Quartz Hill School of Theology

The Verifiability Theory of Meaning

According to this theory, meaning and truth are determined by verifiability or confirmability.

1. The verifiability theory of meaning asserts that there is a cognitive (informative) meaning or cognitive truth only as verification or falsification is actually possible or, as in operationalism, when all necessary steps for demonstrating meaning or truth can be specified. Verifiability is the possiblity of verification or falsification. Only verifiable or falsifiable statements are capable of truth or falsity since, properly speaking, only they are statements.
2. The verifiability criterion of meaningfulness may be modified as the confirmability criterion of meaninfulness. Confirmability requires that an assertion be capable of being verified or falsified, i.e., verifiable or falsifiable in principle, by the specification of empirical evidence that would count for or against its truth or falsity.
    With respect to the question of the verifiability theory of meaning, the opposition rationalism vs. empiricism becomes metaphysicians vs. verificationists (antimetaphysicians), i.e., those who hold knowledge to be in principle both verifiable and nonverifiable (rationalists) and those who hold that it must be verifiable (empiricists).

a. Rationalists hold that the verifiability criterion is not itself verifiable and hence by its own definition not meaninful and not true. It is a theory of meaning and not the actual nature of meaningfulness. Statements are meaningful if intelligible.
b. Empiricists hold that it is a procedural rule justified by its utility and not by its truth value as such.
c. The use of theory of meaning, however, holds that verifiability (or falsifiability) is not the exclusive criterion of meaninfulness. Use determines criteria or rules of meaningfulness. So far as the verifiability criterion applies, "a sentence has meaning only if it can be used to make an assertion, and it can be used to make an assertion only if it's possible to specify some way of verifying or falsifying the assertion"
    Verifiability is not the only way of making sense. The verifiability theory of meaning is a proposal to confine "meaningful" to the cognitive uses of language.

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Quartz Hill School of Theology
43543 51st Street West
Quartz Hill, CA 93536

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