Notes on Paul Meehl’s “Philosophical Psychology Session” #01

These are the notes I made whilst watching the video recording of Paul Meehl’s philosophy of science lectures. This is the first episode (a list of all the videos can be found here). Please note that these posts are not designed to replace or be used instead of the actual videos (I highly recommend you watch them). They are to be read alongside to help you understand what was said. I also do not include everything that was discussed (just the main/most complex points).

  • Power of hard sciences doesn’t come from operational verbal definitions but from the tools of measurements & the mathematics.
  • A subset of the concepts must be operationally defined otherwise it doesn’t connect with the facts.
  • Methodological remarks= remark in the meta language (statements that occur in science and the relations between them, properties of statements and between statements, relations between beliefs and evidence e.g. true, false, rational, unknown, confirmed by data, fallacious, deducible, valid, probable) rather than object language (language that speaks about subject matter e.g. protons, libido, atom, g, reinforce),
  • Hans Reichenbach was wrong about induction
  • Pure observations are infected by theory (FALSE for psychology). If protocol you record is infected by theory, bad scientist e.g. Choosing to look at 1 thing rather than another just because of a theory OR falsifying data just to fit your theory.
  • Watson’s theory that learning took place in muscles (from proprioception feedback) was falsified by rats being able to negotiate a maze almost as quickly after having neural pathway that controlled proprioception feedback severed or when the maze was flooded.
  • Operationalism (we only know a concept if we can measure it & all necessary steps for demonstrating meaning or truth must be specified) sparked psychologies’ obsession with operationalising our terms (even though the harder sciences we are trying to emulate are not as rigorous with it) but Carnap suggests it is folly.
  • Logical positivism- taking things that could not be doubted by any sane person and building up from there a justification for science, and with the math and logic on top of the protocols you “coerce them” into believing in science. Urge for certainty.
  • Analyse science and rationally reconstruct (justify) it, show why a rational person should believe in science. Negative aim: liquidation of metaphysics (by creating meaning criterion).
  • A statement is cognitively meaningless if you don’t know how to verify it (either empirically or logically)- Criterion of meaning. The meaning of a sentence is the method of it’s verification, statement of affirmative meaning. A sentence’s meaning is derived from the evidence that supports it (“the meaning of a sentence is to be found entirely in the conditions under which it could be verified by some possible experience”*). Rejected because the sentence “Caesar crossed the Rubicon” means COMPLETELY different things to us and to a Centurion at Caesar’s side because we have different evidence.
  • Lots of our information comes from “authorities” (even though it’s a logical fallacy). We have to calibrate the authority and often we presume someone has done it for us so we trust it.



Mattey, G.J., 2005. Schlick on Meaning and Verification. [pdf] G.J. Mattey. Available at: <> [Accessed on: 06/06/2016]

Yonce, J. L., 2016. Philosophical Psychology Seminar (1989) Videos & Audio, [online] (Last updated 05/25/2016) Available at: [Accessed on: 06/06/2016]

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