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Religious Language (OCR exam board)


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Religious Language (OCR exam board)

  1. 1. Verification  invented by a group of 1920’s philosophers called the Logical Positivists of the Vienna Circle  Language is only meaningful (Tautology) if it can be verified by sense observation Language is:  Influenced by science  facts  gives us knowledge about the way the world is  Must be seen as true or false = factually meaningless  Language that talks of God is meaningless  Cannot be proved true or false/ No meaning in a factual sense  Can you think of any strengths and weaknesses?
  2. 2. Verification  Swinburne: people generally accept ‘all ravens are black’ but no way to confirm this statement  Strict scientific views mean that statements people say are meaningless even if make perfect sense  No statement can be made about history as these cannot be verified as fact with observation.
  3. 3. A. J. Ayer  British philosopher wrote “Language, Truth and Logic  “the criterion we use to test the genuineness of apparent statements of facts is the criterion of verifiability.”  Meaningless = not “factually significant.”  Not arguing that statements that are made are not important: “God answers my prayers” just that this is unverifiable and therefore has no factual significance.
  4. 4. Ayer: Two types of verifiability  Strong = verified conclusively by observation and experience  Weak = shown to be probable by observation and experience “Practical verifiability” statements that are tested in reality e.g. Manchester united wear red football shirts = true through observation “Verifiability in Principle” = there is life on other planets in the Milky Way = meaningful and verifiable we just do not have the technology to visit every planet
  5. 5. Ayer: Religious language  Religious claims are meaningless = cannot be supported by observations from sense experience that are probable.  Secondly we can make no meaningful statements about Metaphysical ideas – statements beyond the world of senses because we have no knowledge beyond our own sense experience “such a reality have all been devoted to the production of nonsense.”
  6. 6. Religious Language  God is: perfect, immutable and transcendent tell us nothing about the world around us and are talking of ideas beyond human sense observation = meaningless.  Religious experiences are similarly meaningless as not verifiable as one is recounting a set of emotions that can be explained through psychological means.
  7. 7. Second Edition Critics against Strong verification :  Swinburne: Excludes many areas of knowledge “generally agreed to be false.”  Cannot talk of history as meaningful using strong verification as no observation can confirm historical events.  Excludes universal statements e.g. water boils at 100 degrees centigrade as there is always a possibility this changes.  In second edition of his book Ayer responded to many of his critics.  He acknowledged that the distinction between strong/ weak was not a real distinction as:  ‘Strong’ verification “ had no possible application.”  Weak verification is also “far to liberal”
  8. 8. Direct and Indirect Verifiability Changes Strong and Weak to:  Direct: statements that is verifiable by an observation e.g. all post boxes red  Indirectly: using proof based on sense experience to support an idea that cannot be directly observed  e.g. science can use observation to predict that existence of black holes in space. These black holes cannot be directly observed.
  9. 9. Criticisms Verification is unverifiable:  “statements are only meaningful if verifiable by sense observation” is itself unverifiable. God talk is eschatological verifiable:  John Hick suggested the religion is not meaningless because its truth is verifiable in principle. (Celestial City story) Weak verification Evidence problem:  What evidence counts? Ayer says religious experiences are rejected however researches say there is clear evidence such experiences happen and God cannot be ruled out =therefore can religious experiences be verified weakly? What can be Verified?  What about Poetry, Music or Shakespearean Sonnet? Just because these cannot be verified they still have meaning.
  10. 10. Swinburne and his obsession with toys  Possible for a statement to be meaningful without being verifiable  Example: toys in a cupboard. Toys come out at night when no one observes them.  Situation is meaningful even though it is fictitious and unverifiable
  11. 11.    Karl Popper: “the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability or refutability or testability.”  Antony Flew (also part of Vienna Circle):  Had discussion with Hare and Basil on Falsification principle.  For a statement to be meaningful, it must be known what empirical evidence could count against it (or prove it wrong)  Religious statements like ‘God is good’ cannot be proved false to a believer.
  12. 12.     
  13. 13.     Their belief in God dies a ‘death by a thousand qualifications.’ Flew
  14. 14. Used the parable of a lunatic who believes all his teachers at university are trying to kill him This is the way in which the lunatic saw the world and nothing could change his view of the world. • Hare coined the word ‘blik’ to describe the way in which people see and interpret the world. • The importance of a ‘blik’ is that they are not falsifiable and it does not make factual claims. • No evidence or argument can demonstrate the falseness of a blik.
  15. 15.   Religious believers have to take care not to create a ‘vacuous formulae which experience makes no difference.’ 
  16. 16. Ayer: rejected falsification arguing the statements cannot be conclusively falsified any more than statements can be conclusively verified.  R. B. Braithwaite:VP and FP (verification/ falsification) make mistake of regarding religious language as cognitive (fact) when its non cognitive.  Religious language is ultimately moral language.  Flew was wrong – we can understand ideas even though they may not be falsifiable.  E.g. toys in a cupboard – we cant prove they don’t move around when we’re not in the room but the idea is meaningful to us.
  17. 17. 1.   2.  3.   Dionysius
  18. 18.  Ultimately, does the via negativa move us any nearer to saying anything about God that is definitely true?  May give people an insight into nature of God by pointing beyond the language used • Supporter: Maimonides – know that God exists but we do not know anything about God. In Bible God described as ‘I am who I am.’ – beyond any description. X Aquinas: Using negative language does not get us any closer to describing God – does not say anything directly. • But Hick believes Dionysius contradicts himself by saying God is ineffable, yet revealed in the Bible
  19. 19. Symbols
  20. 20.  Have deeper significance and ‘point beyond themselves’  “A pattern or object which points to an invisible metaphysical reality and participates in it” (Erika Dinkler-von Schubert)  They can be pictorial, abstract, verbal or active (a symbolic action)  E.G. A light burning over a Tabernacle in a Catholic church= the presence of Christ  The light could mean so much to a Catholic Christian…Christ/ tradition/ worship/ familiarity…
  21. 21.  Tillich held belief that symbols ‘participate’ somehow in the object they refer to.  E.g.. The national flag- it represents national pride and is also part of that national pride. How does this link to the Crucifix? • Argued that when you say something about God in concrete terms, you are using physical, contingent language • Yet what you are saying about God is likely to be non-physical and non-contingent • The language you employ points beyond the concrete concepts to a transcendent reality • Considered the issue of symbols changing meaning and dying Any language beyond the statement “God is Being-Itself” is symbolic “The language of faith is the language of symbols.”
  22. 22. 1. What is the historical and modern interpretation of this symbol. 2. How has this symbol participated in making a specific point? 3. How has that participation changed? Note: Tillich only spoke of the language of symbols not physical symbols.
  23. 23. J. H Randall argued symbols work by: 1. Motivating- by firing up emotions and inspiring people to action 2. Socially binding people with the same understanding of the symbol 3. Communicating- things that are not literal 4. Disclosing- revealing hidden depths to us about spiritual matters
  24. 24.  There are some things that believers would want to claim are literal, e.g. “God is good”  Symbols can become objects of worship in themselves  They can be trivialised and their original meaning lost e.g Crucifix  Symbols are intended to ‘point beyond’ themselves to a metaphysical reality, but there is no way of knowing if the symbol gives the right or wrong insight into the ultimate reality, therefore we cannot know if they are appropriate.  Paul Edwards did not believe symbols convey any factual knowledge and are meaningless John Hick argued Tillich’s view of symbols ‘participating’ in their object is vague about what this means
  25. 25.  Communicate truths – the values of a society  Myths more significant than a fable (made up tale) or fictional story  Deal with ultimate questions about life, death, goodness and evil  E.g. Myth about Zeus or Hercules (Greek Culture) or Creation Myths (Christianity or Pangu)  Preserve and hand down the cultural identity  Retellable and easy to communicate.  It is recited, chanted, intoned, learned… at Sacred places, Ritual and re-enactments, Rites of passage, Healing ceremonies ....  Myth is not fixed and unchanging, but can adapt, transform, re-seed itself according to a community’s needs and interpretations
  26. 26.  Christianity: creation myths communicate deep and real awareness of God as creator  Since myths communicate the identity, experience and values not concerned with literal truth  Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr myths should be taken “seriously but not literally.”
  27. 27.  William Paden who argues religion gives a person a particular ‘Worldview’ ‘–set of values, beliefs and that this colours all their experiences  If myth is made up story like a fable does not communicate truths about God.  Instead myth is expression of values in story form, so like symbols, they point beyond themselves.  Belief in God/ gods = living pieces of myth All religious language:  1. Voice of myth- the foundational stories of the religious world (first-order)  2. Doctrine, commentary and religious law which speaks about 1. above (second- order)  Myth gives meaning to past, present and future  ‘Mythic power’ found in the absolute status of scripture
  28. 28.  What about competing myths – there is no agreed criteria to judge which myths communicate truths.  What is the need to explain truths as myths will this not mean the original meaning or eternal truth is lost e.g. the use of word ‘stewardship’ is now interpreted as ‘ dominate.’  Gilbert Ryle myth commit a “category mistake” using concrete terms to refer to the non concrete ideas.
  29. 29. Wittgenstein Language Games
  30. 30.  Wittgenstein famously used the example of Chess.  Rules state how the pieces can move  However to talk of ‘queen’ or ‘pawns’ in any other context would not make sense  Therefore if you use words that do not follow the particular rules then you will be talking ‘nonsense.’ • Meaning of words are determined by the ‘Language Game’ the words are part of • Words meaning comes from the situation words are used e.g. computers, mobile phones • How many games can you think of that use words as part of the game e.g. snap, hangman, scrabble, weakest link
  31. 31. • This does not mean words rigidly have to follow rules. • Way of expressing that words only make sense in the context with other words that all belong to the same ‘language game.’ • Some words have a very technical meaning and also another meaning when used in ordinary life. • This means that language is only meaningful if applied in the most appropriate way in a particular language game • The language games are the reality • Language games do not refer to language as a whole • Using the term very loosely to refer to different ways in which language can be used • E.g. through story telling, telling jokes, thanking, asking, cursing • Speaking is ‘A form of life.’
  32. 32.  This means that it is not private  Shared and used by groups of people  These can develop, evolve, change and be disregarded  Wittgenstein rejected his earlier work with the Logical Positivists as language games are not verifiable based on ‘sense experience.’
  33. 33.  Religious language therefore is a language game  How many words can you think of?  What rules apply to this game?  The problem with theories like ‘verification’ when applied to religious belief is that the language game applied is more appropriate to the physical world/ empiricism rather than God.  Therefore ‘Religious Belief’ is meaningful to people who participate in the ‘Religious Belief’ language game
  34. 34. Strengths: 1. A strength is that it gives believers a way to express the meaningfulness of religious language 2. At the same time explaining why atheists or people not in the language game do not understand the meaning. 3. It does not mean what is said is meaningless just that you do not know the rules of the game. Weaknesses: 1. It removes the link between claims made with language and empirical evidence 2. Many believers speak of their faith as a true proposition which can be empirically verified. 3. Makes religion a select group which often goes against the Churches teachings
  35. 35. Analogy
  36. 36.  Comparison between two things  Univocal – uses word in same way exactly – meaning is the same e.g. Paris is a city, Rome is a city  Literal Language: Swinburne argues that one can use univocal language to talk of God as God is the same just the greatest degree.  Equivocal – language is unclear/ ambiguous e.g. John is on the right – could mean 2 things ‘right’ in terms of location or political view  Aquinas: language is said by God = is an analogy e.g. God is love or god is my father. This language is being said equivocally  Aquinas goes against the views of Via Negativa – Dionysius.
  37. 37.  words such as ‘just’ applied to God and humans.  E.g. The bread is good the baker is good (Brian Davies) similar meaning but not exactly same meaning.  Bread = soft tasty – not baker. Baker is good in the qualities necessary e.g. patience.  E.g. The medicine is healthy, the urine is healthy (Aquinas) Similar way but not the same. Medicine being healthy causes urine to be healthy. Medicine source of healthiness  Looks at ‘good’ e.g. ‘this is a good car’ because it measures up to what you class as a good car. So ‘God is good’ = God measures up to what it is for God to be good – lives up to what it should be.
  38. 38. If you would like further information please follow the link below to my blog: https://ithinkthereforeiteach.