This essay Religious language is meaningless has a total of 1052 words and 5 pages.
“Religious language is meaningless.”
Religious language is the communication of ideas about God, faith, belief and practice. The problem with religious language is that individuals have different interpretations of these concepts and will result in a difference in the use of everyday language. For some it is deemed meaningless because it is equivocal and the meaning is unclear. Yet, for some philosophers, religious language is meaningful and serves a purpose.
Religious language is meaningful because we don’t know how to falsify it. John Hick mentioned religious language was seen as believing in something and experiencing something.
The logical positivists formulated the verification principle and they were concerned with the meaning of words and the way we use them in the context of God. They believe God’s talk was meaningless as they are metaphysical statements. They believed for a statement to be deemed meaningful we had to be able to verify the truth hood through our empirical senses.
Ayer, who was a supporter of the Verification Principle, said a proposition is meaningful if it is known how to prove it true or false. If such verification cannot take place, they become meaningless. He stated there were two types of the verification principle, the strong form and the weak form. The weak verification principle is knowing how to verify a statement. It would become meaningful if you know how to do this. The strong form of the verification principle was being able to prove something true or false through sense experience. Ayer also said to reject analytical statements would be illogical because you cannot try to disprove something that is actually true as you would be contradicting yourself.
Many philosophers challenged the verification principle and rejected it. A main critic was John Hick. He said the principle itself is not meaningful because it cannot be verified using the verification principle. Hick argued when we die the truth of God’s existence will be verified either true or false. This is known as the eschatological verification. It can only be verified the day we die.
Anthony Flew put forward the falsification principle. Falsification means to prove something true or false. The falsification principle accepts a statement is verifiable if it is known what empirical evidence could count against it and prove it wrong.
Aquinas argued that we only have our day to day language which we can use to talk about God. We understand when a word is applied to God; it has a different meaning from its everyday use as we understand God is perfect. Therefore we are using analogies. There have been some critics who argued there has to be a comparative element to any human language used to describe God. This is impossible as God is beyond any true human understanding. Analogies are meaningless in describing God as they are limiting God to what he actually is. Aquinas disagreed. He argued there is a relationship between the world and God. God
created the world and sustains it so there is a clear comparison. He went on to develop two forms of analogy to talk about God. Analogy of proportion and analogy of attribution. Analogy of proportion is where the analogy is understood in each case as proportional to the nature of the being. We have to put God in proportion to ourselves to understand how everything works. Analogy of attribution relates to the belief that God created and sustains the world. It is because of this belief we can talk of human qualities. In some way those qualities can be applied back to God. We can talk up to God using the same language. The only problem about the two analogies is they only work if you have previous knowledge of God. If you believe God is omnipotent, omniscience etc, it makes perfect sense to use an analogy. However, without these assumptions it becomes less convincing.
Tillich used ordinary language to point to God but spoke of the words used as symbols. He distinguished between a sign and a symbol. A sign is a conventional way of pointing to something, e.g. a road sign. A symbol is something that stands or is used in place of something else. Tillich held God could only be described using symbols but never literally. He said the symbol is transcending meaning something in
Topics Related to Religious language is meaningless
Philosophy of religion, Semantics, Philosophical movements, Linguistic turn, Deities, God, Problem of religious language, Eschatological verification, Analogy, Meaning, Belief, Logical positivism
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