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I'm looking for an adjective which suggests that the noun it modifies can't support or justify itself, thinking mainly in terms of an argument. There is "self-defeating", but this isn't the sense I'm looking for. I don't want to suggest that the argument has proved itself wrong, but rather it has failed to prove itself right.

E.g.

A.J. Ayer's verification principle is [failing to support itself] because the statement "Only verifiable statements are meaningful" is not itself verifiable."

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  • It's not clear to me what you mean by "failing to support or justify itself". Could you provide an example of a principle that does what you're saying the verification principle doesn't? I don't expect principles to prove themselves. Saying that it doesn't apply to itself seems like it'd be more appropriate.
    – Rupe
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:12
  • There is no point in using a single-word adjective in the first place. You are trying to shoehorn the meaning of an entire phrase into an obscure word rather than just saying what you have to say in a manner understandable by everyone.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:13
  • @Rupe, that's a fair comment, though - without getting too far into the philosophy because it's certainly OT - if a principle says that all statements must be verifiable in order to be meaningful, surely the original statement itself shouldn't be exempted?
    – Lou
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:16
  • @RegDwigнt, I suppose it's a bad habit I've picked up from philosophy; I've grown fond of words that singularly express complex ideas.
    – Lou
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:18

5 Answers 5

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A.J. Ayer's verification principle is inconsistent because the statement "Only verifiable statements are meaningful" is not itself verifiable."

inconsistent: lacking in correct logical relation, as of an argument.

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  • I think that fits the sentence perfectly. Cheers!
    – Lou
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:23
  • @LeoKing You're welcome! :-)
    – Elian
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:25
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    Inconsistent, which means “not consistent”, is a wrong answer. Note that a relevant sense of consistent is “Of a set of statements, such that no contradiction logically follows from them”. Inconsistent statements are such that a contradiction necessarily follows. Inconsistency is not failure to prove something right – as asked for in question – but instead is proof an argument is wrong. -1. Commented May 27, 2014 at 15:14
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Fallible, flawed, or unsubstantiated.

These are all not quite what you have requested. However, I think an argument inherently cannot support itself; that would be circular reasoning. The above would describe an argument that is insufficiently supported.

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  • I see what you mean. Maybe an argument can only ever be self-defeating, not self-substantiating.
    – Lou
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:19
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Here's a clearer alternative:

A.J. Ayer's argument in support of the verification principle is unsound because the premise that "Only verifiable statements are meaningful" is not itself verifiable.

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  • +1 Nice modification, and definitely solves awkward phrasing problems. But, I would have thought the verification principle is the argument itself, which is why I didn't write "an argument in support of" originally.
    – Lou
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:21
  • That makes sense. Well, I still like your answer and would accept it if I had a tick going spare, but Elian's answer supplies a word to the exact format I was trying to write.
    – Lou
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:30
  • ... Did you delete your comment? It seemed perfectly sound to me.
    – Lou
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:31
  • I'd say it's the logical conclusion of the argument based on certain premise(s) - I meant to edit the comment, but deleted it by accident.
    – njboot
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:32
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    Oh okay. Well cheers, I always appreciate the people who go beyond the scope of the question (even if SE don't.)
    – Lou
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:34
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Receptary: admitted as fact but unproven

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...but rather it has failed to prove itself right.

Is there an example of a statement that does prove itself right? I'd suggest almost all statements don't.

Self-refuting idea

Self-refuting ideas or self-defeating ideas are ideas or statements whose falsehood is a logical consequence of the act or situation of holding them to be true.

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