To what extent have logical positivists proved tha Essay

This essay has a total of 1102 words and 5 pages.


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To what extent have logical positivists proved that "God talk" is meaningless?

When Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote "The world is all that is the case. The world is the
totality of facts and not of things" he was not only beginning a book but also a movement
in philosophy called Logical Positivism. Wittgenstein was not the founder of this new
movement but rather it came from a group of thinkers in Vienna in the 1920's (called the
Vienna Circle) who took his ideas to create, what they called, the Verification Principle.
In the theological domain their greatest challenge to religion came in the form of a
refutation of metaphysics, thus it is a philosophy that places a great deal on that which
can be tested and observed by the senses (rather than postulated by reason).

The Verification Principle tried to show that the meaning of a statement lies in its
method of verification. For example, the statements, "All cats are cats" and, "2 2 = 4"
are necessary statements. They state nothing beyond the meaning expressed in the content
of the statement and can be proved to be true. There are however other statements such as,
"It rained on Tuesday" that need to be tested to know if they are true. These statements
only become true if after testing they can be found to be true (E.g. I saw it raining on
Tuesday). Thus the Verification Principle locates sense and meaning with experience.
Despite variations on the theme of the Verification Principle (E.g. soft and hard
versions) this was the distinctive doctrine of Logical Positivism.

The statement "God exists" is not proveable, or unfalsifiable. We cannot say whether it is
true or false. This is because God is not a 'fact that can be observed and subjected to
testing. People do not see God in this way. Theology might be considered by many people
to be a science but to then say that God is an object to be studied (like one would study
a flower or the stars) is to misunderstand the nature of things. God is spirit and cannot
be observed in this way. Therefore the statement, "God exists" is meaningless. Even the
word 'God' (referring to something that lies beyond the physical realm) is stripped of
meaning and, '... as it is not given a new meaning, it becomes meaningless'

In terms of the debate concerning the existence (or non-existence of God) Logical
Positivism makes an interesting contribution. Traditionally the debate is divided up into
theism (God exists), atheism (God does not exist) and agnosticism (God could or could not
exist - not sure). These positions all derive from the assumption that the statement "God
exists" has some meaning. The theist says its true, the atheist says its false, the
agnostic says it may be true or false but we can't tell. But if, as the Logical
Positivists claim, the statement, "God exists" is meaningless then these three 'states'
are meaningless too. Therefore the Positivists are neither theist, atheist or agnostic and
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