Is Religious Language Meaningful?

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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. Whilst tautologies are meaningful in that they are correct if thought about logically, they don’t tell us anything about the world which isn’t apparent, thus doesn’t lead to any new discoveries or a deepening of current knowledge.

The Verification Principle implies then that religious language is therefore meaningless as it is no verifiable by the senses, nobody has ever sensed could, although they can claim so, it is not empirically proven that God exists. When talking about language used to describe God one may argue that we know God to be all powerful because it is the definition of God, and we know this to be true. This argument would claim that it is a tautology and so it is meaningful, however this is would be a very weak argument which would be unable to stand up against theories opposing it.

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A.J. Ayer proposed what would late be known as the weak Verification Principle… In his book ‘Language, Truth and Logic’ he rejects metaphysics as meaningless; this could explain the enthusiasm to provide a less rigid theory which could possibly imply that religious language is meaningful. His form of the Verification Principle stated that for a statement to be meaningful it must either be a tautology or verifiable in principle. This differed greatly from the ideas of the Vienna Circle as he stipulated it was not necessary to conclusively prove something by direct observation. He suggested that in order for a ...

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