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observation sentences

A statement that is not based on the truth of another statement and is, rather, taken from a direct observation is called an observation sentence. In order to understand the observation sentence, no previous knowledge is needed. These statements are necessary to avoid having to fall into an infinite regress in order to determine the truth-value of a given statement by determining the truth-value of each recessive statement. Positivists such as Carnap (early in his career) believed that observation sentences act as the foundation for many kinds of knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge. If a non-analytic piece of information cannot be brought back to an observation sentence, then there is no way to know it is true. A few examples of observation sentences are "the sunset is purple" and "the man is sitting." These statements would be perfectly obvious to anyone present to witness them, but unverifiable to anyone who cannot observe them.

--Kenneth D'Amica

Quine, W.V.O. "Epistemology Naturalized" in Ontological Relativity and other Essays. Columbia University Press, 1969.

Jones, Nicholaos John. Observation Sentences, Quine, and Empiricism, URL = http://nicholaosj.0catch.com/p863A1a.html