Summary: Einstein vs. Logical Positivism by Rossen Vassilev Jr.

The original article can be found at: https://philosophynow.org/issues/133/Einstein_vs_Logical_Positivism

Vassilev begins his article by pointing out that Logical Positivism was a philosophical movement that originated in the 1920s. Arguably its most critical mission was to establish the same methodology of science and mathematics for other fields, particularly philosophy. The logical positivists dismissed any and all ‘non-scientific’ speculation from genuine analysis or explanation. They insisted that such statements were literally meaningless; only statements that could be logically verified or corroborated through experiment/observation have meaning. This was known as the Principle of Verification (or Verification Principle) and was the driving philosophical and epistemological force behind the Vienna Circle (a particularly influential group of logical positivists).

According to the Principle of Verification, the meaning of any statement lies in its method of verification. Moreover, statements about, say, God or art or ethics would all suddenly be technically meaningless according to the logical positivists. Logical positivists were excited at this prospect because they were very much committed Naturalists. But not all philosophers were on-board with their philosophical approach or its underlying intentions.

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Philosophical Resources for YOU!

A Philosophical Reading List

Selected Philosophical Resources and References

Sentential Logic: Rules of Inference for Deriving Proofs

EXCELLENT RESOURCE AVAILABLE HERE: https://courses.umass.edu/phil110-gmh/text/c05.pdf

Ampersand-In (&I): If one has available lines, A and B, then one is entitled to write down their conjunction, in one order A&B, or the other order B&A.

Ampersand-Out (&O): If one has available a line of the form A&B, then one is entitled to write down either conjunct A or conjunct B.

Wedge-In (∨I): If one has available a line A, then one is entitled to write down the disjunction of A with any formula B, in one order AvB, or the other order BvA.

Wedge-Out (∨O): If one has available a line of the form A∨B, and if one additionally has available a line which is the negation of the first disjunct, ~A, then one is entitled to write down the second disjunct, B. Likewise, if one has available a line of the form A∨B, and if one additionally has available a line which is the negation of the second disjunct, ~B, then one is entitled to write down the first disjunct, A.

Double-Arrow-In (↔I): If one has available a line that is a conditional A→B, and one additionally has available a line that is the converse B→A, then one is entitled to write down either the biconditional A↔B or the biconditional B↔A.

Double-Arrow-Out (↔O): If one has available a line of the form A↔B, then one is entitled to write down both the conditional A→B and its converse B→A.

Arrow-Out (→O): If one has available a line of the form A→B, and if one additionally has available a line which is the antecedent A, then one is entitled to write down the consequent B. Likewise, if one has available a line of the form A→B, and if one additionally has available a line which is the negation of the consequent, ~B, then one is entitled to write down the negation of the antecedent, ~A.

Double Negation (DN): If one has available a line A, then one is entitled to write down the double-negation ~~A. Similarly, if one has available a line of the form ~~A, then one is entitled to write down the formula A.

Sentential Logic Practice: Assessing a Proof of King’s Argument about the Purpose of Life

Recall that King set up his argument as follows:

Premise 1: Either our life’s purpose is achievable or it is not.
Premise 2: If it is achievable then after it is achieved we no longer have a purpose.
Premise 3: Then our lives would be futile.
Premise 4: If it is not achievable then attempting it would end in failure, and to continue would be futile.
Conclusion: Therefore, either way, our lives are ultimately futile.

Let’s begin by defining our library of symbolic terms:

A = Humanity’s life purpose is achievable at some point before death
N = A human’s life purpose ceases to exist if it is achieved
F = Human’s life purpose is futile if it ceases to exist
U = Attempting to achieve humanity’s life purpose will end in failure

This argument is definitely a valid one because we can assemble and test a sample derivation:


So if we provisionally assume A (‘Our purpose is achievable’), then we can eventually achieve it. Once we do, since our life purpose is like a desire that is eliminated (or ceases to exist) once it is satisfied, we no longer have a life purpose (N). And if we no longer have a life purpose, then our lives would be (or become) futile (F).

Now, if we provisionally assume ~A (‘Our purpose is NOT achievable’), then we will never be able to achieve it. It will always elude our grasp or its own completion. If our purpose is not achievable, then attempting to achieve that purpose would end in failure and our lives would be (or become) futile (U & F).

Regardless of whether our life purpose is achievable or not, King reasons, our lives would be (or become) futile, inevitably. That would hold true for everyone at all times and in all places.

The problem is that we have no reason to believe that a purpose is a one-and-done type of deal. It could be that life’s purpose is similar to being virtuous (i.e. it is an ongoing process rather than a completed product). Even if our life’s purpose were fulfilled, there are still various hypothetical situations and contexts in which one could reasonably expect to either have to (1) maintain the completion or fulfillment of their life’s purpose or (2) complete or fulfill a new or modified purpose for their own life.

There is no logical contradiction in this alternate definition of purpose. King’s article definitely gives us much to reflect upon, but ultimately his analysis relies on a faulty definition (or understanding) of purpose; an alternative definition provided can sidestep this problem though, thereby undermining the soundness of his argument’s conclusion.

Commentary: Looking for the Purpose of Life by Brian King

*The original article can be found at: https://philosophynow.org/issues/147/Looking_for_the_Purpose_of_Life

Brian King writes a solid introductory piece about what the purpose of life may be and why it is such a thorny question for philosophers to answer.

*Video below unrelated, but still entertaining and quasi-relevant!*

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Concept-Checking: Authority Figures (AFs) vs. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

On the surface, one may think that an ‘authority’ or ‘authority figure’ is the same (or nearly the same) as an ‘expert.’ Teasing out the key differences to these concepts is of philosophical significance.
Let’s take an ‘authority figure’ first. Someone who is an authority figure is someone who is seemingly responsible, either preventatively or reactively, for enforcing observance or obedience to a particular norm/rule/principle/ideal. They either encourage us to uphold (or at least not to break) that norm/rule/principle/ideal. Or, if we decide not to do what is asked or expected of us, they may punish us for our seemingly incorrect choice.

We can think of 3 key examples within our daily lives: the religious leader (e.g. priest, rabbi, imam, guru, etc.), the police officer (or military official), and the calculator (or the computer program).

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Brief philosophical insights

What if we combined Schroedinger’s cat with Santa Claus? Would Santa Claus only exist if we believed in him in that moment? Would he only exist for those who believed in him? If so, would non-believers ever receive any coal in their stockings? Then, let’s go one step further with this line of reasoning. If Santa Claus only existed if we believed in him, what would it mean for those who did not believe in God/Allah? How could we either blame or praise anyone if they simply did not share our same beliefs?

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Concept-Checking and Assumption-Checking

Just as there are numerous websites, agencies, and sources that ‘fact-check’ the various statements made by politicians, public figures, and the like, I want to use part of my platform here to ‘concept-check’ and ‘assumption-check’ different statements made by whomever (historians, philosophers, journalists, etc.).

Concept-checking will involve ensuring that all of the technical concepts are being accurately and, at least initially, fairly portrayed in articles or books or magazines I read. So, for instance, if someone claims that Nietzsche’s ‘eternal recurrence’ is about how badly he wishes he could experience the joy of riding his bicycle for the first time extended over an infinity, then I would assert that they are incorrect and need to be concept-checked (along with the relevant authoritative evidence and argumentation).

Assumption-checking will involve pointing out some common sense and likely events or situations in all (or at least most) of our lives differ from the assumption being offered. So, for instance, if someone talks about how free each individual in the United States is, I would point out how that assumption doesn’t ring as true as they would like. For instance, consider the divergence in experiences among POC and white America. There are VAST differences that cannot and should not be glossed over, especially when engaging in philosophical analysis and truth-seeking. That same principle applies here.

Moving forward, I will specifically mark the CC and AC posts and provide all the proper documentation that I can. If you think of any or come across any articles you think would be interesting, please send them my way!

Comparing Versions of the Hippocratic Oath in Western Medicine

Hippocratic Oath: Classical Version

I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

Hippocratic Oath: Modern Version

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Sentential Logic Practice: Symbolizing More Natural Sentences

1.) Natural sentence: Either I will eat ham or I will eat turkey.
Library: H = I will eat ham, T = I will eat turkey
Symbolization: H v T

2.) Natural sentence: Yesterday, we danced, played, and ate so much!
Library:  D = we danced so much, P = we played so much, A = we ate so much
Symbolization: [D & (P&A)]

3.) Natural sentence: Harrison or John will win Prom King
Library: H = Harrison will win Prom King, J = John will win Prom King
Symbolization: H v J

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