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11 Cards in this Set

  • Front
  • Back

The Features of Religious Language

Religious propositions are...


- "God is the Father, the son, and the Holy Ghost" How can one thing be all three?

Beyond Experience

- "God is transcendental" How can we meaningfully say anything about something that is beyond experience?


- "The Lord spake unto Moses" This is not to suggest that God has a larynx through which air is pushed, and sound produced

Cognitivist Theories of Meaning

Some philosophers have argued that statements are only meaningful if they are connected in some way to the world. Such sentences describe the world either truly or falsely. For example the statement "The teacher of the class is a tall man with a beard" is meaningful because it tries to tell us something about the world

Non-Cognitivist Theories of Meaning

Statements can be meaningful even though they do not refer to the world, and even though they cannot be shown to be true or false. There are many of these theories but they all emphasise the complexity of language, many focus on the communities/context in which language takes place

Verificationism, Alfred Jules Ayer

"A sentence is meaningful if and only if (a) it is a tautology i.e true by definition or (b) it can be proved to be true/false i.e. it is verifiable"

Criticisms of Verificationism

The verification principle does not satisfy it's own criteria

- it is neither true by definition, or is it empirically verifiable

It makes much of what humans speak about meaningless

- Art, beauty, metaphors, poetry, our inner sensations, spiritual and religious talk. All ethical judgements become a matter of personal feeling

Religious Statements can be verified, John Hick

- It is possible that rational doubt will be removed after death and that we will ascend to heaven

It makes much of science meaningless

- Much of science relies heavily on theoretical terms, like concepts which cannot be observed

Strong Verificationism, Alfred Jules Ayer

When a statement is meaningful because we can verify it by our own observation

Weak Verificationism, Alfred Jules Ayer

When a statement is meaningful because there are some observations that can establish the probable truth of a statement

Falsificationism, Antony Flew

Religious statements are not falsifiable and therefore they tell us nothing about the world and therefore are meaningless.

A statement is about the world if the person making the statement can imagine being wrong; if there is a possibility of it being falsified. Someone who refuses to give up a belief, no matter what is discovered about the world is not really talking about the world at all. When presented with evidence showing their statement is false such people often add to and qualify their statement so it continues to be true. Flew calls this death by a thousand qualifications.

Criticisms of Falsificationism

Inductive statements can't be falsified

- In order to falsify a statement such as "all bananas ripen" you would have to find a banana that never ripened, however you could never prove that this banana wouldn't one day ripen

We all have thoughts about the world on which we base our actions which we will never give up, Richard Marvyn Hare

- These are simply 'bliks'

- Paranoid student; "all dons are out to get me"

Resistance Leader Example, Basil Mitchell

- You see a resistance leader work both for and against your side but your trust always overcomes your worry. Your belief that 'the stranger is on our side' you never give up despite the evidence. But you can imagine a world in which you are wrong.

Language Games, Ludwig Wittgenstein

There is no such thing as the single meaning of a word. Instead words are vague and their meanings vary enormously according to the social context in which they are used. If we can understand how a word is used in a particular context and can use it in that context ourselves, then that is all there is to knowing the 'meaning' of a word.

Words mean different things in different 'Language Games', contextual rules in which the word is used. The word 'experience, for example has very different meanings scientifically and religiously and to try and understand statements using this word by the other's language game produces nonsense.

Criticisms of Language Games

Meaningful statements do not have to be connected to the world or be true/false

-One could talk meaningfully about elves, goblins, and fairies as long as there is a consistent set of rules

Anti-Realist about religious language which for believers is REAL