Life as an Extreme Sport

If anyone doubts the accuracy of this account of moral disputes, let him try to construct even an imaginary argument on a question of value which does not reduce itself to an argument about a question of logic or about an empirical matter of fact.
-A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic

Ayer challenges us to attempt to construct an argument on a question of value that does not reduce down to either a question of logic or an empirical matter of fact – a comment that caught my attention precisely because of the continual use of “empirial” in this essay. Ayer places great stock in that which can be empirically confirmed, which seems to be rooted in Russell’s belief that it is not desirable to believe in a proposition when there’s no ground in believing its truth/factuality. But this reliance on the infallibility of empirical fact seems to be a flaw in Ayer’s philosophy.

The concept of empirical fact is flawed by the concept known as the observer’s paradox. At it’s most basic, this paradox says that the observation of an event, an experiment, of anything, is influenced by the presence of the observer. We bias what we see, and what we see is biased by us – the idea that there can be a control by observation has been critiqued for quite some time.

How we formulate knowledge, share it, and confirm it is certainly important – there wouldn’t be library shelves dedicated to it otherwise – but to say that the only thing that can be truly known is that which is empirically verifiable leaves itself open to critique from the area of philosophy that questions our ability to remove ourselves from the equation to allow for a truly neutral observation