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Georgia Lofts

Georgia Lofts

Email: georgialofts@gmail.com

Total Article : 18

About Me:I am a first year student studying BioMedical Science. I am interested in a wide range of topics but particularly like to focus on Biology, Art and Philosophy.

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Ayer: 'God-talk is evidently nonsense' Part 2

In primitive religions perhaps the statement ‘Jehovah is angry is equivalent to ‘it is thundering’ but in sophisticated religions God is meant to control the empirical world externally. Ayer expresses that theists insist God holds ‘super-empirical attributes,’ but ‘the notion of a person whose essential attributes are non-empirical is not an intelligible notion at all.’ Ayer claims that the word ‘God’ does not make his existence any more probable nor does it give him further meaning. Using a word does not mean it exists, this relates to the correspondence theory- ‘a proposition must correspond with an objective reality’ for it to be acknowledged as truth in a realist sense. In an anti-realist sense the assertion ‘God exists’ can be accepted if ‘God’ is real to that person. This is demonstrated through Wittgenstein’s ‘Language Games,’ whom converted from his earlier picture theory which influenced  LPs to the belief that religious language should be used in an anti-realist sense. He uses the example of illness- people viewing it in a different ‘forms of life,’ thus words can be used differently but in a related sense (non-cognitive use of language). Wittgenstein asserts that ‘the meaning is in the use’ and if we misunderstand religious language, we do not respond appropriately. Ayer rejected claims of the use of religious language as it holds no literal significance.

As Ayer expresses that ‘the point which we wish to establish is that there cannot be any transcendent truths of religion,’ he undermines the RE argument as sentences used by theists to express truths ‘are not literally significant.’ Freud viewed religious belief as ‘illusions, fulfilments of the oldest, strongest and most insistent wishes of mankind.’ Freud described religious belief as a ‘neurotic illness’ stemming from the unconscious mind due to a traumatic past and a need for a ‘father figure.’ Furthermore, Freud used the Oedipus complex to examine his beliefs about a resulting sexing tension between a child and their parent. In his belief that religion is an illusion, he proposes that it is created in the mind to help someone come to terms with powerful sexual emotions. Additionally, Durkheim offers a sociological perspective, defining religion in terms of its function within society. His theory demonstrates that religion is a means for social cohesion and for him society and God are the same, God is not a separate entity and thus does not exist. However, Ayer rejects any argument which uses the concept of God as it is also meaningless due to the use of non-cognitive language.

Ayer asserts that if it ‘transcends our understanding then it cannot be significantly described.’ God is supposedly a mystical intuition so ‘cannot be defined in terms that are intelligible to reason.’ William James’ criteria for RE examines ineffability providing an argument for God’s existence as if God is a supreme being beyond human understanding, it is perfectly acceptable to not be able to articulate the way in which one experiences him. But Ayer states that if it is ‘impossible to define God in intelligible terms, then one is allowing that it is impossible for a sentence both to be significant and to be about God’ thus rendering James’ RE criteria as nonsense as the person is ‘bound to talk nonsense when describing it.’Donovan explores RE is his article ‘Can we know God by experience’ he says that we should not disbelieve theists who say they have had an experience but rather ask for further evidence to be provided, thus he does not go for the ‘all or nothing’ account. Ayer asks for believers to provide empirical evidence but he feels it is impossible to do so thus deeming RE as meaningless as it cannot be empirically proved.

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