Presentation on theme: "Task: Take a look at the following statements: “I am the bread of life” “I am the true vine” “I am the way, the truth and the life” “I am the resurrection."— Presentation transcript:
Task: Take a look at the following statements: “I am the bread of life” “I am the true vine” “I am the way, the truth and the life” “I am the resurrection and the life” “I am the good shepherd” “I am the gateway” “I am the light of the world” These are all statements recorded in the Gospel of John that Jesus made about himself. Q. Are any of these useful in picturing the person and work of Christ? Are any of these helpful to our understanding of Christian theology? Are any of them meaningful?
The key role of ‘Religious Language’ is God-talk, that is, being able to talk about God in a meaningful and coherent manner. The problem arises when we consider ‘ what can be said about God ?’ The religious language debate is not concerned with whether or not God exists, or what God is like or why there is evil in the world. It is solely concerned with working out whether or not religious language means anything. On the one side of the debate, you have the centuries old tradition of religious believers who believe that you can speak and write about God, because God is a reality. On the other side, are the Logical Positivists and those that they influenced who claim that statements about God have no meaning because they don’t relate to anything that is real. God existsGod is love Some philosophers have argued that religious statements, such as ‘God exists’, ‘God is love’ and so on are neither true nor false, but meaningless. There is no point, according to some thinkers, of even raising these questions, because there is nothing to talk about. Philosophical discussion about meaning often identifies two different ways in which a word or phrase might mean something.
Discuss the following statements: Mrs Hutton’s car is a cream convertible mini. There is a small hobbit sat under my fan that becomes invisible when anyone looks at it, can move quicker than any human who tries to touch it and never makes a sound. All humans are mortal. There is life on other planets. it is currently snowing at the South Pole. What do these statements suggest about how a statement can be verified? Cognitive (Realist) Language: Factual statements Proved true or false via empirical evidence Non-Cognitive (Anti-Realist) Language: Cannot be verified but nor can they be falsified Context dependant and can include symbols, myths, metaphors etc.
Analytic Statements True by definition (tautology) and cannot be false a priori statements which are true because the wording of the statement verifies its truth e.g. ‘The widow was once married’, ‘the circle is round’. Synthetic Statements a posteriori statements which can be verifiable or falsified through empirical evidence e.g. ‘It is currently snowing at the South Pole’. These statements are considered meaningful as they can, in theory, hold verifiable or falsifiable truths. Mathematical Statements 5 + 5 does add up to 10, if it adds up to 9 then a simple recalculation would solve the issue. AJ Ayer suggested such incorrect statements were the product of human error and not an error of the facts. Which of these statements would be meaningful: Dogs bark Swans are green There is life on other planets Ice cream is cold I love my wife
The Vienna Circle concluded that religious statements were meaningless, on the basis that they do not satisfy any of these criteria, because religious language claims are subjective and cannot therefore be empirically tested and verified What contribution did AJ Ayer make to the field of religious language? The verification principle: if a statement is neither analytic nor empirically verifiable, it says nothing about reality and is therefore meaningless. ‘ The notion of a being whose essential attributes are non-empirical is not an intelligible notion at all ’.
Discussion: Can one meaningfully talk of a transcendent metaphysical God acting (creating sustaining, being loving) in a physical empirical world? Discuss the following statements. What issues arise for the logical positivists? “The view from my hotel window is beautiful” “All ravens are black” “The Battle of Hastings took place in 1066”
Verificationism does not allow for statements that are not either empirically verifiable or tautologies. Such statements are considered as meaningless, by which they mean the statement literally has no meaning in a factual sense. Richard Swinburne in ‘God-talk is Not Evidently Nonsense’ challenges verificationism giving the example ‘All ravens are (at all times) black’. Swinburne points out that whilst people generally accept ravens are black, there is no way to ever confirm this statement, as however many ravens you look at there is always the possibility of there being one more raven that is not black. Therefore, according to verificationism, the statement is meaningless. A further problem lies with historical events and statements made about them. Saying the battle of Hastings happened in 1066 is not verifiable by us using our sense experiences and observations. As a result, statements regarding beauty or expressing a preference are meaningless. The beauty of a piece of art, a view, or a person cannot be decided on the basis of observation, nor can it be answered ‘true’ or ‘false’
Enter Ayer once more... A.J. Ayer firstly clarified what was meant by meaningless, this being a statement that is not ‘factually significant’ (Language, Truth & Logic). Ayer was not denying that people make statements that are important to them, such as ‘God answers my prayers’ they are just unverifiable so have no factual significance. So, how do you verify a proposition? Practical Verifiability & Verifiability in Principle Practical verifiability refers to statements that can be tested in reality. If I said ‘Norwich City wear yellow and green shirts’ this is verifiable in practice. However, if I said ‘there is life on other planets in the our galaxy’ this is meaningful and verifiable in principle, but in practice we lack the technical ability to visit every planet and look for life. Strong and Weak Verification Ayer distinguished between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ verification. Strong verification applied anything that can be verified conclusively using empirical evidence. Weak verification refers to statements that can be shown to be probable by observation and experience. Ayer suggested WV should be form used as SV has no real application e.g. ‘All humans are mortal’.
It became clear and Ayer himself agreed, that the theory could not be adjusted so that scientific and historical statement were seen to be meaningful and yet religious claims ruled out. The falsification principle was developed as a modification of the verification principle, once it had been accepted that the verification principle was unsound.