- Concerned with asking 'What can be said about God?'
- Discusses things outside our senses rather than physical issues
- If God is infinite, words used to describe finite humans may not be adequate
- Is religious language therefore meaningless?
- Religious believers: it is possible to speak and write about God (though difficult - the word 'God' applies to a being beyond human understanding)
- Logical Positivists: Statements about God have no meaning beacause they don't relate to facts
- Two types of language:
- Cognitive - A statement is factual
- Non-cognitive - not subject to truth or falsity
The Verification Principle
Strong Verification - Logical Positivists
- Vienna Circle gave rise to the logical positivist movement
- Central principle of the group was that propositions only have meaning if they can be verified empiricially
- Came up with the Verification Principle
- Statements only have meaning if they can be verified by the senses
- It must be verifiable by an actual experience or is a tautology (a logical statement we know to be true by definition)
- Waismann described logical positivism as
- A statement which cannot be conclusively verified cannot be verified at all. It is simply devoid of meaning.
- Wittgenstein, although not a member of the Vienna circle, argued that language only had meaning if it referred to empirical reality
- However, he also differed from the logical positivists by accepting that the mystical should be allowed for, formulating the language games theory:
- Observed that religious people understand the language of religion as cricketers understand the leg before wicket rule
- To speak in any language is to play a certain game
- Words only make sense in a background of other words that all belong to the same game, and thus have no 'real' meaning
- People play one game after another to find meaning, including the religous language game to understand the meaning, signifigance, feeling and aura around an expression of belief
- Recognises that scientific approaches to religious language are inappropriate
- Safeguards religious language from attack as he argues that we cannot stand outside a game and legislate it
- We can also not brush aside vast areas of language as nonsensical
- Does this lead to fideism i.e. blind acceptance and an inability to question the validity of anything?
- Are language games totally isolated? If we all participate in several language games simultaneously, can't we evauate them?
- Conceptual relativism - each game is immunised from attack, for each has its own equal claim to an objective truth. But can they all be valid?
- It is easier to verify some statements than others - for instance, we can verify 'the sun is shining' easier than we can verify 'the soul is immortal'
- Weak verification refers to stements that can be shown to be probable by observation and experience - doesn't need conclusive verification as above
- Verification principle states that two types of statement are meaningful:
- Analytic statements that contain all the information within a statement that is necessary…