LO: I will know about the Verification principle and its
implications for religious statements
Statements may be proved true or false by an empirical
Who is the nasty alien?
Verification means to ascertain (find out) the truth of
something. It involves attempting to prove whether an
assertion is true or false.
In Vienna in the 1920’s a group of philosophers became
interested in the question of how we use language as a
means of conveying truth
They were known as the Vienna Circle. The central
principle of this group (also known as logical
positivists) was that propositions only have meaning if
they can be verified empirically.
The belief that statements are only meaningful if
Logical positivism they can be verified by the senses. There are
strong and weak forms of the principle generally
associated with the Vienna Circle and A. J. Ayer
A movement in philosophy that believed that
Vienna Circle the aim of philosophers should be the analysis of
language, particularly the language of science.
They believe that that propositions only have
meaning if they can be verified empirically.
Verification Principle The group of philosophers including Schlick
(1882 -1936) and Neurath (1882-1945) who gave
rise to the logical positivist movement.
A logical statement that we can know to be true
These philosophers were the logical positivists and they
have their origins in a group called the Vienna Circle.
They believed that some statements were meaningful and
others were not. In order to distinguish between what is
meaningful and what is not, the logical positivists came up
with the verification principle; a statement is only
meaningful if it is able to be verified by an actual
experience or is a tautology. A tautology is a logical
statement that we can known to be true by definition. If
someone were to say that ‘triangles have three sides’ or that
‘all widows have been married’, we understand that these
statements have to be the case without the need for any
Would logical positivists find the following
propositions meaningful? Which ones are analytic and
which are synthetic?
1. My shoes are size 6
2. My dog eats cucumber
3. God exists
4. A square has four equal sides
5. Swans are white
6. The mother of those puppies is a bitch
‘Only things that can be proven are worth discussing; the
rest is a lot of hot air.’
1. ‘All metals expand when heated’
2. ‘Triangles have 3 sides’
3. ‘God is all powerful’
4. ‘Henry VIII had 6 wives’
5. ‘Van Gogh was a good painter’
Think about the statements that we might make
in science, maths, religion, history and art. How
does the verification principle apply to these
Read page 13 of A2 textbooks
There are four difficulties with the verification
principle. What are they? Talk them through with the
person next to you before some are selected to
feedback to the class.
What is the verification principle?
What are its implications for religious statements?
What are some difficulties with the verification