Verification principle (atheism)


What is it?

Verificationism proposed by Philosopher A.J Ayer argues religious language is meaningless. By this he means it cannot be communicated between people. To prove this, he devised the Verification Principle, which suggests a sentence is only meaningful if its topic is verifiable. 

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Ayer's inspiration

Ayer’s was inspired by a group of Viennese philosophers led by Moritz Schlick called the Vienna Circle. The group, inspired by science, divided analytic statements and verifiable statements in two: Analytic Statements and Synthetic Statements. So, if a triangle has three sides this is an analytic statement as it is true by definition. Also, if someone was to say it's raining outside this is a synthetic statement because we can empirically prove if that statement is true or false by actually going outside and verifying if it's raining or not.

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Are statements about God meaningful?

Ayer argued any religious statement or any statement about God is a metaphysical statement and he argued they are all meaningless statements because they cannot be empirically verified. To say God exists is an unverifiable statement because it is not possible to prove that the statement is true and it’s impossible to show that the statement is false. The statement is therefore not true or false it is just a meaningless statement and therefore fails the verification principle. However, a famous counter argument to the verification argument is it is self-defeating under its own terms:  "A statement is only meaningful, if it is an analytic statement or a synthetic statement". The actual statement is neither analytic or synthetic, it is therefore meaningless. But in response, Ayer would say the verification principle is only about statements about the world, not about statements about statements.

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