Religious Language

Attacking the arguments for the existence of God from linguistic philosophy. Theists think of God as being a being external from the universe & language about God is cognitive but philosophers say it's non-cognitive.
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We will believe statements about God depending on our own understanding of the language/whether we believe it can be applied to a metaphysical being.
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It is either true or false.
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It cannot be open to truth or falsity at all (our human abilities cannot prove statements about God are true of false as he is a being beyond our understanding/beyond our senses (unseen, unheard, not physically felt).
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The difference between non-cognitive and cognitive
They're understanding of truth. Cognitive says the statement can have merely a correspondence with the real world to be true (realism). A non-cognitive statement needs to be coherent with truth about real world to be accepted as true (anti-realism)
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What does Peter Vardy say about realists view of religious language?
That it's separate from reality and tries its best to reach out to what is external to us and attempts to express it accurately. IT IS NOT EXACTLY CORRESPONDING, BUT THE CLOSEST IT CAN BE TO DOING SO.
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What is truth relative to according to anti-realists?
Truth is relative to the community who are making the statements. Thus, they are making religious truths rather than discovering them. They fit in with what you and those around you believe to be true.
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Peter Cole's theory about language about God
'Religious Language' 1994. 'God is timeless'. We cannot explain the word timeless as everything we experience happens within time', thus as religious terms are discussing the metaphysical, it is difficult for humans to give them meaning.
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Second way that expresses the debate of what truth is
Are universals such as nouns like 'person' and 'goodness' rooted in: a) In some reality in things b) In something beyond things c) In human construction (shared assumptions about reality)
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Third way that expresses the debate of what truth is in terms of religious language
Do we interpret religious texts? a) Literally b) allegorically c) symbolically
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What are the three main approaches to the issues of where the truth about universals lie and the issue of how people interpret religious texts?
1) Equivocal language about God 2) Univocal language about God 3) Analogical language about God
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1) What is equivocal language?
One word can have a different meaning in different contexts. E.g. the word 'post'. This makes it difficult to know what is being said about God.
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What did the via negativa say about equivocal language
If we say 'God is all loving', no matter what this is defined as, it confirms that God is definitely not unloving. Thus equivocal emphasies what God is not, leading us to have some understanding by proving what he ISNT rather than what he IS.
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Criticism of equivocal language
Theists wouldn't be satisfied with it and doesn't lead us to understand God enough. Insufficiently identifies what God's attributes actually are.
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2) What is univocal language?
The words used when discussing God must have the same meaning as the words used about the universe. Whilst some of it may be figurative, it's clear some meaningful revelation has been given.
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Criticisms of univocal language
Saying the language used has the same meaning when applied to God and the universe must mean that God is apart of the universe, which contradicts the teachings of the bible.
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3) What is analogical language about God?
Compromise between univocal and equivocal. God is NOT a being like other beings BUT we can reason with him. All words about God are not literal, but analogical.
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Aquinas' view on analogical language about God
In order to describe God's nature we compare God to ourselves through analogy. E.G. God is not 'good' in the way we interpret it to be, but it's not completely unrelated to this. Must be points of correspondence between language and its object.
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Colin Brown's view on analogical language about God - Philosophy and the Christian Faith
God has revealed himself in action, thought and word. Thus, because of religious experience, such analogical language is appropriate. 'DIVINE TRUTH HAS TO BE REFRACTED AND EXPRESSED IN TERMS OF HUMAN WORDS AND FINITE IMAGES'
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3 i) Analogy of attribution
Concept of gaining something from something else (derivation). E.g. Human wisdom is a reflection of God's wisdom. Much like we can all a dog 'faithful', we can call God 'loving' as these universals can be known through analogy to gain understanding.
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ii) Analogy of proportionality
The attributes of God as equal to his nature, as the attributes of humans are proportional to their nature. Cabbages have life, I have life, God has life. Proportionate relationships.
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Criticism of analogy of proportionality
Proportion is only meaningful when when both terms are KNOWN. We do not know God or the proportionate life he lives. Analogy therefore seems pointless and impossible to understand/accept.
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21st century philosophical language analysis of God talk (talking of the metaphysical and transcendent)
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Logical Positivist's stance?
In terms of seeing God talk as univocal, it was not only false but meaningless. 'They recognised only the positive sciences as valid sources of human knowledge'. (Collins Dictionary of Philosophy 1990)
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Vienna Circle view on meaning
Experience is key to determining whether a sentence/statement is meaningful or not. As most of us cannot get this empirical evidence with God, using cognitive language for him is nonsensical.
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What are the two approaches to understanding whether something is meaningful or not.
The Verification Principle &The Falsification Principle
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a) Verification Principle
For a statement to be meaningful, it must be verifiable by the sense experiences This eliminates metaphysical statements. Not about truth or falsehood, but whether it has meaning at all.
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Wittengenstein's addition on the VP
Meaningful language involved words being defined by the real world of objects. Said we can talk about the metaphysical, but only in equivocal terms.
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Ayer's weak Verification Principle
Rejected conclusive verifiability and said something can be meaningful simply if we can know what sense experience would BE NECESSARY. However, this still shows god talk as meaningless, as his attributes are non-empirical/non-intelligible.
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How many criticisms of Verification Principle are there?
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Main criticism
VP itself cannot be verified. No sense experience that can verify it to be true. The theory itself is meaningless under its own rules therefore. VP tried to argue back and say was 'a recommendation' not a set rule.
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Keith Ward view and his book?
Holding Fast To God 1982. God can be verifiable since 'if i were God i would be able to check the truth of my own existence.
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John Hick's view
We will never know whether God exists until eschatological verification (when you die and meet God or not). (Celestial City story). However, no one will ever live to tell this.
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Ayer's view
VP's criteria so inadequate it allowed all statements to be classed as meaningful.
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b) The Falsification Principle - who created it?
Anthony Flew 1950
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what is it?
A statement is meaningLESS if no sense experience can ever count against it. Thus God statements can't be proven and are thus meaningless. if you knew what observation to make which would show the statement to false, its synthetic and meaningful
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Sir Karl Popper's influence on Flew?
It's not verifiability that we test things in science with, but its falsifiability
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What parable was it that Flew used to illustrate his principle?
John Wisdom's Parable of the Gardener - New Essays in Philosophical Theology
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Flew's criticism of religious believers
the religious believers kept qualifying their claims (adding ways it cannot be falsified) to avoid falsification, which ultimately produced 'death by a thousand falsifications'.
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Criticisms of the falsification principle
University debate that uses parables to illustrate points: Hare, Mitchell, Swinburne, fails itself
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Hare's criticism
Agreed with Flew that language non-cognitive. However, religious statements can still be meaning without being able to be falsified. Religious beliefs = bliks. Bliks = unfalsifiable but impact our everyday conduct.
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Mitchell's criticism
Agreed that statements about God are assertions but says religious statements can be falsified only in principle, not in practice. Even if religious belief was falsifiable, believers will never be overturned on their opinion that they're true.
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'The coherence of theism'. Statements can still be meaningful even when we cant falsify them e.g. toys coming to life when we are sleeping - it has meaning still. Same with parable of gardener.
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Fails itself
There is no evidence we know of that could count against it/falsify it, thus its meaningless in itself.
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verification and falsification does not provide an established meaning, symbolic language attempts to say something meaningful about God without it being literal through representing it through a universally understand concept.
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a) Symbols
Has deep communicative power and allows us to have access to its intended meaning.
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symbols key thinker
Paul Tillich: 'Symbolic language alone is able to express the ultimate because it transcends the capacity of any finite reality to express it directly' (dynamics of faith). He sees God not as a being, but being itself. he is personal but not a person
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Which religious figure agrees with Tillich?
Josh Robinson Bishop of Woolwich 1960.
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What do Don Cuppitt and D Z Phillips think?
Cupitt: Religious language shouldn't be seen as being about something beyond us as it's really about things we've experienced acting as symbols. Phillips: 'eternal life' is symbolic of the way we should live life, not to ask about actual eternal life
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b) Metaphors
Saying something non-literal to explain something else. Mark Johnson: 21st century a 'metaphormania'. Janet Soskice: such language reveals something about god himself. (metaphor and religious language)
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Can symbols really adequately explain what is transcendent? How can we test if they're accurate or not?
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c) Myths
An insight into human experience. the language is symbolic. Seek to provide a framework of within which the whole frame work of life can be understood
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Bultmann's view
Gave new testament an existentialist interpretation and reduced it to a secular philosophy that can be understood by all. This has been supported by FORMER BISHOP OF DURHAM DAVID JENKINS
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d) Models
Ian Ramsey saw religious language functioning as a model and helps us understand the original version. 'Used for reaching another situation with which we are not so familiar'. e.g. 'Infinitely (helps) good' 'good' is the model.
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e) Language Games
Ludwig Wittgenstein Philosophical Investigations. 'Don't ask for the meaning, ask for the use'. Language games: words have different meanings in different contexts (games) e.g. football.
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Wittgenstein's conclusion on god talk
Philosophical language problems caused by not understanding the context its being used in. not religious, you won't understand. We do not discover what a word means, but we agree upon it. its convention and shouldn't be argued on as subjective.
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Felicity McCutcheon
games and language have some parallels: no word has one singular meaning. games involve participation, if you dont participate in religion game you cant understand. meaningfulness of language determined by its uses and NOT REALITY.
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each area of life can have its own criteria of meaning and truth. not reality depicting language is worrying (only Wittgenstein's followers made this claim, not him).Some statements dont depend on context: 'Jesus died in order to bring salvation'.
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Card 2




We will believe statements about God depending on our own understanding of the language/whether we believe it can be applied to a metaphysical being.

Card 3




Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4




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Card 5


The difference between non-cognitive and cognitive


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