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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Unfalsifiability



Take a moment to look at the above-indicated picture of Italian painter Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Suppose I definitively claimed that it’s a beautiful work of art. You may agree, disagree, or perhaps hold another opinion altogether.


How might one determine the validity of my claim—exploring the quality of my statement in regards to a logically or factually sound declaration? What might you think if I told you that my claim meets the standard of unfalsifiability—that which is incapable of being proved false?


Perhaps use of the scientific method could assist with proving my hypothesis—a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation. Is my hypothesis about The Birth of Venus being a “beautiful” work of art an unfalsifiable supposition? According to one source:


The fallacy of unfalsifiability / untestibility / unfalsifiable claims fallacy occurs when a proposition is presented with a claim that it is falsifiable, but the proposition is maintained as true no matter what evidence is presented. In other words, an unfalsifiable proposition is claimed to be falsifiable.


Perhaps you’ve heard people claim that beauty is subjective. Others argue that there may be some element of objectivity in relation to what people consider beautiful, on average. Still, is there a way of testing my hypothesis about The Birth of Venus serving as a “beautiful” work of art? Of this, one source clarifies:


A hypothesis must be testable to ensure that it is valid. For example, a hypothesis that depends on what a bear thinks is not testable, because it can never be known what a bear thinks. It should also be falsifiable, meaning that it can be disproven by experimental results. An example of an unfalsifiable hypothesis is “Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is beautiful.” There is no experiment that might show this statement to be false. To test a hypothesis, a researcher will conduct one or more experiments designed to eliminate one or more of the hypotheses. This is important. A hypothesis can be disproven, or eliminated, but it can never be proven. Science does not deal in proofs like mathematics. If an experiment fails to disprove a hypothesis, then we find support for that explanation, but this is not to say that down the road a better explanation will not be found, or a more carefully designed experiment will be found to falsify the hypothesis.


Given this understanding, we may conclude that because a hypothesis can never be proven, I can’t possibly prove that The Birth of Venus is beautiful. Noteworthy, with unfalsifiability, the following logical form is used:


Logical Form:


X is true (when X is cannot possibly be demonstrated to be false)


Therefore, you can’t objectively falsify my claim about The Birth of Venus, nor can I absolutely prove my hypothesis is true. To put a final point on this matter, consider the following source:


An unfalsifiable argument can be qualified and amended at will. For instance, the statement “faith can move mountains” is unfalsifiable: if you cannot move mountains, that only shows that you haven’t enough faith.


As such, there’s no rational point to continue a conversation about my claim regarding the inherent beauty of the painting. After all, if you disagreed with my assertion, I could always retort, “Well, the fact that you don’t think the painting is beautiful only shows that you don’t know what beauty is.”


I think it’s important to know how the unfalsifiability fallacy works. Understanding how pointless so many matters about which people disagree, and how these disagreements may lead to conflict, we can begin to set aside irrational demands and simply agree to disagree with one another.


Then again, I believe that an undetectable force within the universe grants me power to objectively determine what is and isn’t beautiful for all people. You don’t share my belief? Well, prove that the force doesn’t exist and hasn’t granted me this power!


(See what I did there?)


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW



References:


Fisher, M. R. (n.d.). 1.2: The process of science. LibreTexts. Retrieved from https://bio.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Ecology/Environmental_Biology_(Fisher)/01%3A_Environmental_Science/1.02%3A_The_Process_of_Science

Fleming, D. (n.d.). Unfalsifiability. Lean Logic. Retrieved from https://leanlogic.online/glossary/unfalsifiability/

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/demandingness

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/fair-use

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2023, January 8). Logic and reason. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/logic-and-reason

Hollings, D. (2023, April 24). On truth. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/on-truth

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/should-must-and-ought

Hollings, D. (2023, August 6). The science. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-science

Logically Fallacious. (n.d.). Unfalsifiability. Retrieved from https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/cgi-bin/uy/webpages.cgi?/logicalfallacies/Unfalsifiability

Sainani, K. L. (2015, October 7). Q&A: David Deutsch. Nature. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/526S16a

Seek Find. (n.d.). Unfalsifiable claims fallacy / unfalsifiability / untestibility. Retrieved from https://www.seekfind.net/Unfalsifiable_Claims_Fallacy__Unfalsifiability__Untestibility.html

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Sandro Botticelli. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandro_Botticelli

Wikipedia. (n.d.). The Birth of Venus. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_Venus

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