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Title: Non-cognitivism%20in%20religious%20faith%20and%20language

Non-cognitivism in religious faith and language
  • Michael Lacewing

  • The door is in the corner - true or false
    factual belief can be known (cognition)
  • A different kind of belief I believe in love -
    expression of a value I hold, not something I
    know (non-cognitive)
  • Is religious language like the first or the

Søren Kierkegaard
  • Religious faith is not a philosophical system or
    set of beliefs it is held passionately.
  • To believe that God exists, but to treat this as
    just another fact, about which we feel nothing,
    is not to have faith. Faith isnt (just) a matter
    of what, but of how, we believe.

Objective uncertainty
  • The commitment that characterizes faith requires
    a decision, a leap. This leap requires
    objective uncertainty.
  • Objective certainty will not have the same impact
    on ones life as faith in the face of uncertainty
    - perhaps God prevents certainty for this reason.

Is faith irrational?
  • Faith is incomprehensible, but it is not
    irrational we cannot believe nonsense against
    the understanding because the understanding will
    penetratingly perceive that it is nonsense and
    hinder us in believing it.
  • Religious faith in its trust and commitment is
    incomprehensible in that it lies outside the
    limits that reason can reach for itself.

Is Kierkegaard a non-cognitivist?
  • There are facts about God, but we cannot know
    these facts using reason.
  • Religious faith must involve an emotional
  • So religious language is expressive, not merely

Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Language can be compared to games
  • Both are guided by rules - what you can do, what
    words mean
  • The meaning of words lies in how they are used
  • Cp. the peace of the Lord passes understanding
    the car passes the house

Language games
  • Examples asking, thanking, cursing, praying,
  • A language game is the spoken aspect of a form
    of life a form of life is a whole collection of
    cultural practices, but Wittgenstein also
    emphasises its biological basis

  • Religion involves many language games, but not a
    whole form of life
  • A distinctive part of a distinctively human form
    of life rooted in natural human responses

Religious language
  • Religious language governed by quite different
    rules, e.g. asking God and asking your boss for
  • God exists - God is not a thing
  • a religious belief could only be something like
    a passionate commitment to a system of reference.
    Hence, although its a belief, its really a way
    of living, or a way of assessing life. Its
    passionately seizing hold of this
    interpretation. (Culture and Value 64)
  • Religious language is not descriptive, but

Phillips defending Wittgenstein
  • Wittgenstein isolates religion from all rational
  • Religion has something to say about birth,
    death, joy, misery, despair, hope, fortune, and
    misfortune. If religion doesnt help us make
    sense of these, we are right to reject it.
  • However, religion cannot be criticised as not
    true - it does not make factual claims.
    Religious language takes its meaning from
    religious life.
  • To think God is the name of a thing or exists
    independently of religion is a monstrous

  • Non-cognitivism is a reinterpretation of
    religious belief and language, not an analysis of
    it - religious believers think God exists is a
    fact, likewise that they will exist in heaven
    after death
  • Religious language could have both cognitive and
    non-cognitive aspects - it can be both factual
    and expressive