• Brian Leahy
    2
    R. G. Collingwood wrote an An Essay on Metaphysics published in 1940. I would love to know what Freddy Ayer of the famous “Language, Truth and Logic” published in 1936 thought of that?
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    If it’s not published, I’m sure nobody here will know, but you might find this interesting.
  • tim wood
    8.8k
    Not in so many words , but RGC called Ayer a fool for his logical positivism. (And imo made his case.)

    I find this online:
    http://wwwcriticalvision.blogspot.com/2006/11/ayers-critique-of-collingwoods.html?m=0
    Not read it all, but it appears to be what you're looking for.

    Also:
    https://philpapers.org/rec/LORCAT

    Ayer's book here:
    https://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-twentieth-century-Ayer/dp/0297781790
    apparently has a whole section on RGC.
  • Brian Leahy
    2
    Please accept the comment that answers your question.
    seconds ago
    Brian Leahy
    Many thanks for such a masterly reply to my question which guided me towards remembering what I first read back in the early 1970s when I started to read philosophy at the new British Open University and found that wonderful arrogant piece from Ayer’s Language Truth and Logic that, “metaphysical statements such as “God exists” are unverifiable and meaningless.”
    God is not the important factor for me but his dismissal of metaphysical most certainly was.
  • TheMadFool
    13.8k
    Many thanks for such a masterly reply to my question which guided me towards remembering what I first read back in the early 1970s when I started to read philosophy at the new British Open University and found that wonderful arrogant piece from Ayer’s Language Truth and Logic that, “metaphysical statements such as “God exists” are unverifiable and meaningless.
    God is not the important factor for me but his dismissal of metaphysical most certainly was.
    Brian Leahy

    Given the way God's defined, incorporeal and such, God is unverifiable and if one defines meaning(fulness) as only that which is verifiable, God is meaningless, no?

    Ayer probably used God as an index case, the quintessential metaphysical claim, and if you disagree with him, you should be worried.

    Verifiability is, as far as it matters to me, a critical concept in philosophy but my reasons may differ from those who originally proposed it. In the age of the internet we're in, we're bombarded with email scams - money, cars, degrees, jobs are all being used as bait for the unwary individual. How does one sort out the genuine good offer from the bad ones? You cross-check, you ask around, you do some Googling, etc. What exactly is it that you're doing here? Verifying of course. Verification is one of many proven methods that help us tell the truth from a...wait for it...lie. In other words, that which fails verification is usually a falsehood/lie.

    Given all of the above, what's your take now on the unverifiable? Is the unverifiable more like a lie (failed verification) or more like the truth (passed verification)? Should we give the unverifiable the benefit of the doubt (there maybe something to metaphysics after all) or should we err on the side of caution (metaphysics is nonsense)?

    Imagine the following:

    Scenario 1 [Verifiable claims]
    Someone tells you to sell everything you have - laptop, car, house, everything - and give the proceeds to a charity but he'll give you 4 billion dollars in a box. You have the option of verifying if the box really does contain that sum of money.

    Scenario 2 [Unverifiable claims/metaphysics]
    Someone tells you to sell everything you have - laptop, car, house, everything - and give the proceeds to a charity but he'll give you 8 billion dollars in a box. You don't have the option of verifying if the box really does contain that sum of money.

    What should you do?

    My answers:

    Scenario 1: You should obviously sell all you possess and take the 4 billion dollars. This is a no-brainer!

    Scenario 2: Is the person making you the offer telling the truth or is it a lie. Do you see what's happened? Unverifiable literally means a lie makes an appearance as a possibility. I guess I answered my own question. If unverifiable were a number, it would be rounded off to a lie. Err on the side of caution is what this is called.

    That said, giving the benefit of the doubt is also considered a reasonable course of action. Should we believe this person actually wants to part with 8 billion dollars? Not likely but, at the same time, not impossible!

    It looks like we have two possibilities we have to tackle.

    1. The possibility that the box is empty (a lie)
    2. The possibility that the box is not empty (a truth)

    The solution seems profoundly simple. Metaphysics is at its heart an exploration of possibility and so the metaphysician isn't actually bothered by the fact that fae could be wrong. All the metaphysician wants to do is to closely examine the possibility space as it were. Thus, to the metaphysician, selling everything fae has for the mere possibility that fae could gain 8 billion dollars is as good as it gets - a lucrative deal by all accounts.
  • T Clark
    13k
    Many thanks for such a masterly reply to my question which guided me towards remembering what I first read back in the early 1970s when I started to read philosophy at the new British Open University and found that wonderful arrogant piece from Ayer’s Language Truth and Logic that, “metaphysical statements such as “God exists” are unverifiable and meaningless.”Brian Leahy

    I'm a little lost in this conversation, which is fine. For what it's worth, my memory of Collingwood is that he identified "There is a God" as an absolute presupposition for the practice of science. It was my understanding that he meant that as a statement that we live in a lawful universe. @tim wood - Do you remember this? Do you see it the same way I do?
  • tim wood
    8.8k
    Chap. XXV, in my edition pp. 248-257, also online. Search An Essay on Metaphysics pdf.
  • BirdInitials
    2


    While disputes with colleagues is a good part of being a professional philosopher, they would put their professionalism at risk if they resorted to name-calling. So I think Collingwood's position on Ayer would be better expressed by saying that he profoundly disagreed with him.

    I was amused to see that the entry on Ayer in my edition of the Oxford Companion to Philosophy was written by Timothy Sprigge, the author of "the Vindication of Absolute Idealism".

    Both Sprigge, and the Companion's editor, Ted Honderich, studied under Ayer at UCL. Honderich contributed a supportive preface to Ayer's final book, a collection of essays entitled "The Meaning of Life". This was published posthumously in 1990. If it contains any allusion to the Monty Python film of the same name, this has so far eluded me.

    Anyone who entertains nostalgia for Collingwood and British Idealism (I don't) might also appreciate the remarks of another professional philosopher (Ray Monk), published in Prospect https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/ideas/philosophy/39183/how-the-untimely-death-of-rg-collingwood-changed-the-course-of-philosophy-forever
  • tim wood
    8.8k
    Anyone who entertains nostalgia for Collingwood...(I don't)BirdInitials
    Perhaps wrongly I infer criticism of RGC's ideas or at least some of them. If you have any criticism, please share - I'm not smart enough to figure out any on my own, and having read a small bunch of his books, would appreciate correction where needed. The author of the article you referenced seems to have thought highly of RGC.
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