Free «Answers to Philosophy Questions» Essay Sample
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How, According to Russell, Can I Name Something that does not Exist?
Language is used to describe different things in the world; however there are some words that have a meaning and others do not. Words that have a meaning are called paradigmatic; they are often used to express names of individuals and places because they exist. There are other words that are in use, but actually they are not in existence. The people who created them did it without explaining their meaning. The immediate audience just snapped the words, never bothering to ask for their meanings. People continued using them in the context that they were used in the original phrase. Russell came up with his philosophy to explain the phenomenon where words were used while their exact meanings were not known; therefore, we can name something that does not exist.
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According to Stephen Law, (2012) words like ‘pegasus’, ‘zeus’, ‘the golden mountain’ do not exist; they are used by philosophers but in the real sense there are no terms that bear such names. A problem arises when someone uses such words, the existence of which they have already acknowledged, but later comes to a conclusion that they do not exist. In the above mentioned three expressions, ‘the golden mountain’ phrase is used by the philosophers to refer to a place but it is not like a place that one can identify and show it on the map, it is just used as a phrase with no meaning.
If one uses the following phrase ‘Jane is brown’, the name Jane shows the existence of a person known as Jane because it is known to be a name of an individual. The phrase ‘brown’ can be used in two contexts: one where Jane is brown because that is her skin completion. Second, it can also be used in the context of non-existence, especially when one may make a claim that she is brown, but she is not brown. This fact shows nonexistence; it is acceptable to make such claim that Jane is brown while she is dark.
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Russell theory of description enabled him to solve the puzzle derived by further assumption from phrases like ‘the golden mountain does not exist’. From the example of Jane, there is an equal meaning of that phrase as the word Jane refers to a name of a person and the name of that person is Jane. The same can be applied to the ‘golden mountain’ phrase because it is a referring, an expression. It is amazing how the phrase can be true and, on the other hand, can be used to make a meaningful expression that is meaningless. Russell uses this example to show how a phrase can be used in a sentence yet it does not exist like the ‘golden mountain’.
However, this philosophy has been criticized. Rather than thinking of a phrase as a meaning of a reference, it is advisable to think of the meaning as a use. A word can have a meaning even if there is a lack of reference. The phrase ‘Santa Claus’ is used to describe a name of a person even if he is imaginary, and yet people have always considered ‘this man’ as the father of Christmas, though he is all over different places and towns. People respect using the word because they know exactly what role he plays even if he is in different places.
In conclusion, Russell’s philosophy is true and can be applied to explain why people have been using some words without any meaning. Such words have been used for a long time, and they cannot seize to be used because they are meaningless. As long as the users know the context into which they are being used, they can be used without violating any rules including grammatical rules.
Is the Verification Principle Self-Refuting?
The self-refuting principle was formulated by A.J Ayer, and it is based on those statements that have been regarded to be true while they are false. In other words, they have been used for a long time as a lie until they became true (Weinberg, 2006). Verification principle is a phrase, which meaning can be proven empirically. Some say that this principle is not falsifiable, while others say that the principle of verification has never been faulty. Therefore, the question of whether the verification principle is self-refuting means that a phrase that can be empirically proven may be regarded as false while it is true, and vice versa.
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Philosophers often come up with different theories; they compose them with such words that if they were asked the actual meaning of those words they would not explain it. A good example is knowledge; we ask ourselves what knowledge is and whether all ideas are knowledge. In the ancient times, knowledge was a belief making ancient ideas true even if they were superstitious. Edmund Gettier corrected this fact by defining knowledge as something that was true and had supportive evidence that support its being true. He disqualified the belief to be the truth as theories were misleading because they could not be evidently supported. Superstitious stories did not have any backing hence generating questions of their truth.
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Theories on words can be refuted empirically by showing people who do not uphold a word according to its definition. Ayer came up with his theory to expound a meaning of a word as it is upheld and respected by people but not as the explanations given by scholars. The people may have a different understanding of a name; it does not matter what the elite believe it is; what matters is the users since there are many of them, and their influence on a word will be felt more. His theory can be associated with all statements people find meaningful and are in line with his definition of meaningfulness. Other statements can be refuted even if they are true according to the people but contradict Ayer’s meaning of the term ‘meaning’.