Advice on a question on the meaningfulness of religious language

‘Philosophers have proved conclusively that religious language is meaningful.’ Discuss


Some comments from the Exam Board


AO1  Select and demonstrate clearly relevant knowledge and understanding through the use of evidence, examples and correct language and terminology appropriate to the course of study.  Weighting 65%


AO2  Sustain a critical line of argument and justify a point of view. 

 Weighting 35%


AO1  Strictly speaking the question does not ask for a survey of challenges to the meaningfulness of religious language, but that would be an acceptable way of demonstrating appropriate knowledge and understanding for this question.  Alternatively, such knowledge can be integrated with the AO2 response.


AO2  The meaningfulness of religious language might be demonstrated in a number of ways, for example the argument that it amounts to meaningful bliks; that it is significant as a declaration of ethical intent; that it is meaningful cognitively through eschatological verification; that it is meaningful in an anti-real sense within the believing community, that it is locutionary and represents an action (J L Austin) and so on.  The proposal in the question might be rejected by an insistence on empirical ratification.  Candidates could explore the question of ‘meaningful to whom?’ in a number of ways, for example suggesting that religious language is meaningful to those who use it. 


You must use some of the following key terms effectively:










Verification Principle


Falsification Principle






Via Negativa














You must refer to at least some of the following philosophers in order to demonstrate your understanding and ability argue the question.  The ones in bold are those you should perhaps be particularly including in order to ensure you cover a variety of views.






TheViennacircle – Schlick


















These are not a complete list. Choosing other philosophers not in this list will not in any way prevent you from getting a high mark.  There are many ways to answer this question.  The Exam Board says this:  ‘…candidates are rewarded for what they ‘know, understand and can do’ and to this end examiners are required to assess every answer by the Levels according to the extent to which it addresses a reasonable interpretation of the question.’


The key to a high mark is linking it to the question i.e.


  • By making constant reference to the question – have or haven’t philosophers proved conclusively that religious language is meaningful


  • Link each of your arguments/paragraphs to the quote – do they support or challenge the view?


  • Don’t just explain what a particular philosopher said  – make sure you contextualise it within the question framework


  • Good (but brief) quotes are always worth the effort of learning!

One comment

  1. The theory of language games does offer a very compelling argument. It would appear that we do rely on myth and symbol to transgress repressed societal anxieties/feelings, and to externally project meaning and unspoken moral imperatives; something that we cannot possibly convey in purely factual terms. However, is it a fallacious, reductionist overstatement to assert that there lies no empirical reality beyond such statements?
    “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”
    – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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