RE language - logical positivism and wittgenstein Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in RE language - logical positivism and wittgenstein Deck (40)
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• Univocal
o Using the same words in the same way
o E.g. the yellow submarine and the yellow banana
o Yellow used in same way

• Equivocal
o Using the same words in a different way
o E.g. the cricket bat vs. the bat (animal)
o Bat used in different way
• E.g. I love God and I love my mom
o Can grasp love for mum, cannot grasp love for God
o Gives God anthropomorphic characteristic – limits him (Aquinas – should use analogical language)
o Equivocal or univocal?



• Connotations
o When a word carries other associations, meaning beyond the literal sense
o Words can mean different things to different people, can sometimes convey unintended meanings e.g. window (literal window vs. finding space in busy time)
• Denotations
o When a word stands for something as a label for it
o Word has clear, literal meaning e.g. the word window = glass part of wall


scope of RE lang

• Metaphysical truth claims - e.g. God exists/Bible quotes
• Religious emotion - e.g. Psalms, calling for God to help
• Performative -‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. Doing something in the name of something else. (Depends on frame of reference for the word – does that mean it is meaningless?)
• Prescriptive – something that must be done e.g. ‘Thou shalt not kill’
• Dogma and concepts – e.g. The Eucharist, must talk about symbolism and context of the ritual. E.g. Logos – John’s Gospel, poetic and mysterious – how you explain them?
• Analogies and myths – E.g. The Creation Story and the Fall. Metaphorical interpretation of texts – have to explain correct meaning other than the literal.


problems with RE lang

• Problems with Religious Language
o Finite beings aim to describe something infinite
♣ How can finite humans describe a being that is infinite?
♣ If we call God all-loving does this mean he loves us in a human way on a greater scale or does it mean that his love is unlike our concepts of human love?
♣ If it’s different from our type of love then what type of love is it?
o Religious propositions are often paradoxical/contradictory
♣ E.g. The Trinity – God is 3 in 1
♣ Mathematically paradoxical, logical contradiction
♣ Could argue it is poetic, but what non-literal truth is there within this concept?
o Anthropomorphic portrayal of God
♣ E.g. God described in OT as ‘walking in garden’ – literally walking? Does he thus have legs? Or is God transcendent?
o God as beyond human experience
♣ No human observation of soul etc.
♣ Can observe effects of electrons, whereas God in essence is unobservable
♣ Some state anything beyond empirical verification is meaningless – thus God is meaningless. John is kind can be understood, God is kind is difficult to understand.
o Religious language describes peculiar things e.g. prayer


cognitivism - explanation

• Cognitivism/Linguistic Realism

Factual assertions that can be proved true or false, or are treated as if they can be proven or disproven

o ‘Reality is separate from our language and our language stretches out to a reality that is external to us, and tries to express it accurately’ (Vardy explaining)
o E.g. There are lots of milkman in the room – must be true/false, applies to reality and thus is meaningful.
o Wittgenstein thought explained by Russell
♣ The world consists of independent atomic facts – existing states of affairs – out of which larger facts are built
♣ Language consists of atomic, and then larger-scale propositions that correspond to these facts by sharing the same ‘logical form’
♣ Thought, expressed in language, ‘pictures’ these facts (Wittgenstein’s picture theory – language acts like a picture of some reality in the world, for which it is a direct description. Influential in the development of Logical Positivism)
• Proposition 7 of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: ‘whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent’
♣ H, Wittgenstein later developed his language-game theory of language, which takes a much more non-cognitivist approach


cognitivism - RE linguistic cognitivist

o Religious Linguistic Cognitivist
♣ Maintain that statements like ‘God is love’ had factual meaning in reality and that language served as a picture/indicator for that meaning.
♣ H, perhaps only possible with true by definition/empirically verifiable statements, and that it is in fact meaningless when applied to metaphysical propositions?



Cannot be proven true or false. Claims or observations that can be interpreted in another way eg. Non literal modes of expression

o Language can be meaningful even if it doesn’t refer to some external reality/cannot be empirically verified.
o All place focus on understanding language within its context rather than referring to existing truth external to language
o E.g. could focus on communities ‘inventing’ the meanings of language, rather than language meaning being fixed. Or it could explain that language only makes sense within context, no meaning outside of it


non-cognitivism example

o Can refer to Wittgenstein’s theory of ‘language games’ as an example of non-cognitivist understanding of language:
♣ Language has meaning based on its normal usage in context
♣ Can only be understood by those who play the ‘language game’ i.e. within that context
♣ Religious language thus does have meaning, but only for those within the language game


logical positivism - context

♣ Pre-WW1 Philosophy was dominated by G. W. F. Hegel. He argued that all reality is one, a universe in which everything ultimately forms part of a spiritual reality
♣ ‘The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom’
♣ This was an attempt to state what the universe was like, many believed this was the role science
♣ Hegelian thought introduced by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, influence can be seen in work of H. G. Wells
♣ WW1 had a significant effect on Hegelian thought: could not believe in inevitable progress


influence on Vienna circle

o Wittgenstein:
♣ Wanted to establish the limits of human knowledge/imagination, where line could be drawn with regards to what people could know/understand.
o August Comte
♣ Comte believed there was a ‘theological era’ which had been replaced by the ‘metaphysical era’, when concepts from philosophy replaced God as a filler for gaps left by science
♣ Also said there was the ‘positivist’ age: only useful form of evidence was empirical and could be scientifically tested
o David Hume (sceptic empiricist)
♣ In ‘Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding’ Hume argued that since RE statements contain neither experimental reasoning concerning facts nor statements about the relations of ideas they should be ‘committed to the flames’ as they are ‘nothing but sophistry and illusion’


Vienna circle

o Group of philosophers who met after WW1.
♣ Led by Moritz Schlick
♣ Met regularly to discuss issues arising in logic, maths, social sciences and philosophy
♣ Developed a theory of meaning centred on empiricism in an attempt to apply to empirical rigour of the scientific method to all philosophical discourse
♣ Cognitivist use of language (realist, empirically verifiable)


logical positivism general

o Main argument of logical positivism was that statements are only meaningful if they are:
♣ Analytic – true by definition, tautologies
• E.g. a rug is a floor covering
• Also includes tautologies (statements that say the same thing twice e.g. ice is icy)
• Also include mathematical statements
• Simply define, do not give extra info
♣ Synthetic – give information that go beyond just definition
• E.g. Rebecca is allergic to nuts: ‘allergy to nuts’ is not part of the definition of ‘Rebecca’, additional piece of info
• In order to be meaningful, synthetic statements must be verifiable using empirical evidence e.g. can test if Rebecca is allergic to nuts


verification principle

o Verification principle: if a statement is not analytic/empirically verifiable, it says nothing about reality and so is meaningless e.g. There is a God
♣ Follows David Hume: if a statement does not include experimental/abstract reasoning (like in maths), it says nothing at all.
♣ Anything metaphysical is thus meaningless e.g. Eleanor is in love


ayer general

- (Book = ‘Language, Truth and Logic’)
o If a statement is not logical (analytic) or positively observed by the senses (synthetic) it is meaningless
o Sometimes we make meaningless statements appear meaningful
♣ Usually moral/religious statement e.g. There is a God
o Argued for a form of weak verificationism: things open to sense experience in principle can still be meaningfully spoken of
♣ Some statements are verifiable in principle e.g. Pluto is made of cheese. will only know when someone goes to Pluto so verifying it is not impossible.


ayer and RE lang

statements can be verified in principle but this still makes RE language meaningless…
• ‘The notion of a person whose essential attributes are non-empirical is not an intelligible notion at all’
• ‘If the existence of a god were probable, then the proposition that he existed would be an empirical hypothesis’
• ‘To say that God exists is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false. And by the same criterion, no sentence which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent god can possess any literal significance’
• Refutes religious experience: ‘the fact that he cannot reveal what he ‘knows’, or even himself devise an empirical test to validate his ‘knowledge’, shows that his state of mystical intuition is not a genuinely cognitive state’


positives of logical positivism, waismann

o ‘Anyone uttering a sentence must know under what conditions he calls it true, and under what conditions he calls it false. If he is unable to state these conditions, he does not know what he has said. A statement which cannot be conclusively verified cannot be verified at all. It is simply devoid of meaning’ – Friedrich Waismann


positives of logical positivism, carnap

o Carnap: Takes the word God. ‘The word is deliberately divested of its reference to a physical being or to a spiritual being that is immanent in the physical. And as it is not given a new meaning, it becomes meaningless’


criticisms of logical positivism, hick

o Believes RE propositions can be empirically verified due to his belief in eschatological verification.
o Cannot falsify God’s existence as if he doesn’t exist, nothing will happen after death; God is verifiable in principle (which Ayer said was sufficient in making something meaningful)
o Hick puts forward the Parable of the Celestial City:
♣ Two men travelling down same (and only) road, which one of them believes will lead them to the Celestial city
♣ Man who believes in CC views journey as pilgrimage, man who doesn’t views journey as unavoidable and pointless
♣ ‘When they turn the last corner it will be apparent that one of them has been right all the time and the other wrong. Only then will the truth be known’


criticisms of logical positivism, Braithwaite

o Agrees with aspects of verification principle, but maintains we can use language in a non-cognitive way (e.g. literature)
o Language can be meaningful in its contexts e.g. RE language can express the moral meaning of a parable even if it contains no empirically verifiable truth
o Uses Wittgenstein’s language game


criticisms of logical positivism, hughes

- Hughes argued God could empirically verify Godself, so God was verifiable in principle and thus fits Ayer’s requirements.


criticisms of logical positivism, plantinga

- Plantinga
o VP seems to classify all propositions as meaningless or all as meaningful e.g. science vs. belief in magic
o Rules out moral statements/historical claims as meaningless as well as all aesthetics e.g. beauty
o Seems at odds with how humans see the world and how we use language


criticisms of logical positivism, jackson

- Roy Jackson argues against Ayer’s early work, claiming that ‘in what respect does the statement “there are atoms” differ from “God watches over me”? Both are very difficult to verify in the strong sense (have you ever seen an atom?), but could be verified in the weaker sense’


criticisms of logical positivism, flew

- Anthony Flew would argue that a statement is presumed to be true until falsified. E.g. Jackson uses the examples of the scientific statement ‘the sun will rise tomorrow’. Can be proven to be false but the statement is still meaningful.


criticisms of logical positivism, hare

- Richard Hare argued that religious language could still have meaning without being factual. Although not falsifiable, it still has significance.


criticisms of logical positivism, general

- The verification principle arguably cannot stand up to its own scrutiny: principle cannot be empirically verified to be true and so is not an analytic statement = meaningless


wittgenstein, stage 1

1. Stage 1: if you can’t see it, you can’t say it. Should only talk about language which you can conceptualise
♣ W advocated the idea that the theory of language is about ‘creating participation’ rather than ‘illustrating information’
o Developed picture theory:
♣ Words are pictures which clearly show some aspect of reality
♣ E.g. the word that refers to an actual existing hat
♣ E.g. Flying Spaghetti Monster: word refers to something that does not exist in reality, cannot be meaningful as no word can ‘picture’ the non-existent FSM
o Influential on development of Logical Positivism: language should only reflect the empirically verifiable
♣ W: ‘whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent’


wittgenstein, stage 2 - philosophical investigations general

♣ Re-examined picture theory, noted how metaphysics can be meaningfully used in language e.g. optical illusions
♣ W was now more interested in the way language worked and was used, rather than the notion of words having a specific reality-reflecting meaning: ‘don’t ask for the meaning, ask for the use’
♣ See language differently depending on who we are with = ‘language game’
♣ E.g. check, castle, goal: do not have inherent meaning, meaning is determined by the community and the type of use. Can lose complete meaning if applied in different game
♣ Game = not trivial but rather a part of an activity in which it is necessary to participate in order to know the meanings of language in its particular uses
♣ Rules of language game must be learnt, can take a while
♣ Gave the example of driving a train: don’t know how to drive it unless we learn. Begin to learn which pedals are very/less important etc.


wittgenstein, stage 2 - similarities between languages and games

♣ Similarities between languages and games
• No single word or game has one particular meaning
• There are many different games with different rules, have to learn to play. Same with multiple meanings of words
• Games involve participation, speaking a language involves participation in an activity. Being understood/understanding requires a knowledge of the game’s rules
• Games are not real. Meaningful discourse is determined by language users
• Making a wrong move is like using a word wrongly
• You can’t do that = you can’t say that


wittgenstein, stage 2 - philosophical problems

♣ Philosophical problems arise when ‘language goes on holiday’
• E.g. the word soul. Cannot imagine it as a physical object as this would be applying the rules from the physical objects language game to the religious metaphysics’ game. BUT, does have meaning within its own language game, not meaningless because it is metaphysical


wittgenstein developments, donavan

Peter Donavan:
♣ Context is important, without context there can be confusion e.g. can misunderstand Bible without knowledge of context
♣ Can be a clash between Religions, each playing own game
♣ Phrases have different meanings across Res e.g. Jesus is Messiah (Jewish vs. Xian)
♣ Not meaningless, just different understanding