Background Notes on Ayer and Implications of his passage.

A J Ayer Logical positivist

Edexcel A2

Unit 4 Implications

God Talk is Evidently Nonsense

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A J Ayer
Ayer was a logical positivist ­ Vienna Circle under the influence of Wittgenstein (who was not a
member, and distanced himself from the group)
Claims that like knowledge language had to be based on experience. Empirical tests have to be used
to deduce whether proposition is verifiable and therefore meaningful.
Only analytic statement and empirically verifiable propositions have meaning.
Passage written in 1938 in his book Language, Truth and Logic.
Ayer claims since the existence of God cannot be rationally demonstrated it is not even probable.
God is a `metaphysical' term referring to a transcendent being which cannot have any literal
significance. Must be true for agnostics and atheists as any statement which includes the word God is
Claims about God's existence cannot be contradicted since they are neither true nor false.
Start with personal opinion;
The title god talk is evidently nonsense conveys much of what Ayer believes.
Any connection to God is nonsense, so any talk of god must be based on faith rather than logic as
God cannot be proven.
I think the title quickly outlines Ayer's argument as well as suggesting that other arguments about the
existence of god are false. His approach suggests he believes that philosophers talk nonsense, as
any talk about the God is nonsense.I agree that god is metaphysical, however I don't agree with this
type of statement being meaningless.
Karl Popper says metaphysical statements are not meaningless -> they are non fallible, testable or
provable -> cannot be proven right or wrong using empirical testing or logical statements.
Such statements are usually about the universe and the world and don't need to be empirically
tested.Any knowledge based on intuition is false and is not knowledge, because it cannot be
verified: this contradicts Donovan, who allows that intuitions can be meaningful (but not facts).
Implications of Religion
Dawkins believed for something to be proved it must be empirically verified. Religion for him
is a meme ­ virus of the mind.
Religion according to Dawkins gives rise to persecution of outsiders, unspeakable acts of
oppression, and an acceptance of ideas which are improbable and false.
Ignorance gives rise to religion->atheism is the inevitable result, once people see the truth.
Has Dawkins met Michael Behe, Francis Collins? -> both highly qualified scientists who believe
in God.

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Ayer wrote his book in 1936, since then lots of other people (Dawkins ­ Selfish Gene) have
written bestsellers books on science, BUT there has not been a decline in religion!
Maybe in the west people are turning away from organized religion, but instead of tuning to
atheism are turning to other spiritualities which are based on less empirical evidence than the
monotheistic religions.…read more


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