Religious Language

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  • Religious Language
    • God as 'beyond description'
      • God beyond our ability to describe.
      • Judaism-Name of God not uttered. Via negativa aware of danger of using human language of God.
      • 'God is good' understood in human terms.
      • God isn't 'good', goodness beyond comprehension.
      • Same truth for all attributes of God. All words applied to God are equivocal.
    • The apophatic way: key thinkers
      • The apophatic way (via negativa) from Platonic philosophers-form of Good beyond description.
      • Dionysius believe that God is beyond assertion.
      • Influenced by Plato, aware of our senses limiting our language.
      • Positive statements about God risk anthropomorphic idea (describing something in human terms) . Negative terms preserve mystery and otherness.
      • Maimondes argued the only positive statement about God is that he exists.
      • Other descriptions of God-negative to ensure we aren't improper/disrespectful. Negative bringing some knowledge about God.
    • The apophatic way assessed
      • Key strengths  of the apophatic way
        • Language of God through human terms. Reduces God to human level. Apophatic way prevents anthromorphic representation of God.
        • Could be argued that the apophatic way is respectful. Recognises that God is transcendent and wholly other than the human realm.
        • Fits with religious experiences perceived by people who experience them- mysticism. James observes religious experiences as ineffable' can't be described by ordinary language.
      • Key weaknesses of the apophatic way
        • Limited knowledge from what the apophatic way tells us.
        • Apophatic way isn't a true reflects of how religious believers think speak about God. Scripture describe's God in a positive way.
        • Apophatic way isn't a true reflection  of means of communicating with non-believer about the subject of God.
        • Dean argued denying description of God leads to annihilation of God where we lose our connection between God and the world
    • The cataphatic way [via positive]- Aquinas and Analogy
      • Cataphatic way or via positive, argues that positive statements made about God.
      • Aquinas' theory of analogy e.g. via positive, sits between univocal and equivocal theorys of language.
      • Univocal language: words applied to God have same means- have in their normal context. Risks making God sound human.
      • Analogy: words applied to God have partial resemblance ti their normal use.
      • Equivocal language: words applied to God have a different meaning from normal aluse. No knowledge of God.
      • Aquinas on analogy
        • Analogy of attribution: words applied to humans related to words linked God=casual relationship.Qualities of love and wisdom. Medieval times a pure animal would be told through their urine.  Examine human love and wisdom which are a pure reflection of his divine attributes.
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        • Analogy of proper proportion: certain properties reflect a thing we are describing. Human good= finite being. Descrbiging God, we speak of a infinite being and goodness in proportion to it.
    • The Cataphatic Way [Via Positive] assessed
      • Strengths of the cataphatic way
        • Avoids speaking anthropomorphically and avoids agnosticism- idea that God's nature cannot be known.
        • Method of analogy invests us to describe God in visual terms isn't similar to method that Jesus used in describing Kingdom of God.
        • Not able to do Philosophy as discussion relies on words having some positive meanings.
      • Weaknesses of the cataphatic way [via positiva]
        • Theory of analogy allows some picturing that via negativa doesn't. Danger of picturing God on an individual aspect.
        • Translates words in univocal lan when applied to God. Swinburne religious statements are univocal- contract with everyday meaning.
        • Not always easy to know how far the meanings are stretched.
    • Tillich and symbolic language
      • Signs and symbols
        • Sings- red traffic light or road sign points to something.
        • Symbol participates into something to which it points at.
        • Poppy doesn't just point out to people lost their laves but part of Remembrance Day.
      • Tillich on symbolic language and art
        • 1) Cant speak literally gf God. Not part of empirical word and not represented by literal language. God like 'Ground of Being' understood symbolically.
        • 2) Symbolic words with God can't be random. Marge from collective unconscious.
        • 3) Symbols limited lifespan. Hindu symbol of swatsika lost meaning due to Nazis.
        • 4) Symbol open levels of reality. Unlock 'hidden depth of our own being" Tillich uses analogy of good works of art.
      • "Every symbol is double edged. It opens reality, and it opens up the soul" Tillich
    • Symbolic language assessed
      • Strengths of symbolic language
        • Argued taking symbolic view of religious language preserves transcendence and mystery of God. God is 'good' analogy risks reducing God to our love.
        • Tillich's insight is that symbols communicate deeply. Accurately reflect the idea that some things in life are beyond words.
        • Idea that symbolic language changed over time.
      • Weaknesses of symbolic language
        • Not clear how symbols participate to what it points at. Burn poppies would in suit but wouldnt reduce the important sacrifice of fallen soldiers.
        • Randall argues religious language is symbolic, symbols are non-cognitive  and provide no info about God.
        • Tillichs deeps symbols like art. Assumes a connection between religion and aesthetic.
        • Everything participates in 'being self' difficult to see how he argues a symbolic participation in a unique way.
        • Symbolic objects and symbolic language are culturally dependent and change with time meaning our ideas about God change over time.

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