Last Updated 10 Oct 2019

On Ayer and Sartre’s Philosophical Construct

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At the onset of Ayer’s philosophical treatise, he clearly asserted that the absolute means of concluding the common philosophical disputes and cleavages is to elucidate the purpose of what is being asked, and then circumstantiate the property of philosophical enquiry through the utilization of logical constructs.

Ayer defines logical construction as “if we can provide a definition in use showing how to get rid of a term ‘a’ in favor of other terms ‘b’, ‘c’, etc., then we may say that the thing supposedly referred to by ‘a’ is a logical construction out of the things referred to by ‘b’, ‘c’, etc. So, for example, tables are logical constructions out of sense-contents” (Ayer 3), which means that logical construction necessitates a referent of the object being perceive, thus metaphysical context is immaterial. Logical construction is the panacea for providing definitive definition for objects, which is also the ultimate task of philosophy.

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Logical construction for Ayer lays bare the foundation of proving the invalidity of metaphysics because the transcendent reality of such philosophy does not hold any truth at all, for intuition alone cannot suffice in concretizing that knowledge of it was deduced to man’s intuition and necessitated him to project the transcendent reality.

This is a dismal argument for Ayer because it deems that every philosophical enquiry must start first on what the senses perceive. Thus in order for him to establish an argument that will lead to the elimination of metaphysics, as well as its other precepts such as intentionality, behavior and consciousness, Ayer intersperse logical construction in his treatise Language, Truth and Logic.

For even if it is the case that the definition of a cardinal number as a class of classes similar to a given class is circular, and it is not possible to reduce mathematical notions to purely logical notions, it will still remain true that the propositions of mathematics are analytic propositions.

They will form a special class of analytic propositions, containing special terms, but they will be none the less analytic for that. For the criterion of an analytic proposition is that its validity should follow simply from the definition of the terms contained in it, and this condition is fulfilled by the propositions of pure mathematics.[1]

Ayer's counterarguments amount to an attempt to circumvent the intentionality of behavior by recourse to dispositions that can be defined as end-states of self-regulating systems.

This is a modernized version of the old physicalist proposal to characterize motives not in terms of an intended meaning but as needs that we measure by organic states. Given this presupposition, we can describe the behavior to be analyzed without reference to the motive; the motive, which is also represented in observable behavior, can be understood as the initial condition in a lawful hypothesis and identified as the cause of the motivated behavior.

I do not see, however, how the organic states, the needs, or the systemic conditions that represent end-states, thus the motives, are supposed to be describable at all on the level of social action without reference to transmitted meaning.

Since, however, the description of motivated behavior itself also implies this meaning, that description cannot be given independently of motive. The proposed distinction between motive for behavior and motivated behavior itself remains problematic.

[1] Ayer, A.J., Language, Truth and Logic. Dover Publications, Inc., New York, p. 108.

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