True, my question is roughly identical to this one Did early analytic philosophers reject metaphysics? , yet I don’t find the answers fulfilling.

I have done some light reading on logical empiricism. It is said that they condoned only two forms of knowledge, that which can be “verified” in some particular sense, and that which is logical.

Why would this exclude metaphysics (and ethics and aesthetics, as commonly said)? Metaphysics has always struck me as a deeply mathematical and logical topic. In fact, I had always considered that logic was the basis of metaphysics, that metaphysics was a corollary of logic; a collection of necessary statements about the nature of the world.

Perhaps the question hinges on what they meant by “verification”? I would assume that means something akin to phenomenology: direct conscious experience.

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    I don't know enough to make an answer, but I would suggest that positivists don't so much reject metaphysics as reject the notion that most people speculating about metaphysics have any beliefs to reject in the first place.
    – g s
    Commented Feb 3 at 21:34

1 Answer 1


Contemporay analytical metaphysics is a much different species than the, say, speculative metaphysics of the Scholastics. Philosophy, especially when taken in league with theology, can ponder topics whose ontology diverges tragically from the modern ontology of contemporary science. In fact, angels dancing on the head of a pin its the sort of absurdity that non-scientific ontology allows.

The logical positivists looked at religion and pseudoscience as problematic and tried to find a way to draw a line in the sand between science and the empirically undisciplined missing of ontologies that admit entities like magic, gods, and alchemical transformation. Attacking metaphysics, which is laden with metaphysical presupposition, seemed the best way. The project failed because language and observation is normative, since the analytical and synthetic and fact and value are convenient fictions of category.

  • They're not "convenient fictions". They just aren't.
    – user71009
    Commented Feb 4 at 7:04
  • Also to call medieval metaphysics very "speculative" (a term introduced by Fichte in the XVIII/XIX century anyway) is a great overstatement.
    – user71009
    Commented Feb 4 at 7:09
  • @abcga Medival thinking took Aristotle serious for physics, posited humors, and heavily debated rather than debunked a non-existent God. Given how each theory falls short of what sciences take to be literal truth today, I'm not sure how that's not excessive speculation. As for the two dichotomies, neither holds under a rigorous conceptual analysis. It's best to think of the language that surrounds them as useful, but leaky grammars and an easy way to obfuscate one's metaphysical presumptions. But as always, I appreciate you sharing your opinions (in the case that you are confusing them w facts
    – J D
    Commented Feb 4 at 16:48
  • @JD What does Aristotle being a pre-Newtonian physicist have anything to do with metaphysics? Everything that Newton ever said is far from what we nowadays consider true, but it is of course more accurate (keep in mind that 2000 years separates Aristotle and Newton but only ca. 300 years Newton and Einstein). I think the common sense presumption that disagreement about meanings is different than disagreement about matters of fact is very harmful, not at all useful. This might be my "opinion", but I am willing to argue for it. There was a time where heliocentrism was an "opinion" afterall.
    – user71009
    Commented Feb 4 at 17:21

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