more from A.J. Ayer

Single Idea 5199

[catalogued under 12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique]

Full Idea

The objection which is commonly brought against empiricism is that it is impossible on empiricist principles to account for our knowledge of necessary truths.

Gist of Idea

Empiricism, it is said, cannot account for our knowledge of necessary truths


A.J. Ayer (Language,Truth and Logic [1936], Ch.4)

Book Reference

Ayer,A.J.: 'Language, Truth and Logic' [Penguin 1974], p.96

A Reaction

This criticism goes back at least to Leibniz. Ayer's distinctive contribution to empiricism (with help) is to emphasise that we can only know necessities if they are tautologies. Hume always challenged our knowledge of natural necessities.