Religious language summary



  • Language = only meaningful if it can be verfied empircally. 
  • Religious Language = meaningless. 
1 of 9

Ayer - Strong and Weak verfication

  • Ayer modified verfication to distinguish between verfication in practice (STRONG) and verfication in principle (WEAK) 
  • Truth of statement lies in metod of its verfiication. Spin of emtovism: ethical statements - statements of emoiton, not fact
2 of 9

Falsification - has to be true/false to have meani

  • A statement = meaningless if there = no possible falsfication criteria
  • This = suggested by FLEW's use of the PARABLE OF THE GARDEN (Actually by John WISDOM) 
  • Flew - statement = open to challenge to be meaingful; religious people deny challenges to statements of G-ds existence; thus meaningless. (against)
  • Hare - used parable of lunatic to introduce concept of 'bliks' - unfalsifable beliefs according to which a world view = established - which = not necessarily meaningless (against) 
  • Hick - "In order of say something which may be true we must say something that may be false" (supporter
  • Mitchell - Vacuous formulae - has no effect on them/life. Provisional hypotheses - discarded if experience proves them wrong signfincant articles of faith - face the full force of conflict.
3 of 9

Via Negativa

  • G-d can only be spoken of in neagtive language (negativa) - also known as the Apophatic way
  • Via postivia = positive language 

Strengths of the Via Negativa

  • Prevents anthropomorphic statements being made about God - we = not left with a human view of Him. 
  • Can be seen as more respectful. Maimonides argued that positive statements about God = improper as they do not fully convey the idea we require.
  • Supports the view of many thinkers. That we do not speak of God in an improper way.
  • Only the Via Negativa adequately conveys the transcendence of God.

 Weaknesses of the Via Negativa

  • It could be argued that the result is a very limited understanding of God. The method doesn’t even work for everyday objects let alone a transcendent God.
  • The Via Negativa is not a true reflection of how people speak about God. They instead seek positive knowledge of God.
  • It claims that no positive statement can be made about God, but surely if we are saying that something isn’t something then we are also stating that it is.
4 of 9


  • Used by Aquinas
  • Anaology of attribution - qualities we ascribe eachother (wisdom, love, goodness) are reflections of G-ds attributes 
  • Analogy of proportion - the types of qualities that someone has depends on the nature of the being that posses them
  • Analogy of proper proportionidea is that we possess qualities like those of God (goodness, wisdom, faithfulness etc) because we were created in his image and likeness, but because we are inferior to God, we possess those qualities in lesser proportion to God.


5 of 9

Ramsey - symbols

  • Religious lang function as a model that leads us to an understanding of G-d 
6 of 9

Wittgenstein Language Game

  • Wittgenstein - influenced logical positivism. Only language with meaning = lang of science, lanaguge that refered to emprical reality "thereof we do not know, therof we cannot speak"
  • A language game =  famous philosophical concept developed by Wittgenstein referring to simple examples of language use and the actions into which the language is woven.
  • Wittgenstein's Language game theory shows that rel lang = specific + makes sense to those within the religion 
7 of 9

Tillich - Symbolic Language

  • Symbolic lang best describes rel lang according to Tillich. 
  • Symbols participate in the thing to which they point - spritual reality. 
  • Symbolic lang also has profound effect upon people + opens up new levels of understanding i.e. art/poetry symbolic lang = best way to describe rel lang. 
8 of 9


  • Myths, like symbols, point to a different reality + use stories to communicate truths + vaules 
  • Bultmann - interpreting NT = existentialist terms. People find difficult to believe stories in NT. People focused on myth rather than real meaning behind it. Real meaning = in danager of becoming obsolete. Should address rel truths in new methods that = more appropiate to our own age. 
9 of 9


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all Philosophy A2 resources »