…just because I like that statement :P
I have a P1 resit on Thursday, M1 on Monday and then R.S the following Thursday all to revise for. Maths is improving now that I’ve started to re-cap all the foundations, but I’m still a long way from being good enough for Thursday. I’ve taken a liking to dancemats now, after borrowing my sister’s one to practise on, which is a little more active than just sitting in front of the computer all the time. I’m sure it’s improving my hand-eye (or should that be foot-eye?) coordination too.
Anyway, I just wanted to write about the stuff we revised in R.S today, as it’ll help it to stick as well (so I have an excuse for writing this post :P). We talked about religious language, that is; the Verification Principle, Falsification Principle and Via Negativa, in addition to the meanings of equivocal, univocal and analogical. I’m gonna forewarn you and say that I got horribly confused between the Verification and Falsification Principle at first and I think they are tricky things to grasp, but maybe I was just slow that day… :P
Equivocal – Statements that are ambiguous and unclear
Univocal – Clear and defined statements, un-open to questioning
Analogical – The use of epithets (descriptive words or phrases) to describe ideas beyond our human understanding. For example, we can use human characteristics to build up a mental image of what ‘God’ is like. As Aquinas put it, we are using ‘analogies’ (a comparison between two things) as a way of relating to God, and thus can never truly understand God because the concepts have a different meaning when used to talk about him/her.
The Verification Principle originated from a group of philosophers known as the ‘Vienna Circle’. They were ‘Logical Positivists’, and developed a concept to try and handle how language was conveyed. Basically, the Verification Principle states that if a statement can be verified empirically (i.e. with sensory evidence [a posteriori]) or proved logically [a priori], it is a meaningful statement. Whereas, if it cannot be proved, it is meaningless. Under this argument then, ‘does God exist?’ (or any other such metaphysical, ethical, artistic questions) would be meaningless because we cannot prove him/her empirically or logically (although St. Anselm put forward a damn good try at the latter :P – I’ll explain on another day perhaps).
Antony Flew applied the Falsification Principle to religious language in the 1950s. It is remarkably similar to the Verification Principle except that it states that whatever cannot be proved false is meaningless. In other words, if we have empirical evidence that could count against something, it is meaningful. A good example is the idea of the religious believer. He or she may, for example, believe that ‘God is good’ and thus attempt to qualify their belief in spite of all evidence brought about that could falsify the statement. We must be able to examine what evidence there is to suggest ‘God is not good’ for the statement to remain meaningful, otherwise it is only blind faith.
The Via Negativa is basically a way of saying what isn’t, as opposed to what is. It’s actually a really useful idea, because it avoids making definitive judgements (sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing, depending on the situation…) about the nature of some particular thing. A mystical experience is ineffable (undefinable/indescribable) so the mystics resort to saying what it was not, as a way of giving an understanding of what it was like.
God is probably the easiest example to use here. Using the Via Negativa, we may perhaps say that ‘God is not evil’ or ‘God is not human’. Even with only these two statements we have an idea of what God may be like, without having actually said what he/she is.
Okay…that turned out to be a lot longer than I had planned, partly because I actually got the book out to read up on it a little more. I should go and get on with trying to understand Differentiation and Integration now… o.O