Philosophy of Religion - Religious Lang (C.20th)

What do the Logical Positivists say about a statement being meaningful?
It says that religious statements are meaningless.
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What must a statement be to be meaningful?
1) Analytic, 2) A truism (e.g rain is rain), 3) Verifiable by the senses
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Why isn't religious language meaningful?
Because it can't be verified by the senses.
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What is Hume's Fork?
1) Analytic (matter of fact), 2) Synthetic (something that needs to be verified).
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What sort of sentence cannot be meaningful?
Historical sentence (as cannot be verified), e.g ''Julius Caeser invaded Britain''
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Who said ''all scientific laws are useful nonsense"?
Moritz Schlick
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What is the strong verification principle?
Occurs when there is no doubt that a statement is true as one it with sense experience.
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What is the weak verification principle?
A statement that there are some observations that are relevant to proving a statement, true/false (allows for history and scientific facts).
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Criticisms of the Verification Principle:
Historical statements are meaningless. You cannot verify a statement of opinion. Subject to local scepticism (Descartes). You cannot verify moral law or the principle itself. How can we define meaning?
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What does Early Wittgenstein say about religious language?
Picture Theory of Language - something is meaningful if you can picture it.
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What's Hick's eschatological verification?
Hick uses the story of the Celestial City, to describe his eschatology. It is a metaphor for the journey to the afterlife. We cannot verify religious lang till the end.
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Who is the falsification principle associated with?
Karl Popper
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What is the falsification principle?
A statement is meaningful if it has the potential to be falsified.
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What does ''falsify'' mean?
To prove a statement to be false.
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Why is religious language meaningless (in terms of falsification)?
Religious language is not falsifiable and therefore meaningless.
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What is there no criteria for (and therefore is neither falsifiable nor non-falsifiable)?
God's love has no criteria. Therefore, a religious believer will always have faith that God loves them.
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What is ''the Parable of the Unseen Gardener"?
Anthony Flew's argument towards the Falsification Principle. Some travellers come across a perfectly maintained garden in the middle of nowhere. They conclude that there is a gardener maintaining it who is intangible.
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What did Flew say about religious language?
Flew said that religious statements are so ''watered down'', that they are barely statements anymore. In the same way, statements against religion can easily be defeated by the claims of a believer.
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What don't religious believers allow for? (according to Flew)
The falsification of their own belief.
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What are R.M Hare's ''bliks''?
A statement that is neither verifiable nor falsifiable. A belief without evidence or falsification.
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What is religious language according to Hare?
A blik.
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What is the example he gives of an insane blik?
A university student who believes all the dons (professors) are out to get him. Despite all the evidence declaring otherwise.
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How does this insane blik compare with God and the believer?
Believers will not be dissuaded from their belief in God or allow it to be falsified.
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What does Anthony Flew say about ''bliks''?
Flew criticises Hare and says religious people do have evidence to support their beliefs.
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What did Hick say about Hare's bliks?
There is no criteria for distinguishing between bliks (sane or insane). If you cannot verify or falsify a belief, how do you know whether it's sane or insane?
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What is Hare's weakness?
He seems to assume that religious believers are all rather fanatical in their beliefs. Religious believers waver between faith and doubt in reality.
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What is Basil Mitchell's argument for belief in God?
The story of the Partisan and the Stranger.
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What does the story of the Partisan and the Stranger represent?
An analogy for belief in God.
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What does the stranger represent in the story?
Faith, God, or a prophet.
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What does the partisan represent in the story?
A believer
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What does their meeting represent in the story?
Coming to faith
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What does the stranger's behaviour represent?
Life - its ups and downs and its triumphs and tragedies.
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Why is religious language meaningful according to Mitchell?
The language of a religious believer is meaningful because their initial encounter convinces them to make a life long commitment.
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What does Swinburne say about religious language?
Even if you can't verify/falsify a statement - it's still meaningful if we can imagine the thing we're talking about in a coherent way.
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What is his argument known as?
''Toys in the Cupboard" - the toys in the cupboard come out and dance while we're asleep. Still meaningful because we can imagine it (similar to unseen gardener).
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What's the difference between toys and God?
We know what toys and a cupboard are so can imagine them in a coherent way. We don't know about God so can't imagine him coherently.
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What does Dawkins say in response to this?
Saying ''God made the world'' is completely different to saying ''the Big Bang made the world". The Big Bang making the world is open to explanation and is a hypothesis, whereas God making the world is less clear.
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Who was Wittgenstein heavily influenced by?
His own tutor - Bertrand Russell.
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What is his book called and how is it described?
Tratacus Logico-Philosophicus - ''notoriously difficult to understand''
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What is Early Wittgenstein's ''Picture Theory of Language"?
In simple sentences, the nouns and verbs within that sentence, mirror things in the world. These verbs and nouns should be understood by the senses in order to be meaningful. If you can picture something its meaningful.
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What did Wittgenstein say that words were?
''Tools of social interaction" (like chess pieces)
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What does Wittgenstein reject?
That words mean things.
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What does he believe words have instead of meaning?
A use.
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When is the only exception when a word means something?
A word only means something in the context it is used. Don't go looking for meaning - instead, go looking for use.
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What did he conclude from this?
From this he concluded that philosophical problems were caused by the ''disease'' or ''accidents'' of language''.
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Give an example of when a philosophical problem arises:
When we use the phrase ''what is the meaning of..'' and then add the word ''life'' a philosophical problem arises, because there are two different lang. games.
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What is Wittgenstein's famous phrase about the arising of philosophical problems?
''Philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday''
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What does the term ''language game'' mean?
Seeks to convey the idea that the uses of language are performed according to rules
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Are these flexible?
Yes - they are varied and can often be flexible.
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Give an example of a word which means different things in different contexts:
The word ''gay'' - can mean happy or can mean homosexual. These two are not meaningful in other contexts.
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What is the use of the word ''game'' NOT meant to convey?
That the words we use are flippant. Instead, it is meant to show that words are governed by rules.
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What did Wittgenstein say about a lion talking?
''If a lion could talk, we would not be able to understand him" - lions have different language games to humans.
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How is language similar to a game?
It is governed by rules and we are corrected when we make mistakes, just like if we move a chess piece incorrectly.
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What is religious language (according to Wittgenstein)?
A language game.
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Give an example of how religious language is a language game:
The statement ''God allows for suffering to develop human character and we will be rewarded in heaven'' complies with the rules of a Christian lang. game but not an atheist one.
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Does Wittgenstein dismiss religious language?
No, because religious language is meaningful if used in a certain context.
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Is religious language therefore cognitive or non-cognitive?
Non-cognitive (not factual).
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What is Wittgenstein's Coherence Theory of Truth?
Something has meaning if it is coherent to you.
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What is important to note about Wittgenstein and religious language?
He never spoke directly about religious language. We interpret what he might have said from what he's said about language.
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What did Wittgenstein believe about religion and science?
That the two were entirely different and that religion should not be subject to the same empirical criticism as cognitive statements are.
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What are some strengths of language games?
Not totally isolated b/c religious believers can participate in more than one language game. This means non-religious believers are able to understand religious lang. Sets boundaries for the use of lang.
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What are some weaknesses of language games?
Different faiths play different language games and therefore cannot talk about God together. Despite religious lang. having meaning - it doesn't necessitate God's existence. Cannot be empirically tested. People talk nonsense. Difficult to understand.
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How did A.J Ayer criticise language games?
Reduces talk of God to the same level as witches and wizards.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


What must a statement be to be meaningful?


1) Analytic, 2) A truism (e.g rain is rain), 3) Verifiable by the senses

Card 3


Why isn't religious language meaningful?


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


What is Hume's Fork?


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


What sort of sentence cannot be meaningful?


Preview of the front of card 5
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