Objection #9. The theory is positivist and continues the weaknesses of positivism.
The term "positivist", for me, conjures up images of A.J.Ayer debating with Christian clerics on the radio, ranting on about how their religious language is "meaningless". The logical positivists constantly attacked "metaphysics", and their arrogance and dismissiveness seems to have made them rather unpopular. If the theory on this website seems reminiscent of the logical positivists in its talk of metaphysics as the root of all evil, then the resemblance is superficial. A closer examination will show important differences between any kind of positivism (particularly logical positivism) and the account of the Middle Way given here.
- The account of "metaphysics" given by the positivists is itself metaphysical, because it depends on unverifiability rather than lack of practical relevance to experience. The lack of verifiability of a claim by itself cannot be ascertained without metaphysical assumptions about the relationship between observation and representational theory.
- Positivists rely on the fact-value distinction, and tend to either condemn moral justification as metaphysical, or try to naturalise it into facts. Middle Way theory on the other hand requires the rejection of the fact-value distinction.
- Logical positivists rejected the unverifiable as "meaningless" because they dogmatically rejected private experience as a possible criterion of meaning. In Middle Way theory, on the contrary, it is morally important to recognise and accept the widest possible range of meaning, and thus to recognise even the most dogmatic metaphysics as meaningful. Only on the basis of appreciating its meaning can we begin to sort out the experience from the metaphysics in a particular viewpoint.
- Positivist assumptions about the absence of justifiable absolute metaphysics involve denial rather than strict agnosticism, and thus lead into the negative metaphysics of nihilism. This is just as much rejected by Middle Way theory as eternalist assertions about the existence of absolute ethics.
For more information see the account of logical positivism and its context in the account of analytic philosophy in the thesis.
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