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God Talk Is Evidently Nonsense Essay Generator

Should all talk of God be dismissed as he can neither be proved nor is he probable, & there is no empirical hypothesis which can be formned? There are claims such things may be soemthing else, E.g:

  • There is an equivocal use of religious terms, such as 'exists', which has meaning - just not the same meaning as when people a material entity exists
  • R.M. Hare may say say it is a 'blik' - something which helps to clarify the world for one who believes in it
  • R.B. Braithwaite might see it as a story, which is not true but serves to influence a religious person in a moral way
  • Aquinas  also may argue that an anological use of religious terms exist - which has meaning - but although it is analogous to what we mean in human terms, it goes beyond this
  • Tillich might suggest 'exist' has symbolic meaning & points to a concept which may not actually have objective existence
  • Wittgenstein would say it is all part of a language game, which can only be understood by those already in the 'religious game', & should not be criticised by those not in it (like the LPs)

Presentation on theme: "IMPLICATIONS Intro 1 The 3 texts are by Ayer, Donovan & Westphal."— Presentation transcript:

1 IMPLICATIONS Intro 1 The 3 texts are by Ayer, Donovan & Westphal.
Ayer’s is the shortest – a mere 8 paragraphs.Donovan is the longest with 68 paragraphs (albeit they are a lot shorter that Ayer’s).Overall Donovan is 3.5 times longer than Ayer.Westphal is between the other 2.Westphal has 30 paragraphs of a similar length to Donovan and it is about half the overall length of Donavan and twice the length of Ayer.

2 IMPLICATIONS Intro 2Last summer the text was Ayer and in 2012 it was Donovan. In 2011, it was Westphal and in 2010, it was Donovan again. In 2009, the text was Westphal and in (the 1st year of the Implications exam) it was Ayer.Ayer’s 8 paragraphs are fairly repetitive. They all push the same theme that non-empirical language is meaningless.Because Ayer writes the piece himself and it is primarily about Ayer’s own theory (the modified verification Principle) it tends to be rather one-sided but this makes it a fairly straightforward matter to write about and analyse, provided you are conversant with the Religious Language module.

3 IMPLICATIONS Intro 3 Donovan also follows a fairly steady theme:
That is “Can God be known by Experience?”But the text is divided up into different categories.This is because Donovan is not writing about himself. He is overseeing the argument and he tends to come down between the extremes of those who say we can know God and those who say we cannot by experience.Donovan believes you need a little more than a basic intuitive experience.

4 IMPLICATIONS Intro 4Westphal’s text is different to the others as it is a progression rather than a fixed theme.It seems little more than a History of Philosophy over the last few centuries and the turning point of the Enlightenment.It is a bit more difficult to analyse than the others as it is not really about opinions.

5 IMPLICATIONS Intro 5 (Links 1)
One of the main differences of A2 Religious Studies over AS is the links you are supposed to draw between the modules.The exam that Implications replaced in used to be called the synoptic paper.Up to 2007 BWS and SWGS ran a combined course where we had to link New Testament Studies and Philosophy on the theme of Miracles.

6 IMPLICATIONS Intro 6 (Links 2)
Since the introduction of the Implications paper in 2008 the links are not so explicit and you sometimes struggle to get them in.You do not have to link to every AS and A2 Philosophy and Ethics topic, but you have to do enough to show that you understand the topic and where it fits into the philosophical themes of the 3 different Implications texts.

7 IMPLICATIONS Intro 7 (Links 3) Ayer
The most obvious links to Ayer’s text is Religious Language and then a pretty close second comes Religious Experience (as language is the expression of an experience).Atheism is pretty high on the list as Ayer’s 2nd paragraph is concerned with this.Even though Ayer is anti atheism, he is not a believer and would prefer the title non-theist.Life after Death can be accounted for when you use Hick’s eschatological argument.

8 IMPLICATIONS Intro 8 (Links 4) Ayer
If you are using the A Priori / A Posteriori split, you can bring in the Design and Cosmological arguments as an example of A Posteriori and the Ontological argument as an example of A Priori.This just leaves Miracles (part of Experience – use it as an exemplar) and Evil and Suffering (the main reason the fellow empiricist, Hume, gave to deny the theistic God) in order to complete the Philosophy links.By far the most important Ethical link is Ayer’s Emotivism (Yah/Boo) theory, but you can also link to G E Moore and other ethical theories.

9 IMPLICATIONS Intro 9 (Links 5) Donovan
The most obvious links to Donovan’s text are similar to Ayer’s links – obviously Religious Experience and religious Language go without saying but you must explicitly state the links(e.g. This links to William James 4 categories of Mystical Experience. ………..)Atheism links quite well with empiricists like Russell casting doubts on the truth of Religious Experiences.Life after Death can be linked by the whole concept of knowing God and knowing one’s destination at death.The sheer subjectivity of Experience links to the Ontological argument which Russell again attacked.

10 IMPLICATIONS Intro 10 (Links 6) Donovan
Donovan links to the AS modules in a similar way that Ayer does.The Design and Cosmological argument shows the a posteriori (evidence based arguments) which are fairly weak as they are inductive – one has to interpret ones experience in light of one’s beliefs.Miracles are linked here with the whole idea of wishful thinking – people want to experience a miracle.Evil and Suffering ties in well with experience as we all suffer during our lives but we provide theodicies to justify the theistic God.

11 IMPLICATIONS Intro 11 (Links 7) Westphal
It is a bit more difficult to link Westphal to the other modules than the other two texts but it can be done.The most obvious links are with the Atheism modules which include a variety of non theistic belief (Kant was a deist & Hume was probably an atheist or agnostic at best).It links to the Cosmological, Design and Ontological arguments as these are the ones that Kant and Hume systematically destroyed.It links to Experience in the form of Schleirmacher’s intense subjectivity (he calls it feeling rather than intuition but it is pretty close to Owen’s Intuition)(again you can use Miracles as an exemplar)

12 IMPLICATIONS Intro 12 (Links 8) Westphal
It links to Life after Death in the form of Kant’s Moral argument (which also gives an Ethical link).Links to religious Language permeate throughout Wesphal’s text but they are usually implicit rather than explicit, but the best example is in M7 when discussing Hegel‘s antipathy to the change to Philosophy of Religion from Philosophical Theology.Evil and suffering are explicitly linked in M14 where Augustine and Pelagius (a 5th century Irenaeus type figure who unfortunately lived post Constantine).

13 IMPLICATIONS Intro 13 (Links 9) Breadth
We have accounted for the links to the philosophical modules and at least one Ethical linkBut examiners also like to see you put these texts in a broader context.They would like you to show that you do not do philosophy in isolation and you can link it to the outside world.Obviously some subjects are easier to link to than other.

14 IMPLICATIONS Intro 14 (Links 10) Breadth
History is probably the easiest link.All three texts have historical qualities – Ayer and the Logical Positivists were writing mainly between the two world wars.A similar time frame is being written about by Donovan.Westphal sets most of his action in the Enlightenment period, especially the late 18th century when Europe was on the brink of change between an Agrarian society & an Industrial one.

15 IMPLICATIONS Intro 15 (Links 11) Breadth
Many other subjects can be linked such as science (particularly the Enlightenment context of Westphal).Politics comes in to all the texts in some form.English obviously comes in to the Ayer text but can be linked via language to the other ones.Other subjects might have some tenuous links but don’t force them. It is better to get the most important philosophical links and any more are a bonus.Don’t lose sight of the explanation and clarification by swamping your essay with too many links.Try to keep all links down to a single sentence if possible.

16 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 1 - 1st Para
ContextFirst paragraph of the section, setting the scene for Ayer’s argument against the possibility of meaningful ‘God-talk’. It establishes Ayer’s key claim that metaphysical statements cannot be true or false, and so cannot be meaningful. Ayer then goes on to contrast this position with more typical forms of atheism and agnosticism, and elaborates how ideas and so-called experiences of God are unintelligible.

17 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 2 – 1st Para
Argument / InterpretationSome points to consider:Philosophers are generally agreed that God cannot be demonstratively proved: true / false? Which philosophers, and why? This connects with atheism / unbelief topic.If the existence of God were probable, the claim that he exists would be an empirical hypothesis (based on sense perception). Do such beliefs have to be empirically verifiable? This connects with religious language topic: verification principle. Have theists regarded God as empirically verifiable? (Design argument, religious experience)

18 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 3 – 1st Para
Argument / InterpretationSome points to consider:The claim that God is apparent in the regularity of nature tells us nothing more than that the requisite regularity is present in nature, and does not really tell us about God himself. This connects with the design argument from AS. Ayer’s view fits with criticisms of that argument: it’s a bad analogy (Hume) and has been displaced by evolution (Dawkins). Perhaps there can be no knowledge of what is beyond the natural? Consider the counter-arguments.

19 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 4 – 1st Para
Argument / InterpretationSome points to consider:God is a transcendent being who might be known but could not be defined through empirical manifestations. This connects with religious language and religious experience topics (A2) and design argument (AS). Explain ‘transcendent being’: fair description of God? How might God be known through empirical manifestations? Is it impossible for God to be fully known (defined) through empirical manifestations? (Hick on verification).

20 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 5 – 1st Para
Argument / InterpretationSome points to consider:A metaphysical utterance cannot be true or false. Verification principle, cognitive / non-cognitive language, connecting with religious language topic. Consider logical positivism and Ayer’s view on verification. Compare / contrast with atheism / unbelief topic. What are the implications of dismissing metaphysical claims? Key terms you must deal with: proof, empirical hypothesis, transcendent, metaphysical.

21 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 6 – 1st Para
Secondary PointsAlthough the main focus is on religious language, Ayer also raises:- The design argument for God’s existence- AtheismAlso, by implication (talking about ‘manifestations’), we might say that religious experience is relevant to what Ayer is saying.ContributionHere Ayer makes a major contribution to the debate surrounding religious language. He takes a very firm approach, based on the verification principle. Ayer’s views may be contrasted with those of other philosophers in the religious language topic.

22 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 7 – 1st Para
Evaluation – Part (b)This will depend on your own personal perspective, but you would have to address the following issues:- Is Ayer right about metaphysical claims being unverifiable and meaningless?- What are the key strengths / weaknesses of Ayer’s verificationist position?- Are there any decent alternatives to what Ayer is saying?- Is Ayer’s understanding of God adequate?- What are the implications of saying that God’s existence is not even probable?- What are the implications of saying that metaphysical terms are meaningless?You would also have to discuss further the implications of these views for religion and human experience

23 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 8 – 2nd Para
ContextThis second paragraph develops Ayer’s claim that God-talk is meaningless and that God’s existence is not even probable. Here, Ayer demonstrates the implications of his view for atheism and agnosticism. These perspectives are misguided, because they assume that religious language is meaningful. In the next paragraph, Ayer will move on to consider and dismiss the possibility of a non- empirical or super-empirical God.

24 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 9 – 2nd Para
Argument / InterpretationSome points to consider:It is characteristic for an atheist to hold it to be at least probable that God does not exist. Which examples could we give? Perhaps consider David Hume. Make connections with A2 topic unbelief and atheism.The atheist’s assertion that there is no God is equally nonsensical as the claim that God exists. Here, Ayer must have in mind his verification principle – the statement could not be demonstrated either analytically or synthetically. This connects with A2 religious language topic. How do you think that someone like Richard Dawkins would respond to this claim?

25 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 10 – 2nd Para
Argument / InterpretationSome points to consider:The statement that ‘there is a transcendent God’ does not express a proposition at all. There is some controversy over this claim – mystics might claim to have experienced the transcendent God. This connects with the A2 topic religious experience. Can God in principle be verified? Perhaps consider John Hick’s arguments regarding verification, that religious claims in principle might be verifiable.Key terms you must deal with: atheists, agnostics, nonsensical assertion, transcendent God.

26 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 11 – 2nd Para
Secondary PointsThe passage is primarily concerned with unbelief and religious language. Some secondary points you might briefly raise are:How theistic argument might contradict what Ayer is saying (e.g. the design argument (AS topic). Perhaps it makes sense to ask whether God exists.Perhaps also consider falsification (Anthony Flew). Can the claim that ‘God does not exist’ be falsified?ContributionHere Ayer makes a significant contribution to the debates surrounding atheism and agnosticism, by provocatively claiming that disbelief in God is just as meaningless as belief in God. His views can be contrasted with more familiar forms of atheism.

27 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 12 – 2nd Para
Evaluation – Part (b)Address the following issues:Is what Ayer is suggesting just a different form of atheism?Are atheist statements really nonsensical? How would someone like Richard Dawkins explain atheism instead? What role would science play in this?Evaluate verification: is it of any use for understanding atheism?What are the implications of saying that atheism is just as meaningless as theism? Should we forget about the God debate?What are the implications of putting verification into practice?

28 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 13 – 3rd Para
ContextIn this third paragraph, Ayer continues his argument that God-talk is nonsense. Having suggested that atheism and agnosticism are concerned with a meaningless problem (paragraph B), he now argues that a non-empirical personal God is devoid of meaning. Ayer will then go on to relate this argument to views which theists themselves hold and claims about their experience.

29 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 14 – 3rd Para
Argument / InterpretationSome points to consider:“Cases where deities are identified with natural objects” refers to the desire of some atheists to give naturalistic accounts of religion (e.g. Freud). This connects with atheism / unbelief topic in A2. Ayer allows that this kind of nature worship might mean something but points out that modern believers have tried to go beyond it. Is Ayer right that this less sophisticated but more empirical approach to religion might have more meaning?

30 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 15 – 3rd Para
Argument / InterpretationSome points to consider:But could God be known indirectly through natural processes (like a thunder storm)? This view might be reflected in some forms of the design argument (AS topic), particularly Swinburne’s argument from beauty. Is it foolish to claim that a thunder storm might indirectly reflect upon the power and beauty of God’s work? Ayer suggests that a God ‘beyond’ such experiences would not make sense, but others would disagree.

31 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 16 – 3rd Para
Argument / InterpretationSome points to consider:The idea of a God with non-empirical attributes makes no sense. This is because of Ayer’s verification principle – the need for scientific testing. However, theists may point to the idea of perfection, which cannot in the case of God be known simply or empirically. This is the case with the ontological argument for God (A2 topic); God is the greatest thing we can conceive, rather than experience. Is this really nonsense?The idea of a non-empirical God could never be verified. Again, this ties to the A2 religious language topic. Explain verification principle and logical positivism. Is Ayer right?Key terms you must deal with: super-empirical attributes, empirically verifiable, transcendent object.

32 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 17 – 3rd Para
Secondary PointsThis passage is concerned with the idea that a non-empirical God is meaningless. However, Ayer touches on some secondary points:Naturalistic accounts of religion (“identified with natural objects”), such as that given by Freud. Is the ‘basic’ form of religion just a projection of the human mind onto the world around?“Awe of natural process” in modern times is often reflected in the Design Argument for God.ContributionHere Ayer attacks a key basis of theism – the idea that God could exist despite not being directly observable. The whole idea of non-empirical qualities is discarded as nonsense. This is important, because there are many things in our lives which are non-empirical.

33 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 18 – 3rd Para
Evaluation – Part (b)Address the following issues:Is a non-empirical God really less meaningful than, say, simple nature worship?Is it possible to make a logical case for a God beyond our experiences?Is the verification principle really able to demonstrate that the idea of a non-empirical God is meaningless?What are the implications of seeing non-empirical matters as meaningless?What are the implications of discarding God?

34 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 19 – 4th Para
Context This short paragraph simply clarifies Ayer’s aims. He is interested in religious language, rather than the history or future of religion. It links his criticism of religious truth claims in the first three paragraphs to the rest of his discussion of theism.Argument / InterpretationConsider:“Causes of religious feelings” – again this may tie to naturalistic accounts of faith, such as those of Freud. Contrast Ayer with Freud, since Ayer is only concern with language, not psychology. This makes a good tie with atheism / unbelief (A2).“Possibility of religious knowledge” – i.e. all that Ayer cares about is how religious language cannot be verified. This connects with the A2 topic of religious language.Key terms to deal with: Causes of religious feeling, transcendent truth.

35 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 20 – 4th Para
Secondary PointsAyer does not get involved in the discussion of the causes of religious feelings, but he alludes to the fact that this debate is happening (see above).ContributionAyer’s contribution has nothing to do with the explanation of religion, only with the argument that it does not mean anything.Evaluation – Part (b)Consider:Is Ayer correct to ignore the causes of religious feelings? Surely, if religious language is nonsense, Ayer should be able to explain why such nonsensical language came to be used.Evaluate verification principle: “possibility of religious knowledge”.What are the implications of seeing religious language as meaningless?

36 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 21 – 5th Para
ContextHaving set out his main argument (in the first four paragraphs) that religious language is meaningless, Ayer here attempts to show that his views connect with the claims of theists (people who believe in God). He will then give further consideration to the claims of mystics in the next paragraph.Argument / InterpretationPoints to consider:Theists believe that “God is a mystery which transcends human understanding”. Which theists? This connects with two A2 topics: religious experience and religious language. You should be able to explain mysticism. You should also explain what non-literal accounts of religious language (analogy, symbol) have to say about this.

37 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 22 – 5th Para
Argument / InterpretationPoints to consider:“What is unintelligible cannot be significantly described” – this takes us back to A2 religious language and verification. Ayer decides what is intelligible (or not) by applying the verification principle. Explain this and the logical positivists. Consider alternate perspectives such as Hick or Swinburne.The object of “purely mystical intuition” cannot be intelligible to reason. This needs to be discussed in light of A2 religious experience. How have some philosophers assessed mystical experiences? Might Swinburne have something to say in defence of mystics, against Ayer?Key terms you must consider: theists, ‘transcends the human understanding’, ‘mystical intuition’, ‘impossible to define God in intelligible terms’.

38 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 23 – 5th Para
Secondary PointsThe main thrust deals with the inability of theists to give meaningful description to God. However, Ayer also touches upon:The question of whether God is known through reason or faith.Mysticism – a form of religious experienceContributionAyer is advancing a fairly bold and original argument, that theists themselves really believe that God is meaningless. He justifies this by observing that theists readily admit that God cannot be fully described.

39 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 24 – 5th Para
Evaluation – Part (b)Consider:- Is Ayer correct in his claim that God cannot be defined or described?- Are mystics really “bound to talk nonsense”?- Could we account for religious experience in any other way?- What would the implications be for ignoring religious experiences?- What are the implications of seeing God as indefinite, un-provable?

40 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 25 – 6th Para
ContextHaving discussed how common theistic attitudes connect with his argument about meaning in religious language, Ayer now looks at mysticism specifically. The view that God cannot be described suggests that God is unintelligible.Argument / InterpretationPoints to consider:Mystics claim to know through intuition. This ties directly to A2 religious experience. You should be able to explain what mysticism is and consider why Ayer views it as he does. Gives examples. Do they have no way of expressing what they experience?

41 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 26 – 6th Para
Argument / InterpretationPoints to consider:Mysticism is not a “cognitive state”. This links with A2 religious language: distinguish cognitive and non-cognitive language. Why does Ayer think that mysticism is non-cognitive? Verification. Why might some theists claim that mysticism is cognitive?A ‘real’ experience could be tested empirically – this is the verification principle pure and simple.

42 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 27 – 6th Para
Argument / InterpretationThe mystic “merely gives us indirect information about the condition of his own mind”. A2 religious experience. What other critics of religious experience have said something similar? On what grounds might someone dispute this? Tests for authenticity – Swinburne: how would these tests contradict what Ayer is saying?Key terms you must consider: mystic, intuition, cognitive faculty, intelligible propositions, empirically determined.

43 IMPLICATIONS Ayer 28 – 6th Para
Secondary PointsThe thrust of Ayer’s argument rejects the idea of mystical experience, but he also incidentally raises secondary issues:Cognitivism / non-Cognitivism (this is a factor in ethics, as well as religion)Reliability and validation of experiencesPsychology – “information about the issue of his own mind”. Are religious experiences signs of delusion?ContributionAyer here builds on his general dismissal or religion with a distinctive rejection of personal and mystical intuition – it is nonsense.