Language, Truth and Logic (Dover Books on Western Philosophy) Paperback – 1 Jun 1952
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From the Back Cover
"A delightful book … I should like to have written it myself."—Bertrand Russell
First published in 1936, this first full-length presentation in English of the Logical Positivism of Carnap, Neurath, and others has gone through many printings to become a classic of thought and communication. It not only surveys one of the most important areas of modern thought; it also shows the confusion that arises from imperfect understanding of the uses of language. A first-rate antidote for fuzzy thought and muddled writing, this remarkable book has helped philosophers, writers, speakers, teachers, students, and general readers alike.
Mr. Ayers sets up specific tests by which you can easily evaluate statements of ideas. You will also learn how to distinguish ideas that cannot be verified by experience—those expressing religious, moral, or aesthetic experience, those expounding theological or metaphysical doctrine, and those dealing with a priori truth. The basic thesis of this work is that philosophy should not squander its energies upon the unknowable, but should perform its proper function in criticism and analysis.
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The fact that many Anglo-American philosophers still do philosophy in this manner -- after Ayer's style -- is reason alone to study this book thoroughly. It is concisely written, clear and unambiguious (if not a tad bit too analytical), and exemplary of Anglo-American style of doing philosophy. I don't think too many philosophers subscribe to its own circular metaphysics, but many, if not most, current philosophers adopt its principles as a "method" -- something which Ayer later (in "The Meaning of Life") claims was his aim all along.
What is disappointing to me, at least in the body of Ayer's works read thus far, is his failure to address "verifiability" in light of Popper's "falsification" doctrine. What exactly constitutes "verifiability" or empirical truth? And, how does the verification of empirical truth differ from the "empirical falsification" of Popper? Perhaps Ayer addresses this problem somewhere, but I've not found it. It would be an interesting problem to see solved.