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"Religious Language can be understood in the context of religious belief" - Discuss and evaluate this claim with reference to language games.

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Introduction

Q. "Religious Language can be understood in the context of religious belief." Discuss and evaluate this claim with reference to language games. (20) Ludwig Wittgenstein once believed that language's function was to name objects and the meaning of language was found in the objects for which it stands. He later rejected this and centred on how language works and is used, believing that problems of religious language come from misunderstanding its usage. Wittgenstein was no longer concerned with the truth or falsity of language but the way it is used and the functions that it performs, as he said 'Don't ask for the meaning ask for the use.' Wittgenstein recognised that language is equivocal as words have many different meanings, such as the word 'pen' whose meaning changes in different contexts. He saw language as a game, which like all games had its own set of rules. Different contexts or 'forms of life' are like different language games with their own self contained rules. ...read more.

Middle

He argued that is usage and meaning is dependent upon its function and society uses language in a specific and agreed way. Wittgenstein called these rules 'grammar', for example, to say that 'God has big feet' is not playing to the rules of the game because a convention says it is inappropriate to God. Wittgenstein said that 'philosophy may in no way interfere with the usage of language only describe it'. However, to change the description of a language game can have dramatic effects. D.Z. Phillips used the example of 'God is love', which he argued was not a description but a rule for how the word 'God' is to be used. Statements about religious belief are actually descriptions of the grammar of the religious game. This implies that something cannot be both a rule of grammar and at the same time a description of reality. This approach leaves the religious language game forever defining its own rules. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, it is very apparent that they can. Also people of different denominations could be seen to have slightly different rules, akin to the differences between rugby leagues and union. This would imply that they would also not be able to, or have great difficulty in communicating, but they can. Religious believers are also involved in other language games because they are involved in other aspects of life. This means that religious language is not totally isolated and there will be some common ground with other 'language games'. This may suggest that the non-believer may be able to understand religious language and decide if it holds any meaning for them. It is also argued that if anything, non-believers may be able to understand religious language better than a believer, as they can be more objective about it. It seems that Wittgenstein was mistaken as seeing religious language only being intelligible in the context of religious belief. Many religious statements entail a truth which is not dependent upon context, but statements such as 'Jesus died to bring salvation' are though of as true for everyone. ...read more.

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