By Alfred J. Ayer, Sir Alfred Jules Ayer
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Additional resources for Language, Truth and Logic
At the same time, it may fairly be objected to it that it does not give us much information about the nature of entailment; for although it entitles us to say that the logical consequences of a proposition are explicative of its meaning, this is only because the meaning of a proposition is understood to depend upon what it entails. PROPOSITIONS ABOUT THE PAST AND ABOUT OTHER MINDS By saying of propositions about the past that they are “rules for the prediction of those ‘historical’ experiences which are commonly said to verify them” I seem to imply that they can somehow be translated into propositions about present or future experiences.
We do indeed test any such statement by making observations which consist in the occurrence of particular sense-contents; but, for any test that we actually carry out, there is always an indefinite number of other tests, differing to some extent in respect either of their conditions or their results, that would have served the same purpose. And this means that there is never any set of observation-statements of which it can truly be said that precisely they are entailed by any given statement about a material thing.
Thus, a man who is a convinced utilitarian may simply mean by calling an action right that it tends to promote, or more probably that it is the sort of action that tends to promote, the general happiness; and in that case the validity of his statement becomes an empirical matter of fact. Similarly, a man who bases his ethical upon his religious views may actually mean by calling an action right or wrong that it is the sort of action that is enjoined or forbidden by some ecclesiastical authority; and this also may be empirically verified.