[As you may gather from the passage below from A. J. Ayer’s influential treatise on logical positivism, Ayer flatly disagrees with the Thomist Josef Pieper. Although logical positivism was soon undone by its own internal contradictions, and Ayer, himself, frankly admitted to interviewer Bryan Magee in the 1978 Men of Ideas series that “nearly all of [logical positivism] was false,” Ayer remained fiercely anti-metaphysical. In this respect he was upholding a tradition of modern philosophy—some might say a prejudice—that began well before him, and continues to this day.]
But if science may be said to be blind without philosophy, it is true also that philosophy is virtually empty without science. For while the analysis of our everyday language is useful as a means of preventing, or exposing, a certain amount of metaphysics, the problems which it presents are not of such difficulty or complexity as to make it probable that they will remain long unsolved. Indeed we have dealt with most of them in the course of this book, including the problem of perception, which is perhaps the most difficult problem of those which are not essentially connected with the language of science; a fact which explains why it has played so large a part in the history of modern philosophy. What confronts the philosopher who finds that our everyday language has been sufficiently analyzed is the task of clarifying the concepts of contemporary science. But for him to be able to achieve this, it is essential that he should understand science. If he is incapable of understanding the propositions of any science, then he is unable to fulfil the philosopher’s function in the advancement of our knowledge. For he is unable to define the symbols which, most of all, require to be made clear.
It is indeed misleading to draw a sharp distinction, as we have been doing, between philosophy and science. What we should rather do is to distinguish between the speculative and the logical aspects of science, and assert that philosophy must develop into the logic of science. That is to say, we distinguish between the activity of formulating hypotheses, and the activity of displaying the logical relationship of these hypotheses and defining the symbols which occur in them. It is of no importance whether we call one who is engaged in the latter activity a philosopher or a scientist. What we must recognise is that it is necessary for a philosopher to become a scientist, in this sense, if he is to make any substantial contribution towards the growth of human knowledge.
A. J. Ayer (from Language Truth and Logic, 1936)
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