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'God-talk is evidently nonsense'

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Annie Johnson

on 24 January 2014

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Transcript of 'God-talk is evidently nonsense'

Ayer is saying that the idea of a personal God beyond our observation is unintelligible, since such a person could not be verified. Therefore ‘God’ is not a genuine name.
Paragraphs 5
It is to be remarked that in
cases where deities
identified with natural objects
concerning them may be
allowed to be significant
. If, for example, a
man tells
me that the
occurrence of thunder
is alone
both necessary and sufficient
of the
Jehovah is angry
, I may
that, in his usage of words,
the sentence ‘Jehovah is angry’
equivalent to ‘It is thundering
.’ But in
sophisticated religions
, though they may be to
some extent based
men’s awe of natural process
which they
cannot sufficiently understand
, the

who is supposed to
control the empirical world
located in it
; he is
to be
to the empirical world, and
so outside it
; and he is
endowed with super-empirical attributes
Paragraph 6
But the
of a
essential attributes are non-empirical
notion at all. We
have a
which is
used as if it named this ‘person
,’ but,
in which
it occurs express propositions
which are
empirically verifiable
, it
be said to
symbolize anything
. And this is the case
with regard
to the
word ‘god,
’ in the
in which it is intended to
to a
transcendent object
. The mere
of the noun is
foster the illusion
there is a real
, or at any rate a
possible entity corresponding to it
. It is only when we
God’s attributes are
that we discover
that ‘God,’
in this usage, is
genuine name
'God-talk is evidently nonsense'
Ayer, paragraphs 5 and 6

What is he saying?
Some Gods are linked with empirically testable occurances to explain them
i.e. Some think a thunderstorm is evidence enough to say that 'Jehovah is angry'. So Gods anger is equivalent to thunder. But the statement 'Jehovah is angry' with no verification just means there is a thunderstorm.
Religions with the God of classical theism are often based on mans awe and lack of knowledge for natural processes
So they assume a person is controlling these processes, and because he is superior to the empirical world he is outside it, and so is endowed with super-empirical attributes to perform the processes.
What is he saying?
A person with super empirical attributes doesn't make sense
Whilst there may be a name for him, unless where it is used makes sense and is verifiable it cannot symbolise or mean anything
If we use the name God to describe a transcendent being, we can't give it any attributes as there is no way to verify anything about this being. So using that name is not possible.
Logical Positivists
The Design Argument
Ontological Argument
God is the greatest thing we can conceive, rather than experience. Is this really nonsense?-do you need verification?
Is the ‘basic’ form of religion just a projection of the human mind onto the world around?
R.M.Hare's Bliks
Schlik and Carnap-Verification Principle
Toys in the cupboard analogy
Their aim was to find a distinction between sense and nonsense, their assumption was God was nonsense because he is non-sensory.
"The elimination of metaphysics through logical analysis of language"
They established 3 criterias for meaningfulness:
Tautological (analytic) statements, i.e all circles are round
Mathematics, i.e. 2+2=4
Synthetic Statements-they had to be empirically tested using sense experience and evidence.
Pseudo statements (statements with meaningless words or incorrect syntax) were also nonsense. So any talk about God would therefore mean nothing, along with any discussion of metaphysics, memory or history.
Ayer's paragraphs link in with this work as his statement about a God with super-empirical attributes being nonsense, is supported by the logical positivists as super-empirical attributes cannot be verified.
Hume wrote an earlier version of the verification principle, labeled Humes fork
So a sentence is meaningless if it cant be proven true or false. His idea only accepted two forms of language:analytic propositions (a priori) knowledge gained through logical reasoning - to deny the propositions within the statement would be contradiction. And synthetic propositions (a posteriori) by which knowledge could be proven true or false (verified) by some form of experience or experiment.

This supports Ayer, as it means his statement about a super empirical God being nonsense, would be deemed correct if this principle was applied.

Freud argued that religion is a projective system, a universal neurosis/illusion. God is just a creation of the human mind.

This comes from tension between dominant male & sons in tribes which led to the overthrow of the father. This led to guilt and the sons worshipping the fathers memory. The super-ego then takes place of the father, repressing anti-social impulses such as killing and creating the conscience.
So God is a father substitute & a Super Ego projection!

Freud therefore supports Ayer, in the sense that religions that proclaim God to be the cause of natural processes are incorrect as Ayer says, because they are just projecting.
The universe has order, purpose, regularity
The complexity of the universe shows evidence of design
A design implies a designer=God
Aquinas in SUMMA THEOLOGICA, talks about it in the fifth of his five ways. 'Natural bodies' act in a regular fashion to accomplish their end, providing the evidence for the existence of an intelligent being=God.
William Paley put forward the watch analogy, where if were to come across a watch, we would conclude that it had come together for a purpose and had a designer-it is too complex to come together by chance. The universe is the same, it is too complex to come together by chance and therefore there must be a designer=God
This opposes Ayer, because he said that the concept of God influencing the elements is nonsense, when here is appears perfectly reasonable.
Swinburne argues that there are many things that cannot be verified or falsified, but are nonetheless true. He uses the example of the Toycupboard, where toys could come to life and come out of the cupboard when nobody else is watching, and hurry back when somebody comes along.
This opposes Ayers argument as he argues that God has to be verified to be meaningful.
A blik is a way of seeing the world, and the difference between different peoples bliks cannot be solved by observations of what the world is like. Everyone has their own blik and they are true for them, so you cannot say that they don't exist or that they aren't true, however you can say whether they are true or not.
Hare said that bliks can be good or bad, he uses the example of a lunatic who believes everybody wants to kill him no matter how people try and prove that they don't. The lunatic has an insane blik, and we may have the sane blik. For the lunatic to have this wrong blik there must be a right blik, it is holding this right blik that matters.

This theory opposes Ayer, as it suggests that his idea is just as right as somebody else with the same idea, and therefore he is not really proving anything, as he is not eliminating anybody elses ideas, merely presenting his own.
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