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Verificationism is a theory of knowledge that is not only closely associated with and embraced by logical positivists but sometimes called that as well. Verificationism uses what is called the Verification Principle of Meaning as a filter for types of sentences based on meanings. If a sentence does not lend itself to, in principle, empirical verification it is considered meaningless ordering of words. Especially influential during the 1950's and 1960's verificationism can be considered essentially as an epistemology called empiricism. If the sentence cannot be verified by the five senses, and thus bring about empirical knowledge, it does not pass what is referred to as the Verification Principle of Meaning (VPM).[1] Statements that contain empirical propositional content are scientific statements dealing with the natural world according to supporters of verificationism. In principal verification is possible for statements like; "Birds make sounds to communicate with other potential mates." The sentence has cognitive significance, or is meaningful, because a human being can actually see or hear (that is use the senses) a bird or group of birds communicate by chirping and specialized movements toward a potential mate. As a result however verificationism bracketed out important philosophical branches like metaphysics. Also disregarding large swaths of ordinary theological, moral, and aesthetic language in general, and specific statements like "God exists" or "murder is wrong" or "the sunset is beautiful" became basically nonsense. These produce unverifiable cognitive content, and therefore carry no factual basis but merely maintain an emotive nature.

One consequence of verificationism eagerly embraced by the positivists was this: many sentences of traditional metaphysics are mere pseudo-sentences, and many traditional problems in philosophy are merely pseudo-problems. Unverifiable statements about the ultimate nature of reality, say, or about God, the soul, moral goodness, or beauty were dismissed as empty and meaningless.[2]




Vienna Circle

During the 1920's a sort of cadre of philosophers and sociologists and mathematicians formed the Vienna Circle or what is also called the Ernst Mach Society. There were many members such as; Gustav Bergmann, Rudolf Carnap, Herbert Feigl, Philipp Frank, Hans Hahn, Victor Kraft, Karl Menger, Richard von Mises, Otto Neurath, Olga Hahn-Neurath, Rose Rand and Friedrich Waismann. The group was particularly influenced by the science of Ernst Mach and the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein among others.[3] Wittgenstein was an adamant verificationist understanding that natural science is the only authority of knowledge with its observable core enabling empirical data. Most influenced by Wittgenstein within the Vienna Circle were strict logical positivists thus maintained an illuminating relationship with verificationism, they also tended to reject the supernatural idealism of Germany and Britain. Focusing rather on very strict scientific methods for the acquisition of knowledge logical positivism then branched into verificationism during the 1940's. Verificationism today in the 21st century is characterized as a "latter-day incarnation of classical empiricism".[4]

Verificationism began its influence as an epistemology during the first half of the 20th century and has continued up until the 21st century in a more subtle and populist tone by atheists and evolutionists. It naturally supported and lifted up the philosophy of science as the superior philosophy, as the language used to speak about it, for the most part could pass the Verification Principle of Meaning. Because of this the academic philosophical world conjured up a pejorative mood casting aside vast stretches of philosophical and religious language that remains very influential today.


  1. The Revolution in Anglo-American Philosophy By William Lane Craig
  2. Peter V. Lamarque, Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Language (Elsevier Science 1997), pg. 29
  3. Vienna Circle By Wikipedia
  4. Peter V. Lamarque, Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Language (Elsevier Science 1997), pg. 44-45

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