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The hypothesis that the starry heavens exist at all times, and the hypothesis that they only exist when I see them, are exactly identical in all those of their consequences that I can test. It is specially in such cases that meaning is identified with verification [by logical positivists—see second passage], and that, therefore, the two hypotheses are said to have the same significance. And it is this that I am specially concerned to deny. Perhaps the most obvious case is other people’s minds. The hypothesis that there are other people, having thoughts and feelings more or less like my own, does not have the same significance as the hypothesis that other people are only parts of my dreams, and yet the verifiable consequences of the two hypotheses are identical. We all feel love and hate, sympathy and antipathy, admiration and contempt, for what we believe to be real people. The emotional consequences of this belief are very different from those of solipsism, though the verifiable consequences are not. I should say that two beliefs whose emotional consequences differ have substantially distinct significations.

Bertrand Russell (from Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, 1948)



When it is said that “the meaning of a proposition is the method of its verification,” this omits the propositions that are most nearly certain, namely judgments of perception. For these there is no “method of verification,” since it is they that constitute the verification of all other empirical propositions that can be in any degree known. If [Moritz] Schlick were right, we should be committed to an endless regress, for propositions are verified by means of other propositions, which, in turn, must derive their meaning from the way in which they are verified by yet other propositions, and so on ad infinitum. All those who make “verification” fundamental overlook the real problem, which is the relation between words and non-verbal occurrences in judgements of perception.

Bertrand Russell (from An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth, 1950)

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