Is positivism like trimming all fat from bacon?


Well-Known Member
Reaction score
Is positivism like trimming all fat from bacon?

Meaning is the fat on bacon. Positivism is jerky (strips of spicy meat trimmed of fat and dried with low heat).

Following WWI a group of scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers gathered in Vienna to discuss recent events in logic. This informal gathering, labeled as the Vienna Circle, sought a formal and systematic reduction of human knowledge to ‘acceptable levels’.

Logical positivism, aka logical empiricism, resulted from this meeting. Logical positivism allows only logical tautologies and first-person observations to be considered as accurate forms of acceptable knowledge. The influences resulting from the Vienna Circle have proven to be enormous.

A sentence is factually significant only if I know what observations make it true or false. This idea, logical empiricism, leaves no room for anything to be considered as significant knowledge except empirical observations and meaningless but useful tautologies of math and logic.

Rudolf Carnap’s book “The Logical Structure of the World” (1929) attempts to construct in scientific language the structure of the whole world. It is this detailed analysis that led to the discovery of the difficulties of this procedure. The result was Karl Popper’s insight that we cannot establish truth but we can only prove that which is false; this leads into Popper’s theory of falsifyability.

This program of logical positivism left little room for serious considerations of value, meaning, aesthetics, and morality.

Five decades passed, following the Vienna Circle, before John Rawls broke up the strangle-hold on moral considerations exerted by logical positivism. Rawls book “A Theory of Justice” constructs a theory of justice that is somewhat like constructing the grammar of a natural language.