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Is Religious Language Meaningful?

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Introduction

´╗┐Is Religious Language Meaningful? Many philosophers past and present have tried to analyse language to determine whether or not language has meaning. The topic of religious language caught the interest of philosophers around the world. Early analysis of language came from the Vienna Circle, was a group of philosophers including Schlich and Neurath who gave rise to the logical positivist movement. Logical Positivism being the movement in philosophy that believed that the aim of philosophy should be analysis of language, especially the language of science. From the Vienna Circle came the theory which suggested that opposed religious language having any meaning, this was the Verification Principle. This stated that statements are only meaningful if they can be verified by the senses. They believed that statements only held meaning if they were empirically based, thus regarded mathematic statements as holding a lot of meaning, as all would agree 5 plus 5 equals 10 and this is empirically verifiable and true. The Verification Principle was developed and it was claimed that a statement could be meaningful if it was a tautology, something we know to be true by definition, for instance ?all squares have four sides. ...read more.

Middle

The falsification principle came about thereafter the Verification Principle. It looked at religious language from a new angle though. Karl Popper was prolific for his role in the Falsification Principle, he asserted that any theory that cannot be disproved is not valid. Therefore because we cannot disprove any of the statements used to talk about and describe God, it is meaningless. Anthony Flew although he did not openly say that religious language is meaningless, his work leads many to believe that he did regard it as meaningless. He argued that religious language could not be falsified and therefore isn?t a genuine statement. He asked what would have to happen to disprove the existence of God. He used an analogy of an invisible gardener who tends to a garden who is unseen and cannot be trapped. But there is no way of disproving it existence because the statements used to describe him don?t allow it. Flew argued this was the same for religious believers as they ?move the goalposts? in religious language by making great claims about God which allow flexibility to get around any problem that God faces but this doesn?t mean it is true. ...read more.

Conclusion

You could argue the same is true to different types of statements for instance mathematics or quantum physics, some people might not understand quantum physics or the reasoning behind it thus it holds no meaning for them. However, just because you don?t understand or use religious language doesn?t mean that it isn?t meaningful. Some philosophers argue that religious statements are analogical and so they cannot be proved or disproved. They are simply metaphors, because any attempt to use precise language would only be anthropomorphising God. Therefore the verification principle doesn?t render religious language meaningless. The Verification Principle is a challenge to religious language and its meaningfulness but not deadening as first thought. As it suggests that sense based verification is the oonly means of assessing meaningfulness, a reductionist viewpoint at best, but because there could be other ways of verifying religious language, such as Hick?s eschatological verification, religious language is not meaningless. Some may argue that religious language is meaningful dependent on the individual and their own beliefs. Due to its lack of empirical background it is a stretch to say it would have meaning for atheists, but it certainly has meaning for those who already have faith. ...read more.

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