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Flashcards in Religious Language Deck (33)
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3 issues raised with religious language

- if god is something different to us , how can we talk about him ?

- we don't know if the words we use accurately describe god as god is so different to anything we can experience



- a word that has exactly the same meaning at all times

- e.g. 'Boy'



- a word that can have two different meanings

- has to be the same spelling

- e.g. 'Cricket' meaning insect or sport



- language that can be true or false

- factual


Non cognitive

- a statement that is not subject to truth or falsity

- e.g. Emotions



- in philosophy, a statement that is worth talking about

- can be checked in some way


The Via Negativa

Speaking meaningfully about god by making negative statements about what god is not


What does Pseudo- Dionysius argued in favour of via negativa

- god is 'beyond assertion' . Beyond our ability to describe

- used via negativa as beloved that making positive statements about god results in an anthropomorphic god ( human like )

-e.g. To say that god is 'good' limits his goodness as it puts a human idea of goodness into our minds


What Moses Maimonides argue in favour of via negativa and what does Davies argue against him

- Maimonides argues that to make positive statements about god is disrespectful as it brings god down to our human level

-he uses example of via negativa to describe ship

- Davies argues that arriving at the 'right answer' is unlikely to lead people in the right direction. When we try to arrive at something by process of elimination , we need to know before we start what the different possibilities are so we know what alternatives are left.


What does Gregory of Nysa argue in favour of via negativa

- the spiritual life is a 'mysticism of darkness'

- the spiritual life begins in darkness but gradually you become enlightened through the biblical understanding of god


What does Meister Eckhart argue in favour of via negativa

- true knowledge of god only happens when you have left all human language and concepts behind

- this happens through an ineffable religious experience

- language about god is insufficient for understanding god and it hinders true knowledge

- the cataphatic way gets in the way of the true path to knowledge


Explain the cloud of knowledge argument in support of via negativa

- true knowledge of god require the person to forget everything they think they know about god

- whatever a person has picked up about god front the cataphatic way they have to leave behind

- this stops all of the concepts and images you have about god from misleading you


3 strengths of the via negative approach to talking about God

- doesn't use words univocally so doesn't anthropomorphise God

- isn't disrespectful. If we use human language to describe God then we our lowering him to our level

- Only the via negative adequately conveys the transcendence of God. counter argument = Swinburne wouldn't want a transcendent God as it doesn't allow interaction

- it supports the view of many thinkers, especially Mystics that God is beyond description and that experience of him is ineffable


5 weaknesses of the via negative approach to talking about God

- saying what God is not implies that he is the opposite - we can't talk about God in this way. We then anthropomorphise him so we are back to square one

- via negativa results in different conclusions about God. Davies criticism of Maimondies ship example

- is saying what God is not , meaningful ?

- not a true reflection of how religious people speak of God

- the method doesn't work for everyday objects, let alone God. Gives us a limited understand of him


what is the cataphatic way ?

using positive language to describe the qualities and nature of God


why may people prefer the cataphatic way ?

- it is the type of language seen in the bible to describe God

- it allows accurate conclusions about God to be draw as we don't have to make inferences or assumption like we have to with the apathetic way


what is Ignatius of Layola argument for the cataphatic way

- encouraged Christians to develop 'imaginative contemplation'

- the spiritual exercises he encouraged involved gospel stories of Jesus

- e.g. you imagine yourself as one of the people Jesus healed and you try to experience the feelings the person would have had. Eventually, you bring this sense of closeness into your everyday life and recognise that 'God is in all things'.

- to do this you have to have positive language / images of God


explain St.Francis argument for the cataphatic way

- believed that God could be known and experienced through the creation

- nature revealed the handiwork and glory of God

- all created things pointed beyond themselves to the wonder of God


what is a problem of using words univocally in the cataphatic way ?M

- everyone interprets words differently


background on Aquinas view on analogy and the cataphatic way

- rejects the via negativa

- recognises that human language is limited when trying to talk about God but believers want to say something about God.

- in support of the cataphatic way

- Aquinas rejects univocal as it anthropomorphises God

- Aquinas rejects equivocal because how would we know
what the term meant in relation to God

- believers do mean something when they say 'God is love' or 'God is just' . These words aren't univocal or equivocal but there is still enough understanding of these words to have knowledge of God


explain Aquinas analogy of proportion

- the words we use to describe a begun changes based on the proportion of the being we are explaining

- a term has different meanings depending on what's being described

- Baron Van Hugel's e.g. of 'faithfulness'. If we compare the faithfulness of a human compared to a dog then the dog's faithfulness is limited. If we compare our faithfulness to that of gods then ours seems limited.

- a term has different meanings depending on what's being described

- e.g. to say that your sister is a good guitarist is saying that she is good for her age. If you went to see a professional guitarist who played to your sisters standard then you would be disappointed.

- because God is a higher being we apply the term in a greater proportion. Term 'love' is the same but proportion of it differs


explain Aquinas analogy of attribution

-the qualities we ascribe to eachother are the qualities of God

- attributing what we see in the creation to God

- Aquinas e.g. if a bull's urine is healthy then they are heathy. The urine is a reflection of them

- weakness = of we attribute what we see to God then do we also do this with bad things? Also what do we chose to attribute to God.

- strengths = if God created us in the image of him then it would seem realistic that we can attribute are own qualities to God


what is Aquinas conclusion of analogy

- they allow something positive to be said about God

-the precise meanings of words cannot be known

- language used about God will always be limited because ultimately God is incomprehensible


3 strengths of Aquina's analogy

- seems to show that religious language can provide some understanding of god. It may avoid agnosticism and anthropomorphism

- uses positive language to describe god which is how religious people speak of god

- analogy of proportion shows transcendent god therefore protects anthropomorphising


2 weaknesses of Aquina's analogy

- assumes a similarity between god and humans

- counter = however if god is completely different to humans then it is difficult to see how words can be used in the same way

- duns scotus argued that analogy is too vague and leaves us unable to understand god and his actions



Points to something outside of itself



Participates in that to which it points and conveys a debt of meaning often at an emotional level


Explain Paul Tillich ideas on symbol

- religious language functions like an appreciation of the arts

- evokes emotions that aren't available in other ways

- symbols 'unlock something within our soul.. it expresses something about the ultimate '


Give an example to explain Tillich ideas on symbol

-' god is love ' this is symbolic not literal

- it is a sign of what god is but also participates in the reality of god

- 'both affirmed and negated by the reality of God ' because god really is love and because love is a human term which is inadequate to describe god


Why does Tillich use 'ground of being' instead of God

It is the only non symbolic statements that can be made about god