Religious Language

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  • Created by: tayladave
  • Created on: 01-12-15 11:55
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  • Religious Language
    • The Verification Principle
      • Invented by a group of 1920's philosophers called the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle.
        • Language is only meaningful if it can be verified by sense observation.
          •       Language that talks of God is meaningless       Cannot be proved true or false/ no meaning in a factual sense
            • Strict scientific views mean that statements people say are meaningless even if they make perfect sense
      • Swinburne: people generally accept 'all ravens are black' but there is no way to confirm this statement.
        • Strict scientific views mean that statements people say are meaningless even if they make perfect sense
      • A.  J. Ayer was a British philosopher who wrote “Language, Truth and Logic” which states “the criterion we use to test the genuineness of apparent statements of facts is the criterion of verifiability."
        • Meaningless = not factually significant. Not arguing that statements are made are not important: “God answers my prayers” just that this is unverifiable and therefore has no factual significance.
          •       Language that talks of God is meaningless       Cannot be proved true or false/ no meaning in a factual sense
        • Two types of        verifiability                               Strong = verified conclusively by observation and experience.                              Weak = shown to be probable by observation and experience.                      
          • Religious claims are meaningless à cannot be supported by observations from sense experience that are probable.
        • Religious claims are meaningless  - cannot be supported by observations from sense experience that are probable.
          • Secondly we can make no meaningful statements about metaphysical ideas – statements beyond the world of senses because we have no knowledge beyond our own sense experience. “Such a reality have all been devoted to the production of nonsense.” 
            • God is: perfect, immutable and transcendent - this tells us nothing about the world around us and are ideas beyond human sense observation = hence it is meaningless.
              • Religious experiences are similarly meaningless as they are not verifiable as one is recounting a set of emotions that can be explained through psychological means.
      • Language is:
        • Must be seen as true or false.
        • Gives us knowledge about the way the world is
        • Facts
        • Influenced by science
      • The Falsification Principle
        • The philosophical theory that a statement is meaningless if there is no way that it can be disproved. 
          • A.J Ayer rejected the ideas behind falsification, he suggested that evidence may strongly suggest that a statement is false, but this does no make it logically impossible that a statement is true.
        • Blik - Hare’s term for a basic belief that is not altered despite empirical evidence. 
        • The gardener example: if a gardener was invisible, intangible and liked weeds, would we be able to tell the difference between the work of the gardener and there being no gardener at all.
          • One could suggest that there is no gardener because there are still weeds in the garden, so there is no proof of his work. There are no changes, therefore we cannot prove the gardeners existence.
            • The gardener example directly correlates with the idea of God, as we cannot see God and the being is intangible similarly to the gardener. There is no empirical evidence.
              • Hence, it is a meaningless statement according to the falsification principle.
        • Karl Popper - scientists start with a hypothesis, they go out of their way to disprove their hypothesis. They try to falsify their claims.
          • Popper wasn't fond of marxism, people were just victims of false class conciousness. This is all down to religion, oppressed through religion.
        • Flew believed that a statement is meaningful if it is known what empirical evidence could count against it. "All swans are white" This could be falsified if we see a black swan.
      • Symbols
        • Paul Tillich argues that religious language is symbolic, not literal. He said that symbols are something that we can all participate in, citing a flag as an example à we participate in the feeling of unity surrounding certain national flags. 
        • Tillich argued that symbols help describe things that cannot always be expressed in words alone. The only way we can describe God in a meaningful way is through the use of SYMBOLS.  
          • Symbols have several different functions: 1)Identifying the concept that they are conveying – for example, the use of water in Christian baptism conveys the concept of cleansing the individual of sin. 2)Sharing in some way in the meaning of that concept – for example, baptism participates in the Christian belief that through the sacrifice of Jesus it is possible to remove original sin.
          • •An example of this is: the cross is symbolic, and symbolises God’s love for humanity, love, forgiveness, prayer, worship and Jesus’ sacrifice. 
        • Strengths:• JR Randall has similar ideas to Tillich and sees religious language as a human activity which makes a special contribution to human culture. Religious language has a unique function. It is able to stir strong emotion and bind communities together through common response to their faith.  
          • Criticism:  John Hick criticised Tillich’s idea of participating, calling it unclear- he argued that there is little difference between a symbol and a sign,
            • William Alston argues that symbols are meaningless because we don’t know whether they’re true or not.
            • Paul Edwards argues that symbols are meaningless because they cannot be verified or falsified thanks to their subjective nature: ‘’it doesn’t convey any facts
    • Language is:
      • Must be seen as true or false.
      • Gives us knowledge about the way the world is
      • Facts
      • Influenced by science

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