Re: positivistic view of language

Many, many thanks to Philip Graber for saying so clearly and succinctly 
what I did not want to take the time to say, and could not have said so 
well.  His remarks certainly put more appropriate closure on this thread 
than my terse remarks recounted below.  They are fitting parting words 
for the discussion on this board (though I -- and I suppose he -- would 
be happy to continue the discussion by private mail).

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."
--Groucho Marx

Prof. James F. Sennett
Asst. Professor of Philosophy         sennett@goliath.pbac.edu
Palm Beach Atlantic College                    andretg@aol.com
PO Box 24708                             voice: (407) 835-4431
West Palm Beach, FL  33416-4708            fax: (407) 835-4342

On Fri, 22 Apr 1994, Philip L. Graber wrote:

> On Fri, 22 Apr 1994, James Sennett wrote:
> > There was a group of philosophers early in the 20th century known as 
> > positivists -- highly influenced by the early Wittgenstein (the 
> > _Tractatus_) and the works of Bertrand Russell.  This group became known 
> > as the "Logical Positivists."  They proposed definite theories concerning 
> > the nature of language, truth, and other fundamental issues.  Their view 
> > might reasonably be referred to as "a positivistic view of language," 
> > no?  This is all I was referring to.  I didn't mean to get the linguistic 
> > world in an uproar.  :)
> I have followed this discussion with great interest, as one who did
> undergraduate work in philosophy, graduate work in linguistics, and now
> doctoral work in NT.  I wish you had gone into this a bit more, though. 
> It prompted me to take A. J. Ayer off the shelf and blow the dust off. 
> His is probably the best statement (*Language, Truth & Logic*) of the
> fact/value distinction characteristic of logical positivism.  James
> Sennett's statement was a very helpful remark for the discussion [the one
> that is supposed to have ended--sorry].  Ayer's position left relatively
> little within the realm of the factual, which must be (for Ayer) at least
> in principle empirically verifiable.  That left matters of value,
> including all metaphysics, theology and ethics, in the realm of the
> "merely" emotive.  These matters are not verifiable in principle, and thus
> theological and ethical statements have no truth value--they are NON
> SENSE, factually speaking. 
> The importance to those of us in other disciplines, such as linguistics,
> NT, etc., is that positivism was relatively short-lived in philosophy, and
> yet many persons (even scholars) seem to continue with a fact/value
> distinction that should have gone the way of Newtonian physics (understood
> as a world-view).  A careful review of why positivism was so short-lived
> might remind us why it is fruitless to argue over which statements belong
> on which side of the fact/value distinction--there are no value-free
> facts. 
> I don't think it is stretching things too much to say that this has direct
> relevance to our discussion of NT Greek.  I frequently have the
> uncomfortable feeling while reading various discussions of problems
> relevant to this list that we are struggling with questions of how a word
> or phrase should be TRANSLATED (usually into English on this list), but we
> THINK we are struggling with what it MEANS.  It is as though there is an
> objectively given [FACTUAL] meaning that we can get at apart from the
> particularities of our perspectives (including our own languages).  To do
> this is [perhaps unknowingly] to impose categories of meaning on our texts
> (much as the old English grammarians who measured every language against
> Latin).  We cannot determine some sort of objective, value-free meaning of
> words, and this is no great loss.  What is a loss is to think we are doing
> this when in fact we are answering different questions (such as the very
> practical question of how to translate something into another language, or
> how to explain it or apply it in a given context).
> Philip Graber
> Emory University