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

How fair is the claim that religious language is meaningless?

Extracts from this document...


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.


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.


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.

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. "All Religious Language is meaningless"

    Meaning and verification have often been linked by philosophers trying to analyse statements about God. In the beginning of the 20th century two streams of thought arose, the verificationists and following this, the falsificationist. These theories sum up the basic problems with making religious statements meaningful.

  2. Religious language is meaningless, Discuss

    One day, two people see that the garden has been cared for and the weeds have gone and been replaced with plants. One says a gardener must have come into the garden during the night when everybody was sleeping and cared for the weeds as they had now turned into plants.

  1. Religious language is meaningless. Discuss.

    This therefore shows that religious language can be accepted as meaningful, even through the verification principle's very own criteria and so rejects the statement. Also,it doesn't take into account factors which may prevent an individual from being able to verify a statement.

  2. "Religious Language is meaningless." Discuss.

    logical contradiction in holding the belief and if some allowance is made for human trust. The responses to logical positivism have been split into three categories: Capitulation (giving into the challenge), Accommodation (accommodating the challenge but trying to find the evidence against it)

  1. Examine the contributions that two of the following may make to a study of ...

    Tillich argues that symbols themselves are independent of empirical criticism "you cannot kill a symbol by criticism in terms of scientific and historical research". In this sense belief in god can only be expressed through the use of symbolic language, therefore it seems that symbolism opens up otherwise hidden levels of reality which would remain closed otherwise.

  2. Critically assess the claim that religious language is meaningless.

    Ayer argued that if God is transcendent we cannot apply the normal rules of language to religious statements therefore Ayer claimed that for religious statements to be meaningful, they should restrict themselves to material objects or statements describing verifiable aspects of the world.

  1. Evaluate the claim that corporate religious experience is no more than an illusion

    fact that religious experiences have a certain meaningfulness or significance because they come from such a deep-rooted and universal source, possibly God. One might also argue that God works through the mind, as he did when sending to the Bible writers? minds the content of the Holy Scriptures.

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

    ?you can now travel at the national speed limit?, they have no other effect. Symbols are powerful and they actually take part in the power and meaning of what they are symbolising. The cross is the symbol for Christianity. Not only is it a marker for that religion, but it also makes a powerful statement.

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