Religious Language

religious language detailed summary.

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  • Created on: 17-04-11 22:37
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Religious language
Logical positivism
The logical positivists were a group of people who belonged to the Vienna Circle in the
They believed that any assertion made which was meaningful/of meaning has to be
verified with a fixed conclusion.
They treated claims made about God as cognitive, meaning that the assertions made
are meant to be taken as facts/universal truth claims rather than non-cognitive
meaning on a personal level for believers.
They believed that language is only meaningful if it is either analytically or synthetically
Analytic statements are a priori (based on logic) & inductive (true by definition). This
means that the meanings behind the assertion can be found logically within it. For example,
the statement "all bachelors are male" contains all the information needed within it to
make the conclusion of whether it is true or false. The meaning of the word `bachelor'
indicates that they are male. It is a logical statement and therefore the logical positivists
would regard this statement as meaningful.
Synthetic statements are a posteriori (based on empirical evidence) & deductive
(not true by definition but true by sense information). This means that the meanings
behind an assertion can be found by empirically (scientifically) testing the claims a statement
is asserting. For example, the claim "it's raining outside" can be verified by someone going
outside and feeling for rain using sense and empirical measures to find the conclusion. Do
not forget that for logical positivists statements aren't only meaningful if they contain
truths, they also have meaning if they can be proven false as long as the meaning behind the
assertion can be concluded as certain.
They concluded that it is meaningless to talk about God as the statements made about such
a being cannot be analytically or synthetically verified.

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Strong verification principle
Rejected any talk of ethics, metaphysics, historical and even scientific claims as they work in
probability rather than certainty. All claims about these subjects were reduced by the logical
positivist to personal opinion meaning that they were subjective claims without fixed
The strong verification principle only regards statements to have meaning if they can be
tested in the here and now using sense or empirical measures to find the conclusion.…read more

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Flew's Falsification principle
For Flew any statement has meaning if the person making the claim accepts that there may
be evidence to count against it (falsify). The statement is factual if it cannot be falsified using
sense experience. The statement is meaningless if we refuse to allow it to be falsified.
Statements only have meaning if there is nothing which can count against the assertions
made.…read more

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Religious & philosophical responses to the verification principle
Logical positivists are failing to understand the meaning behind religious language. It is
meant as non-cognitive and is meaningful on a personal level for believers. The logical
positivists have taken the assertions as cognitive which aims to portray facts about
God/universal truth claims whilst many religious believers hold the view that it's meant for a
personal understanding of God which has meaning to the individual.…read more

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Strengths Weaknesses
Set rules to follow- less room for Atheists and believers can grasp the ideas
misinterpretation. behind each other's words.
Recognises the diversity of language uses. Doesn't allow for religious language to be
empirically tested. Doesn't stand up to
verification or falsification
No clashes over what can't be established. Alienates those outside the game.
Allows meaningful dialogue amongst No room for inter dialogue.
Meaningful within the game. Most religious believers would reject
anti-realist views of religious belief.…read more

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This shows that individuals hold a view of the world known as a blik. Your blik is your
particular view of the world and doesn't need to be verified or falsified in order to justify it; it
is what it is according to Hare.
Basil Mitchel ­ Response to falsification
Basil Mitchel believed that religious language has meaning for the believer. He used the story
of a resistance fighter to illustrate his point.…read more

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There are two people on a journey.
They come across a single road.
One believes that the road leads to the celestial city but the other doesn't.
They have no choice but to follow it.
Neither of them had come across the road before and therefore none of them can predict
what they will come across.
During the journey they come across moments of refreshment and delight as well as
hardship and danger.…read more

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He believed that there was a middle way in language which allows for humans to speak
meaningfully about God. This was through analogy.
Aquinas argued that we only have day to day language to use when talking about God but as
God is perfect and wholly other the words we use have a different meaning. We are
therefore using analogy when talking about God.…read more

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God possesses them perfectly.
Problems with Analogy
Aquinas is basing his theory on his belief that there is a God. This belief doesn't stand up to
verification and therefore the logical positivists or falsificationists as well as atheists such as
Dawkins and Darwin would reject the theory.
The theory picks and chooses at some qualities and not others.…read more

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However, in the case of trying to make universal truth claims about God this theory would
be incoherent.
Ramsey's models & qualifiers
Ramsey came up with the theory of analogy in the 20th century. He refers to it as `models'
and `qualifiers'. A model is an analogy to help us express something about God. For example
if we say "God is good" the model is the word "good".…read more


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