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Verification Theory of Meaning and the Concept of Time and Space: Implications for Einstein Relativity Theory

The importance of meaning in the use of words and language cannot be quantified. Without making clear the meaning of the words we use, communication will be vague. Meaning brings about clarity and gives light to the understanding. This of course explains why we have a lot of theories as regards meaning. Some of these theories fall under the category of denotation or connotation.

The Logical Positivists, otherwise known as the “Vienna circle” are a group of philosophers, mathematicians and scientists, who gathered in Vienna in the 1920’s. These men felt that philosophy in the past had been largely given over to useless controversy over metaphysical and normative problems that were in principle insoluble (including such problems as those of time and space).

The quest of this group was a very laudable one because of the importance of making sense when we communicate using language, especially for the purpose of clarity. But we shall discover that despite their noble quest, the solution they proffer in terms of the principle of verifiability as a criterion for truth and meaning, multiplied even more, the problem of meaning when it is analyzed linguistically in relation to Einstein’s theory of relativity and his interpretation of time and space. Let us begin our discourse by examining briefly the “theory of meaning”.

The traditional doctrine of “meaning” possesses extension (the sets of things a term is true of) and intension (something internal or mental concepts). Thus traditional semantic theory leaves out only two contributions to the determination of extension- the contribution of society and the contribution of the real world.

Sifting out linguistic meaning from words requires philosophical analysis. What are we saying about a linguistic expression when we specify its meaning? This is the basis of analysis. The three modes of explanation of meaning are the referential, the ideational and behavioural. The question to be posed here is: do all meaningful expressions refer to something? Alston (1964) opines that:

If the referential theory of meaning is based on the fundamental insight that language is used to talk about things, the ideational and behavioural theories are based on an equally fundamental insight that words have the meaning they do only because of what human beings do when they use language (p.19).

Every meaningful linguistic expression as exemplify in the referential theory of meaning encounters problems even in those areas where the referential theorist feels more secure. This, of course, only goes to show that alternative mode of meaningful explanation of words via language has to be devised. The verifiability theory of meaning is a referential theory by its presuppositions and assumptions. It is also seen as incorporating the canons of empirical science. These will be made clear shortly and that will be our major focus in this work as far as theory of meaning is concern.

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(Author: Jerome P. Mbat, Emmanuel Iniobong Archibong

Published by Sciedu Press)