Language, Truth, and Logic

by A. J. Ayer

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How does A. J. Ayer propose to eliminate metaphysics in Language, Truth, and Logic?

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Ayer purports to eliminate metaphysics by demonstrating that the language in which it is expressed is either meaningless or nonsensical.

As a staunch logical positivist, Ayers believes that only those philosophical statements that are capable of verification are admissible. Such a formulation inevitably means that metaphysical statements, which attempt to give us an account of a transcendent reality, cannot enjoy any kind of truth value, as they cannot be verified. Statements about God would be a prime example of what Ayer has in mind.

In the opening chapter of Language, Truth, and Logic, "The Elimination of Metaphysics," Ayer throws down a challenge to the metaphysician, inviting him to supply the empirical basis of his arguments for the existence of a transcendent reality.

As a logical positivist, Ayer is of the opinion that all valid philosophical arguments must originate in the senses. As metaphysical statements—such as "God exists," for example—do not fulfill this basic criterion, they cannot be regarded in Ayer's view as being in any way meaningful.

In "The Elimination of Metaphysics," Ayer sets out his stall for the rest of the book. He says that he will eliminate metaphysics by way of criticizing the statements that comprise it. In doing so, he hopes to demonstrate that metaphysical statements, those that refer to some transcendent reality beyond the bounds of empirical experience, have no literal significance and are therefore either meaningless or nonsensical.

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