtue of linguistic rules) or are empirically verifiable. Since analytic propositions are true in virtue of the meanings of the words composing them, they cannot be used to make factual assertions about the world. The tautological proposition “Either it is raining or it is not” is analytic in this sense, and it therefore says nothing about actual weather conditions. Because analytic propositions are true by virtue of meaning alone, Ayer believes, they can be known independently of experience; that is, they are knowable a priori.
In addition to tautologies and conceptual truths (for example, “Red is a color”), according to Ayer, the set of analytic propositions includes the necessarily true propositions of logic and mathematics. Traditional empiricists and Ayer...
(The entire section is 1305 words.)
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