‘The concept of religious language as language games is inadequate’ Assess this view Watch

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Exam Board: WJEC/ Eduqas
‘The concept of religious language as language games is inadequate’ Assess this view [30]

Religious Language as a theory proposed by Ludwig Wittgenstein has often been argued as inadequate for many reasons, one of them being that the religious language game could be very divisive between groups n society playing their own ‘games’ with their own set of rules. This could eventually cause same discrimination and separation because different religions wouldn’t communicate as they are too concentrated on their own ‘game’ and ‘rules’ making the theory inadequate for use.

Additionally, the concept of religious language is inadequate because when a person says a word or a statement, even with religious language they believe the said statement to be cognitive. For example, if a religious believer days that ‘God listens to my prayers’ this is what they mean, they intend this statement to be cognitive and as the religious game theory states that all religious language is understood to be non-cognitive this undermines it and therefore makes it inadequate. Language games, when applied to religious language, have the danger of making religious belief anti-empirical. Some believers would claim that some statements they make are actually universal and empirically true statements therefore making the religious games concept inadequate.

Also, Language games separates the different forms of life allowing no cross over between either beliefs or people. When in fact religion is often described as universal and that beliefs from different religions such as the belief in a God or Gods is shared by many different ‘forms of life’ as Wittgenstein would describe them as. Additionally, many different religions share the meaning of words and practices such as fasting within Islam and Christianity, even though they ae different ‘games’. This shows that religious language is subjective and inadequate if referred to as a language game as it allows no shared beliefs or interaction between the different forms of life.

On the other hand, it could be argued that language games to describe religious language is adequate because it removes the issue of misunderstanding and therefore conflict that this could cause within society. For example, if someone who had been brought up an atheist heard mass they may be confused by us receiving the Eucharist and calling it the body of Christ this could then cause tension and conflict as the atheist doesn’t understand what this means, however with language games the conflict is removed as they understand it must be part of the Catholic form of life.

Additionally, language games could be described as adequate because there are examples of when religion is making non-cognitive statements such as ‘I absolute your sins’ or ‘I love God more than you do’. The former is to perform a ritual of removing sin from someone and the latter cannot be proven as there is no empirical proof or evidence for this. As these statements are non-cognitive (which is what the concept of language games argues) language games may be adequate.

Moreover, many would argue that it is appropriate to keep forms of life separate, both with religious language and different forms of life. Within religion there are specific words and concepts that are not part of everyday language such as ‘transubstantiation’ is not a word used in everyday situations. Language games allows religious language to be self-sufficient and not judged according to another form of life, no matter their separate words or differences, making it adequate.

Finally, the statements of religious language in the language games concept are judged within their context, they are not inherently true or false, this fits in with the “coherence of truth" theory which states that a statement is true if it fits in with other statements and beliefs which are internally consistent. This therefore makes religious statements truthful in their own right making the theory adequate for religious believers as it is proving their beliefs to be true. For example, the resurrection of Jesus cannot be empirically proved but as it is part of the religious language form of life it’s therefore truthfull.

In conclusion, the weight of evidence lies on the opinion that Language games as a concept for religious language is adequate. For example, it reduces tensions between different groups and necessarily separates different ‘forms of life’ to avoid confusion.
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