“Ian Ramsey’s R…

“Ian Ramsey’s Religious Language, though admittedly more in the empiricist camp than displaying evident influence of Wittgenstein, was a pioneering book in the consideration of ‘ordinary’ religious language. Religious claims, according to Ramsey, should properly be considered as qualified models, or stories, which under the right circumstances can bring about religious discernment (“the penny drops”). Ramsey was at pains to insist that this language , though “logically odd”, was in some sense genuinely descriptive (“about God”) and not in some merely Braithwaitean sense about moral commitment to pursue a way of life.

While the invocation of models goes a good way towards showing how one might find religious language “meaningful”, it was not evident from Ramsey’s “Christian empiricism” how these disclosure situations might claim to be more than emotive response. Neo-Feuerbachians and anti-realists, such as Don Cupitt, are content to find religious language “meaningful” without committing themselves to belief in some absolute being who transcends the world.”

From Religious Language by Janet Soskice in Quinn and Taliaferro, A Companion to Philosophy of Religion

In an essay on Religious Language, and especially analogy, OCR A Level students might be expected to evaluate to what extent religious language can be said to be about God in any meaningful sense. The classical view that analogy was able to affirm in a limited way certain things about God on the basis of the connection between creator and created has been given a new slant by Ramsey. This passage asks the question (which students would do well to ask in an essay on this); to what extent are the insights into God supposedly provoked by religious language insights into an actual reality, rather than just heightened awareness of a particular state of mind (and therefore non-cognitive presumably)?


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