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How fair is the claim that religious language is meaningless?

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Introduction

How fair is the claim that religious language is meaningless? (35) How do Christians decide what is meaningless and what statements in Religion have meaning? Different beliefs think that different things are classed as meaningful and meaningless, so how is it possible to make statements classed fairly as meaningless or meaningful? To answer these questions four different scholars came up with theory's to prove when something is meaningful and when it is not. These theories are called the Via Negativa, the Verification Principle, the Falsification Principle and Ludwig's Language Games and they all have different ways to decide when a statement has meaning and should be used in Religious Language. The Via Negativa, also known as the apophatic way, says it is impossible to speak about what God is, so instead says Religion should describe God as what he is not. It involves speaking in negative terms when describing God, instead of using positive terms such as 'God is father' and imagining him to be human, rather than something greater than everything. Pseudo-Dionysius argued that the Via Negativa is the only way to talk truthfully and meaningfully about God. ...read more.

Middle

There are many criticisms of the Verification Principle, mostly related to how the theory itself does not pass the test as being meaningful; it cannot be used to verify itself. The theory cannot be verified through our senses, so it is not a meaningful synthetic statement, and if it is analytical it then gives a new sense to the word meaningful, which we do not necessarily have to accept. Also, this theory is useful for equivocal language; people will interpret different words in different ways. This means using the Verification Principle may lead to contradictions, therefore not achieving the goal of declaring a statement meaningful or meaningless. The Falsification Princle, produced by Antony Flew, is similar to the Verification Principle, however he states that statements are only meaningful if you can prove an alternative to them is false. Flew says for something to have meaning the opposite and all alternatives to the statement said must be wrong. E.g. 'I am standing on a mountain' means you are not sailing on a river, or riding a bike. If you test and find each alternative statement to be wrong, it means your initial statement of 'I'm sating on a mountain' is infact true, as a result, then making it meaningful. ...read more.

Conclusion

What Ludwig was saying is language only has meaning in specific context, taken out of one context and put into a different one, may make the meaning change. So in relation to Religion, statements can only be meaningful if in context of that particular religion. According to Ludwig if the same language is used in many religions, it would not always mean the same thing, therefore making it untrue and meaningless. The philosopher D. Z. Phillips argued against Ludwig's approach, saying that religious language was just a way of defining the rules of a game. For example in a religious experience, it has to be seen within the context of religion before it is judged. In most cases everyone understands what language is being used as it is the same in all contexts, in any religion. This then eliminated Ludwig's theory as he stated that people will not understand religious language as the contexts are always changing. To conclude, there have been a variety of theories produced to try and decide fairly what language in religion is meaningful or meaningless. Each of the theories attempts to fairly show what is meaningful however they all have criticisms and faults making them uncertain to use in some cases to understand what is meaningful in religious language. ...read more.

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