• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Critically assess the claim that religious language is meaningless.

Extracts from this document...


Critically assess the claim that religious language is meaningless. The verification principle is a key argument for whether religious language is meaningful or not. Verification means a sentence can only be meaningful if some sense experience e.g. see, touch, and hear can count in its favour. This principle aimed to distinguish between statements that were factually significant and those which were not factually significant. If a statement could be verified then it was significant, or meaningful, but if not it was meaningless. Since religious statements, such as, god loves you, could not meet this principle of verification, they could not, on this view, have a truth value and were therefore meaningless. The verification principle treats philosophy like a science and argues that a sentence can only be meaningful if some sense experience can count in its favour. On this basis most religious statements cannot be accepted because they refer to things beyond sense experience. Even if it was claimed that God is experienced by miracles that is not meaningful because it is the miracle that is experienced and not god. Ayer argues that the language we use in the material world is informative- it gives us information. ...read more.


Strong verification is when there is no doubt that a statement is meaningful, as it can be conclusively verified from our sense experience. Weak verification applies to those statements that could not be verified in practice, such as a scientific laws (for example, all metals expand when heated) or a general assumption (such as, all leopards have spots), such statements are still meaningful because we know what sense experience would count towards verifying them, experience renders them probable. Nevertheless, for logical positivists, to speak about anything over and above the physical world, is, they claim, ruled out by the verification principle. To talk about God existing may look on the face of it like a factual assertion but God cannot be seen, touched, or even smelt. When people talk about God doing this or that, what they in fact observe is not God it all, some physical occurrence or event involving human beings. A major strength of the verification principle is that we often use it in everyday life, if someone says its raining outside then we automatically use our senses to verify that statement. Also, on the face of it, logical positivism is right to point out that for many people talk about God can be puzzling. ...read more.


Similarly, you can argue that although statements such as ?there is life after death? and ?the bible is the word of God? cannot be verified they still have meaning for believers. They may not be able to prove them via the senses but the statements are still meaningful to them. Why should religious statements be treated like other statements? By their very nature religious statements are special because they refer to another sphere of existence, on this view the verification principle can only be meaningfully applied to material objects. John Hick has argued that religious statements can be verified eschatologically (at the end of time). God?s existence could be verified by each of us after we die and go to heaven. The verification principle argues that religious language is meaningless, however with all its weaknesses it is difficult to say that it can be applied to religious statements and suggests that religious language is in fact meaningful. But this is difficult to accept for non-believers as for them, a lot of religious statements cannot be verified and so are meaningless. Perhaps a better way to conclude whether religious language is meaningful or not is to approach it in the way that Wittgenstein does in that religious language is meaningful to believers but less so to non-believers. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Philosophy essays

  1. Religious language is meaningless, Discuss

    The first man who believes there had been a gardener believes there is a God whereas the man who believed there had been no gardener doesn't believe in God. There are several critics of the falsification principle. Richard Swinburne says religious statements are non cognitive, and there are statements we

  2. Religious language is meaningless. Discuss.

    Flew argued that any statement has meaning if the person making the claim accepts that there may be evidence to count against it. The statement is factual if it cannot be falsified using sense experience.

  1. "All Religious Language is meaningless"

    The verification principle was concerned with the distinction between sense and non sense, and how this affected meaning. For verificationists it is irrelevant whether a statement is true, the important factor lies in whether the statement is meaningful. In short the Verification principle stipulates that only assertions which could be

  2. How fair is the claim that religious language is meaningless?

    This theory gives no firm indication of what God actually is, as it only states what he is not, followers do not then get a clear picture of what God is, the Via Negativa only ever says what he is not.

  1. Deontology has many strengths but it is justifiable to reject it. Clarify and assess ...

    Kantian ethics replaces the idea of God with the idea of rationality. Firmly based in reason, the theory argues that we can derive moral laws from rational precepts. According to Kant, anyone who behaves immorally is also acting irrationally. Kant formulated the Categorical Imperative, which in many ways resembles the

  2. Ethical language is meaningless. Discuss.

    for people to have different opinions, so moving from a factual objective statement to an ethical statement does not work because it leaves an open question that cannot be answered. Therefore the ethical statements cannot be proved to be meaningful using ethical naturalism.

  1. Philosophers have proved conclusively that religious language is meaningful. Discuss

    model, qualify it, so that we realise that it?s not literally what God is like. To the statement ?God is good? we need to add the qualifier that God is ?infinitely good?. It gives greater depth into the thinking of God?s goodness until eventually there is better insight into God?s goodness.

  2. Discuss the study of Religious Language

    He also argued for strong and weak verification. He said that strong verification occurs when there is no doubt that a statement is true for example 2+2=4. A weak verification is occurs when there is no absolute certainty but a strong likelihood of truth for example Henry V won the battle of Agincourt.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work