A.J. Ayer - 'God-talk is evidently nonsense'

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  • A.J. Ayer - 'God-talk is evidently nonsense'
    • Overall argument
      • The key argument presented here is that 'god-talk' is nonsensical because it cannot be empirically proved
      • Explores the Verification Principle - if it can't be verified it isn't true
    • Paragraph summaries
      • Paragraph A
        • God is a 'meta-physical' term so it can neither be true or false = it is meaningless to discuss it
        • Believers claim they can see God in nature however, this just reduces his power = invalid argument
        • God's existence isn't even 'probable' because there is no way to empirically test it
      • Paragraph B
        • Both groups continue to talk about  God (even if it is denying his existence)
        • Ayer rejects the link between his argument and those of atheists or agnostics
      • Paragraph C
        • If God was made EQUAL to nature there would be meaning
        • A non-empirical God is meaningless
        • BUT, we present him as the CREATOR of nature = unintelligible choice
      • Paragraph D
        • Ayer isn't concerned with what people feel about religion
        • He simply wants to analyse the use and meaning of religious language
      • Paragraph E
        • God can only be proven through faith = not empirical       = not meaningful
        • Theists themselves admit they are unable to describe God = this is unintelligible and helps to prove Ayer's argument
          • Link to Anselm's definition of God
        • Analogy of the mystic: if he can't describe what he's saying, he's talking nonsense
      • Paragraph F
        • The mystic doesn't have genuine knowledge bc of intuition, it is simply an insight into the state of his mind
          • Challenges claims of Religious Experiences / Donovan
        • A mystic's claims are groundless and nonsensical because they are unverifiable
      • Paragraph G
        • Comparison between seeing a yellow patch and seeing God
          • Yellow patch makes sense bc we can see yellow things but we can't prove the existence of a transcendent being = irrational
        • Criticising people for using R/exp as proof for God
      • Paragraph H
        • Conclusion: r/exp is psychologica-lly interesting but they should have no implications
        • Without being verified, no statement is useful
    • Implications for Human experience
      • There would be no moral standards either
      • All art, law, philosophy, politics etc would be rendered meaningless because they can't be truly verified
      • Life would be very bleak
    • Implications for Religion
      • His theory challenges the basis of religion which could cause doubt
      • Ayer could influence a rise in secularism
      • If we rejected everything, we would have no rules to follow!
      • R. Dawkins would support Ayer's views
        • But Dawkins would also be criticised bc he's an atheist
    • Implications for Morality
      • Unable to verify any sort of objective morals
      • Reduces everything to mere opinions - 'hurrah/boo'
        • No reason to challenge one another
    • Context
      • A.J. Ayer is a British philosopher
      • He wrote his book 'Language, Truth and Logic' in 1936
        • Within this book, Ayer rejected all forms of 'god-talk' on the basis that it was meaningless bc it had no proof
      • He was inspired by the work of the 'Vienna Circle' - a group of philosophers who operated in the 1920s
        • These philosophers applied the rules of science and maths to language to formulate the movement known as 'Logical Positivism'
        • They came up with the verification principle


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