Contemporary Critiques of Religion by Kai Nielsen

By Kai Nielsen

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All a pr£ori statements, they argued, are analytic and all other cognitively meaningful statements are at least in principle verifiable. The other uses of language, they argued, are all non-cognitive. g. that we use 'puppy' in such a way that it is equisignificant to 'young dog'. But that puppies are young dogs tells us nothing about our world beyond certain linguistic facts about our use of 'puppies'. All statements which are informative about the nature of our world are verifiable statements; non-analytic unverifiable utterances are cognitively meaningless.

A proposition has factual significance only if some observations, actual or possible, are relevant to the determination of its truth or falsity. For Mascall maintains that the mystic's specifically religious utterances are not verifiable or confutable by empirical observation, but all the same they are intelligible to those who will take the trouble to try to understand them. To deny that this is so, he tells us, 'is to make a dogma into a wall which hides the most obvious facts' (27). However, what in this context does or does not hide the most obvious facts is not at all evident.

Furthermore, with 'You must not go to South 32 Germany without VISitmg Heidelberg' we have a perfectly literal, perfectly meaningful statement. But while that is evident, it is far from evident whether it is a verifiable statement. Such considerations clearly show that meaning is logically prior to and distinct from verification and that the meaning of a statement is not its method of verification. Only if we know what a statement means, can we know whether it is verifiable and, if so, how it is to be verified.

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