Language Revision Notes

All of my notes from this topic last year. There's plenty there to serve as notes - hope they help!

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Language games
Verification Principle
Falsification Principle
Is it possible to say anything meaningful about God?
What is the problem of talking about God?
Can we talk with any meaning about God?
Language Games
o Concerned with the way language is used and the function it
o Early Wittgenstein: meaning of a word is the object it stands for ­
to understand the meaning of a word is to know what the word
stands for (but he later rejected this idea)
o But not every word stands for one thing ­ it does not have its own
particular or unique meaning (such as pen, with several
meanings, or two/to/too)
o "Don't ask for its meaning, ask for its use" ­ should be in any
and all essays
We are all in different language games ­ IT, social group, political, etc.
Those that understand the `rules of the game' can have meaningful
conversations with God
But it is not saying that what they are saying is true or false
We make mistakes about meaning when we do not use language
according to the rules ­ e.g. God has green eyes (makes grammatical
sense, but doesn't fit the rules of the game)
Criteria for meaningfulness: not about reality, but the shared rules as
what can and cannot say
A statement can be meaningful but that doesn't mean it's true
I have two cats at home ­ meaningful, yes, but is it true?
Ditto: "there is a God who listens when I pray to him" ­ meaningful and
unverifiable (verification principle claims therefore not meaningful, but
that is one criticism of the VP)
Ninian Smart: "God exists for Christians whether he is real or not"

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o Human is faithful ­ how?
o Some similarities between the two, but also differences ­ analogy
Example 2 ­ Good (also Hick)
o Assumption: there is a connection between God and humans, as
God created humans
o Humans are good
o God is good
o God is not good in the same way to humans, but there is some
o God has the perfect quality of goodness ­ humans have a pale
reflection of that goodness
Analogy of Attribution ­…read more

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Many symbols used for God are anthropomorphic (father, teacher,
guide, lover etc.) ­ but also use stories, items, words...
o People can relate to anthropomorphic symbols more readily than natural
elements, as these did not give an idea of a personal relationship
o Paul Tillich
o Successful symbol participates in that which it points to ­ e.g.…read more

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Symbolic story
o Come from the people, rather than a single author
o Influenced by local events, culture, geography, environment, seasons,
o Connected to rites, drama, etc.…read more

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It is impossible to use electric light and the wireless and to avail
ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries and, at the
same time, to believe in the New Testament world of demons and
o Dawkins
o "... much of the Bible is ...…read more

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Therefore statements which attempt to say something about the world
are factually meaningful if experience and observation can establish
these statements as probable
o Logical Positivists who accept this weaker version, therefore, allow more
statements to be defined as factually meaningful
o However, many thought that this weak sense of verification allowed too
many sentences to be defined as meaningful
o Keith Ward: even the existence of God could be verified in principle ­ "If
I were God I would be able to check the…read more

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Language games ­ Wittgenstein's "don't ask for its meaning, ask for its
o R.M.…read more

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Comes from a very liberal, Christian respective ­ evangelicals
would not agree, as they think the stories are literally, synthetically
o Hick
o Does not believe religious language is factually meaningless
o Religious language is meaningful and is in principle verifiable (y
the weak version)
o Tells following parable to explain why (Celestial City)
Two people travel along a road one believes it leads to the
Celestial City, the other simply does not see any other
option and so travels too
Neither has been…read more


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