• Created by: Cathryn
  • Created on: 28-04-16 15:43


·Attempts to show that all talk about God is meaningless.

·We shouldn’t debate God’s existence from both atheist and agnostic views, as it is not even probable that God exists.

·Sets out his argument by showing nature, miracles, mysticism and intuition cannot be empirically verified – cannot be used to verify God. 

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·Basis for Ayer’s claims – created by Vienna circle; a group of logical positivists inspired by early Wittgenstein.

·Only analytic (conclusion contained within premise) and synthetic (can be tested) statements are meaningful as they can be verified in practice (checking claim) or principle (saying what you would do to check it).

·Metaphysical claims, like ‘God exists’ cannot be verified and must be rejected. 

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·Falsification principle also shows RL is meaningless – parable of the gardener shows ‘God dies the death of thousand qualifications’ as believer doesn’t allow God to be falsified.

·Aquinas – we can talk about God using analogy but rejects univocal (only one meaning) and equivocal language (different meanings).

·Analogy of attribution – all human qualities are derived from God and can be attributed to him.

·Analogy of proportionality – humans exhibit reflections of God’s qualities on a lesser level to him, meaning some RL can be meaningful.

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·Via negative states god is so transcendent he cannot be describe in any positive way as this would limit him.

·Ayer rejects the idea of a transcendent God as it ‘cannot be demonstratively proved’, referring to the classical arguments.

·Kant – states existence is not a predicate and a necessary being is beyond our experience.

·Hume – hasty of generalisation and the world is more like a vegetable than a watch. 

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·Ayer states the design argument fails to prove God’s existence – design qua regularity produces statements such as ‘there is no God’.

·Aquinas’ first and second ways observe regularity in the universe through cause and effect – God is the unmoved mover / uncaused first cause.

·Ayer – these arguments are inductive, other conclusions can be drawn than just God (Dawkins supports this).

·Design argument must be deductive like scientific investigations, otherwise provides no evidence for existence of God.

·Empirical hypothesis cannot be produced form regularity in nature, meaning it cannot be verified.

·God should be verified from himself alone, rather than his effects; therefore the VP shows design arguments fail to verify God’s existence. 

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·Miracles (first order objects like thunder or rain) are seen as miraculous results of God but again, cannot be verified.

·Hume’s five criticisms of miracles; that they are abound among barbarous nations or are witnessed by uneducated people, therefore can’t be treated as evidence and people tend to suspend their disbelief.

·Maintain Ayer’s view about regularity in the universe, also showing miracles are inductive – there are other explanations like scientific explanations or simply a false account.

·First order objects point to a transcendent God outside of time and space – VP states that you cannot say what evidence would count for or against his existence, leaving it meaningless.

·Swinburne – inability to check God’s actions is what constitutes a miracle.

·Hick – parable of celestial city demonstrates eschatological verification, that we can check God’s existence after life.

·Ayer – even addressing God as a noun, like first order objects, is fostering the illusion that God is real. 

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·Equally as incoherent as design arguments and miracles and thus is meaningless.

·Believers state that God is a mystery e.g. Via Negativa station God can only be described as what he is not.

·Hick – epistemic distance (lack of knowledge) between God and humans to allow humans to act freely to choose good rather than according to God, preventing moral development (Irenaean theodicy).

·Mitchell – parable of freedom fighter shows God is a mystery but we must trust his existence.

·Ayer – anything transcends understanding is meaningless as it cannot be verified, therefore ‘God is a mystery’ is meaningless. 

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Some mystics reject Ayer’s arguments against mysticism and claim that truths are revealed by intuition, namely religious experience.

·Schleiermacher + Otto - ‘feeling’ is a personal experience with God which gives moments of clarity where God can reveal himself, no evidence for God’s existence but an individual’s intuition.

Ayer – intuition cannot be philosophically defended as it is not a genuine form of knowledge - when applied to morality, religion cannot claim truths to be anything more than a feeling.

·‘Boo-Hurrah’ theory shows when an act is considered bad or good, this means we like / don’t like it, but not that it is intuitively moral.

·James – takes scientific approach, questioning ‘do they work?’ to test if they are veridical.

·Ayer denies that religious experiences are like others, alluding to Craig’s PBBs - cannot move from asserting emotion to the claim that a transcendent being is the object of this emotion.

·VP rests on claim that we can’t experience transcendent beings as these experience cannot be empirically verified and therefore fail to prove God’s existence. 

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·Ayer fails to prove that all talk about God is meaningless – while classical arguments are flawed, it does not follow that he does not exist or is even probable.

·It is possible to use religious language, despite Ayer’s claims against regularity in nature, miracles, mysticism and intuition. 

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·Ayer claims the criticisms of classical arguments, particularly design, are successful in showing they provide no weight for God’s existence.

·Goes on to state that God’s existence cannot be considered even probable.

·Swinburne’s cumulative argument – REs tip balanced scales of probability, making his existence more probable.

·Flew’s leaky bucket – all the arguments are flawed and do not provide a strong basis as an argument for god’s existence to form a successful cumulative argument. 

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·Ayer’s VP shows that God cannot be empirically verified.

·Taking an anti-realist perspective, could be said that God has personal experiences with humans e.g. Schleiermacher’s feeling allows God to be felt rather than verified.

·Later Wittgenstein’s language games states language holds meaning within its own game like philosophy or science – God can hold meaning within the context of philosophy and religion.

·Therefore, dismisses the relevance of the VP in trying to verify God’s existence.

·VP cannot be verified itself, therefore holds no weight in the debate of RL. 

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·Ayer states people accept regularity in nature as sufficient evidence for God’s existence – design argument cannot be verified.

·Ayer himself accepts there are things that cannot be verified themselves - observational statements must look to the effects e.g. electricity.

·Although these things cannot be seen, it is not disputed that they exist – same approach could be used for God.

·Regularity in nature, miracles and REs could be considered the effects of God which verify his existence without the need to verify him himself. 

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·Ayer states God is a meaningless concept – would lead to a decline in religion.

·Anything that cannot be explained empirically or analytically would be rejected, meaning humans would be more scientific in their beliefs.

·Would be supported by Dawkins – religion is a harmful meme and needs to be eradicated.

·Would make us more rational in thinking and more tolerant of other people.

·Sharpe – by removing religion, we make way for a more altruistic society.

·Lord Harries – a Christian upbringing gives good moral standards, which are lost without the influence of religion. 

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·By accepting Ayer - art, law, philosophy and other practices in human culture would be left to be meaningless as they cannot be verified.

·Implications are limited as most humans are not strict verificationists.

·May not be able to define things like emotions, but still recognise the meaning behind them so VP has little effect on basic human experience. 

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·Boo-Hurrah theory would mean morality has no rules as good and bad actions simply considered preferences.

·Everyone has different preference so there would be no reason to object to a ‘bad action’.

·Would weaken the basis of the legal system as it rests on shared belief in good / bad actions – would have to be replaced with negotiated preferences.

·MacIntyre- society has lost its moral compass due to emotion, making moral judgements just emotional preferences, which has a negative effect on society.

·Vardy- agrees with Ayer, stating morality is simply emotion, which produces a rational response, taking into account one’s preferences and relationships. 

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·Seems the most persuasive arguments are against Ayer.

·Without influence of religion, morality would be left to human emotion without a reason to do good.

·VP fails to show that anything that cannot be verified is meaningless, thus does not undermine belief in God’s existence.

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