The meaninglessness of a criterion of meaning

The positivist dislikes the idea that there should be meaningful problems outside the field of ‘positive’ empirical science—problems to be dealt with by a genuine philosophical theory. He dislikes the idea that there should be a genuine theory of knowledge, an epistemology or a methodology. He wishes to see in the alleged philosophical problems mere ‘pseudo-problems’ or ‘puzzles’. Now this wish of his—which, by the way, he does not express as a wish or a proposal but rather as a statement of fact—can always be gratified. For nothing is easier than to unmask a problem as ‘meaning­less’ or ‘pseudo’. All you have to do is to fix upon a conveniently narrow meaning for ‘meaning’, and you will soon be bound to say of any inconvenient question that you are unable to detect any meaning in it. Moreover, if you admit as meaningful none except problems in natural science, any debate about the concept of ‘meaning’ will also turn out to be meaningless. The dogma of meaning, once enthroned, is elevated forever above the battle. It can no longer be at­tacked. It has become (in Wittgenstein’s own words) ‘unassailable and definitive’. [29-30]

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