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Religious Language…read more

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· Wittgenstein recognises that the salient issue of religious language is how we can comprehend
the nature of God with the paucity of language, hence `the limits of my language mean the limits
of my world'. There is a residue which cannot be articulated leaving us to feel `the world as a
limited whole- it is that that is mystical'.
· Perhaps we can talk meaningfully of God through analogy, enables us to attribute God certain
qualities which are credited to human beings or creatures.
· God may be attributed goodness, because as creator, God must have whatever is necessary to
produce goodness which we can detect around us, this is the analogy of attribution- God must
analogically partake in these attributes as he created us.
· Yet to say god is good is to say that God is good in whatever way is appropriate for God to be
good-analogy of proportion.
· Doctrine of analogy, is the via medium between the via negativa and the via affirmativa, it is
associated with Aquinas and seeks to understand how mundane language which has developed
within the finite experience of humanity can be used to describe the infinite- bridge the gap via
· Those qualities found in humans resemble imperfectly the perfect qualities of God
· Aquinas used the example of the bulls urine being healthy, implying the bull is healthy.
· In this analogical way it is meaningful to talk about God because unlike univocal and equivocal
language we can postulate about the nature of God as `the invisible things of God are clearly seen
being understood by the things that are made' (Romans 1:20)
· In a similar way we can detect similar characteristics in animals as humans- lower on the
Aristotelian hierarchy of being (downward analogy) we can examine relationship between
qualities which exist in humans, albeit imperfectly, and in God perfectly, referred to as upward
analogy.…read more

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· Perhaps analogy is meaningless, God is good is proportional to other god's, since we know of no other Gods it is contentless. To
claim God is analytically true, first horn of Euphythro dilemma whatever God wills is good has no foundations, no source on
which to assess Gods goodness, external to God. Therefore even speaking about God analogically is without meaning as it is
impossible to have objective foundations to base our assumptions of God's true nature.
· `we can know that God is, not what god is' since we cannot know nature, any statement about God's attributes are meaningless
as they are vastly different from human beings.
· Analogy of proportion purely reflects humans desires to attribute qualities to God they find praiseworthy, Feuerbach ,theology
is anthropology, God is wish fulfillment, a `projections of the human mind'. Karl Barth goes as far as to call analogy of proportion
blasphemous through attempting to make God into image of humans, when there is clearly a qualitative distinction between
God and humanity.
· Doctrine of analogy is not meaningful in the tradition of Hume's fork, `metaphysics and divinity...'. Through the legacy of Hume'
s fork, A.J Ayer's weak verification principle, we can dismiss religious statements, because they are neither tautological or
synthetic. However ironically, Vienna circle of logical positivists, filled with mathematicians and scientists not philosophers does
not pass its own criterion.
· Theists may also reject it, for as the early Wittgenstein of the Tractatus argues for the limits of language and the mystical residue
which we must `pass over in silence'.
· However we may be able to have eschatological verification, whereby we can verify whether our theories are correct after
bodily death on entering the celestial city (or not). After all we live at an epistemic distance from God to ensure religious
ambiguity, enabling us to freely choose a love relationship with God and grow, mature and develop. This is a legitimate
qualification and therefore does not `die the death of a thousand qualifications' a Flew depicted through his parable of the
· God is a non-temporal, non empirical being therefore we cannot verify him, but this does not mean to talk about him is
meaningless. Hare's concept of Bliks, which includes religious statements, illustrated through the Oxford Don, cannot be falsified
, but they are still meaningful and they alter the lives of those people, having existential impact on the world. Should interpret
scripture through its moral meaning, leading to empirical benefit through action, as Karen Armstrong advocated faith seeking
action not the notoriously mistranslated faith seeking understanding.
· We can never truly know the nature of god, for this is an illegitimate extension of knowledge Kant, only knowing `that god is not
what God is'. The analogical gap is too vast and therefore the doctrine of analogy collapses all too often into univocal language.
· Therefore perhaps we should recognise the inductive reasoning of a posteriori argument of Aquina's five ways, where significant
emphasis is placed on him being in the tradition of the via-negativa. This is subsequent to his religious experience claiming `all
my writing are but straw comapred with the love of God'.
· Not just meaningless but also idolotrous to constrain God to limited categories of understanding.…read more

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· Tillich, whose you of symbol permeates his theological system, rejects Hegelian liberalism as it
takes to immanent an understanding of God, ultimately making it too univocal (having only one
possible meaning) also rejects the paradoxical approach to theology as advocated by Karl Barth
as this is too transcendent a view of god which ends up being equivocal.
· As a result Tillich creates a synthesis to bridge the dialectic tension between immanence and
transcendence arriving a position of mediation whereby one try to correlate the relation of the
finite to the infinite-theory of correlation.
· According to Tillich only one non-symbolic statement can be made about God, that is God is
being itself, the ultimate reality (esse ipsum).
· Very much a Christian existentialist, he advocates God is the ground of being, or being itself, god
is thought of as the basis upon which things exist. Symbolic language becomes the only way of
talking about God as correlates from the world to God, finite to infinite.
· Tillich proposes six key dimensions of symbol; symbols participate in the reality to which they
point = 2 (Tillich's theory of participation) thus symbols operating figuratively open up levels of
reality which are otherwise closed to human understanding = 3
· For example the crucifix of Christianity not only reminds one of Jesus' death on the cross but
carries with it a deeper meaning of redemption, sacrifice and the love of God for humanity.
Symbols point beyond themselves to something else = 1.
· We cannot produce symbols intentionally, they grow and die we cannot control them, `they grow
out of an individual or collective consciousness.' whilst they cannot be destroyed by force they
can fad out of culture or be reinterpreted by others.
· `the language of faith is the language of symbol', symbols are true and meaningful to the extent
they open up a greater understanding of the ultimate, this is needed since the world is correlates
to god and symbols can open up an interior reality; unlocking dimension of the soul which
corresponds to dimensions of reality = 4.…read more

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· Welcome within hermeneutics as it has the advantage over a foundation of univocal meaning as
symbol offers communities flexibility and freedom to use symbols which express collective
meaning through rituals. However it can be argues how can it evoke meaning when it itself is not
· We need symbolic language as we do not know God, we can `know that God is but not what god
is', `only God knows God' as the epistemic distance is too vast.
· Some similarity between symbolic language and Wittgenstein's picture theory. The meaning of a
symbol is understood through its function and communal existential meaning. Wittgenstein did
not argue religious language is meaningless rather the residue of language i.e. the mystical could
simply not be described by out limited language.
· Instead we must use a toolkit approach via the forms of life to access the metaphysical, `for now
we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I known
even as also I am known' St Paul
· God is the ground of being lacks a personal nature, Christians do wish to assert following the
Nicene creed, God is the maker of heaven and earth.
· Symbols have a tendency to replace the transcendence in the mind of the believer and become
ultimate in themselves
· Like via negativa, Tillich's theistic development of symbolic language emphasizes that it should
not be interpreted univocally or literally, avoiding an anthropocentric view of God, Feuerbach's
projections of the human mind, where God is relegated to human ideals as J.H Randall suggests
in his naturalistic, non-cognitive interpretation.
· Symbols can become non-cognitive is they lose their meaning, they must be recognised buy the
community or they will die. Symbols can be interpreted in different ways but different
groups/generations of people. A symbol might have a variety of meanings, how then can it evoke
something meaningful e.g. story of Adam and Eve is simultaneously regarded as historically
accurate (Augustine) and a meaningless, misogynistic, archaic tale (Dawkins).…read more

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Via negativa
· A way of speaking about God through negation, in the apophatic tradition, most commonly associated with the
mystical tradition.
· Dan Stiver argues that via negativa has its philosophy in Plato (Platonic dualism- soul longing to be free of the
material realm), especially Neo-Platonism where Plotinus stressed the transcendence of the one who is beyond all
language and thought.
· It argues that no predicates can be attached to God as no words can legitimately be used to describe God, as God
is beyond all human comprehension. As Kant said human understanding is confined in the noumenal realm by
categories of understanding, namely time and space, a priori synthetic concept. So speaking about God, via
affirmativa, is an `illegitimate extension of knowledge', to attempt to reason to an infinite God who is of a
qualitative distinction to human beings (Karl Barth).
· Moses confronting the burning bush realizing there is a qualitative distinction between God and humans, when
God stated `know that I am that I am'.
· found in the spiritual teachings of Gregory of Nyssa, there in an inability to comprehend God `we do not know
what the essence of an ant is, much less the essence of God', forms the basis of progress from brute ignorance
through spiritual illumination to the appreciation of the mystery of God `learned ignorance'.
· Maimonides, using his ship analogy, asserts that God is incomprehensible, we should use negation in attempting to
describe him, enabling us to appreciate his transcendence and to exclude our imperfections from God. This is
meaningful as it allows us to form some positive notions of God, for we can say he is not impotent, it logically
follows that he must be able to act and since he is not imperfect his actions must be perfect.
· Nicholas of Cusa, claiming is De Docta Ignoratia that God being unknowable must be accepted for `the more a man
knows that he is unknowing, the more learned he will be'
· Wittgenstein, Tractatus `what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence', pointing to the limitations of
linguistic philosophy. Whilst the logical positivists of the Vienna circle, who incorrectly regarded Wittgenstein as
one of them, advocated for a statement to be meaningful it must comply with Hume's fork, so god talk is
meaningless, yet to accept this at face value is naïve and carless as it neglects close analysis of that which is central
to his picture theory and his latter view of language as a tool, namely the thread of the mystical, the residue which
language cannot contain and it is this residue which is ultimately significant.
· Christianity uses revelation, NL and the magisterium to reinforce its cataphatic faith, as humans have yearning to
know God. Must reject this as idolatrous with use of symbols and images which reduces God to the level of the
finite, limited human comprehension, as the via affirmativa according to Feuerbach's God is merely a projection of
the human mind, wish fulfillment, theology is anthropology. We need to avoid the pitfalls of univocal language
where God may be reduced to the level of humankind.…read more

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