Is Positivism even meaningful?

Positivism might be self-evidently false. To the extent that Positivism attempts to say that there is no absolute truth mind independently, it cannot be itself true. We can use an ‘ontological’ type argument to demonstrate this. Suppose the positivist says that it is true that mind independent truth does not exist – is that ‘true’ mind independently? Suppose they bite the bullet and say that it is not true mind independently, but then we press further – isn’t it obvious that what makes it true that there is no mind independent truth has to be in some way mind independently grounded? If it is a mind-dependent truth which makes it the case that there is no mind-independent truth (that all truth is mind-dependent) then doesn’t that seem viciously circular? What ‘grounds’ our model-dependent realisms must be itself something which doesn’t result from those same models. It must belong to that which in-forms our models. Otherwise we must be coherentists rather than reliabilists. Ergo etc, and I would argue thus.

Upon reflection, I’m not even sure that positivism is meaningful to me at all, so I am a non-cognitivist with respect to positivism insofar as it suggests that truth can never be but mind dependent [model dependence entails mind dependence].


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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3 Responses to Is Positivism even meaningful?

  1. mattd4488 says:

    I do not believe that I have ever encountered a person who said that there “is no absolute truth mind independently.” Every scientist I have met has admitted the unavoidable subjectivity of scientific inquiry.

    • (I assume you meant the unavoidable ‘objectivity’ of scientific inquiry, since if you meant ‘subjectivity’ then I have trouble making sense of your comment).

      Stephen Hawking among others denies absolute truth mind independently. You’d be surprised how popular the position is among philosophers of science. It is, I suspect, the result of poor philosophical training/education which scientists have which accounts for so many scientists being both Naturalists and metaphysical realists – positions which are often thought to be either mutually exclusive philosophically, or else at least difficult to reconcile.

  2. mattd4488 says:

    I meant what I said; scientific inquiry is not perfectly objective. Scientists, even if they perceive reality with perfect accuracy, are still subjects who, for example, have a passion for experimentation or a competitive drive which impels them to outperform their rivals. Does that make sense?

    I have encountered scientists and philosophers who take the position which you describe, but I have only encountered them via intellectual literature. Fortunately, I have never met a flesh-and-blood human being who believed such a thing.

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