Religious language explanations

how successful are the various explanations of the nature of religious language?

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Coco
  • Created on: 07-12-11 14:20

cognitivism and non-cognitivism

Cognitive language: expresses facts and knowledge

non-cognitive language: expresses things which we couldnever know, feelings, values, and perhaps metaphysical claims.

critics of religion might emphasise the non-cognitive nature of religious language.

1 of 7


Wittgenstein: Meaningful language is connected to the things we know through our senses: paints a pictureof the world.

Logical Positivists: Challenge religios language as it is non-cognitive and meaningless. it doesnt link with sense experience.

A.J.Ayer: verification principle- "a statement which cannot be conclusively verified... is simply devoid of meaning". propositions can be synthetic or analytic. religious language does not qualify as false, as it is non-cognitive and unverifiable.

 - Cant verify some facts eg Hastings. Ayer responds- weak verification principle (sensible standars for evidence)

- John Hick: God is posthumously verifiable in principle,eschatological verification.

- Swinburne: Propositions can be meaingful even if they cant be verified, eg the dancing toys example.

- Contraditory: the priciple itself cannot be verified

2 of 7


Karl Popper: Language is only meaningful if it is falsifiable

Anthony Flew: Language is only meaningful if we can percieve of evidence which could count against it.Some 'God talk' is impossible to verify. Proposed the parable of the gardener- the man refuses to accept any evidence which could count against his claim of the gardener.

"if theres nothing that a putative assertion denies then there is nothing that asserts it either"

3 of 7


R.M.Hare: This is a non-rational belief which could never be falsified. Eg, a student believes their lecturer is trying to kill them. the lack of evidence is attributed to the sneakiness of the lecturer. Bliks are not neccessarily untrue, they are just groundless.

- John Hick: There are reasons behind our religious beliefs: scriptures, religious experiences etc.

- Basil Mitchell: Religious claims are grounded in some facts and believers do allow some evidence to stand against their beliefs. problem of evil is recognised by believers. Formulated the parable of the stranger- resistance fighter does recognise that there is evidence that the stranger is with the enemy, but his own experiences count against it.

4 of 7


Paul Tillich: symbols are not signs- both point to something other than themselves, but only symbols 'participate' in that which they point to. 4 key features; 1) they point to something beyond themselves. 2)They participate in that to which they point.        3)They open up levels of reality which would otherwise be closed to us. 4) They open up dimensions of the soul which correspond to those aspects of reality. Eg a great work of art could speak of courage and determination. There is a sense of personal participation which Tillich sees as essential to religious symbols.

- John Hick: The idea of 'participating' in a symbol is unclear. eg, the statue of liberty doesnt actually do anything, does it differ from a sign?

-William Alston: symbolism means "there is no point trying to determine whether the statement is true or false." tillich's symbols are not literally true- they couldnt send us to heaven or hell.

5 of 7


Aquinas: we cannot speak of God univocally (language which means the same in every situations) or equivocally (language wich can means different things dependent on context) but we can use analogy. 3 forms of analogy: 1) analogy of attribuition- God made the world so it must reflect Him in some way. eg Bulls urine represents the bulls health, but this health is only complete in the bull itself. what the world tells us of God's goodness is useful but incomplete and limited. 2) analogy of proper proportion- we posses God's qualities (image of God) but in lesser proportions. Eg faithfullness to another hman or dog is different but there is some similarity. "A dim and imperfect likeness"- Hick. 3) Analogy of improper proportion- Just a metaphor and doesnt deal with proportionate qualities. EG- God is a rock, ignores essential qualities.

- Darwin: theory of evolution. challenges being created in 'the image and likeness of God'

- is the evil in our world also an analogy to God then?

- The object of the analogy (God) cannot be verified.

-Swinburne: Can speak univocally of goodness- its just possesed in different ways.

6 of 7

Language games

Wittgenstien: later in his career he changed his views. "dont ask for the meaning, ask for the use". less concerned with trutch or falsity, more with the ses its put to. Function is more important than meaning in religious language. Problmes in philosophy occur when its not realised that words can be used in different language games. Meaning is all about observing convention- eg, with religion there may be unconventional ways to talk of God. Possible connection to the 'coherence theory of truth' (statements are true if they fit in with other statements and beliefs which are internally consistent.

- coould be argued that the 'game' of religious language cannot be criticised becaus eits coherent and intelligible. religious views fit with other religious views. perphaps religion is just a 'language game', and it will all make sense if we just participate. the danger of this is that it could be too relativistic, allowing that ANY claims are equally valid. also doesnt explain how we could challenge truth claims.

7 of 7



Maybe make the language more student friendly? So, explain that the falscification principle is a statement can only be meaningful if it can be proved to be false.

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all resources »