Demise of Language as a Vehicle for True Truth

Post Modern Search for Community Without Conviction





           The claim that the analysis of language is the philosophical problem has posited verifiability as the criterion for meaning and cognitivity. This project directly challenges theological assertions. The verification theory of meaning, however, has undergone several revisions. The plurality of language uses was emphasized by the later Wittgenstein. For some, religious discourse could be viewed as meaningful but still cognitive.


           Four categories for sentences were recognized: (1) true, (2) false, (3) meaningless, (4) meaningful, but not cognitive. Those placing religious discourse within category 3 made verifiability a necessary condition for meaning. Those placing religious discourse within category 4 made verifiability a necessary condition for cognitivity.


           The verifiability criterion has an indispensable dependence upon an epistemology which separates “fact” and “value” (derived from Kant).




           The paper will deny that verifiability is a necessary condition for either meaning or cognitivity. Its concern is with religious language within the Judaeo-Christian tradition. It will argue that some religious language is cognitive, including many metaphorical utterances.




           For some, a theory of meaning was essentially equated with a theory of truth. This view is not proper or plausible. Denying meaning to God-talk on logical grounds Bertrand


Russell on “descriptions” and “names”:


           A criticism (possibly based on misinterpretation) that each propositional term must have an actually existing referent.

           Russell’s claim that only simple symbols acting as a name must refer to real entities.

           It is not clear that the term “God” must function as a name in Russell’s sense. The denial of the meaningfulness of God-talk must be derived from its (possible) unverifiability, not from mere logical considerations.


Preliminary epistemological considerations.


           Truth must logically be prior to verification.

           That “meaning” requires verifiability is a view resting on a certain epistemology.

           This epistemology has seriously been challenged in recent philosophy of science.

           The newer epistemology challenges the very possibility of verifiability and suggests that it is more appropriate to speak of the adequacy of conceptual systems.

The basis for meaning.


           Meaning is experientially based, not verificationally based.

           This view adopts a view of “perception” which underscores the importance of tacit knowledge.

           One’s knowledge of “meaning” is fundamentally tacit.

           Consistent with the epistemology proposed, this view on meaning cannot be “verified,” but it does have significant support.


On the meaning of metaphor.


           The meaning of a metaphorical utterance rests on the tacit and explicit knowledge of the “associated implications” of the subjects involved.

           A metaphor involves the attempt at making explicit those associated implications, as well as suggesting relationships among them. It has a certain “open-endedness” and serves a definite cognitive function by “creating similarities.”

           This view of metaphor is consistent with the epistemology that is proposed.


The experiential base of religious language.


           The experiential base of religious language.

           Religious metaphor, like other types of metaphor, has an experiential base.

           Giving an experiential base to language about God was a major and proper goal in Aquinas’ view of analogy.

           I.T. Ramsey argues that theological language must be empirically grounded, but that it does involve more than this.

           Ramsey’s use of “models” and “qualifiers” discussed.

           A preliminary statement that the use of models and metaphors in religion is not highly unlike those used in science.


A brief review supporting that verifiability is not a necessary condition for meaning.




           Various types of religious langauge are recognized. The “falsification” challenge of A. Flew and R.M. Hare attempts to deny cognitivity to religious assertions about God.

           Determining what “cognitive” means is a fundamental problem of itself.

           The influence of one’s epistemology on the understanding of “cognitivity” is discussed. As a result of the epistemology accepted here, particular emphasis will be given to context in understanding “meaning” and “cognitivity.”


Similarities of models and metaphors presented.


           (1) Metaphors and scientific models are evaluated together as having the same cognitive status.

           (2) Both are “open-ended.”

           (3) Both attempt “conceptual organization” in an effort to “understand” ranges of experience.

           (4) Both function in some “analogical” capacity. Analogical imagination is not unique to theological discourse.

           All this suggests that a well-defined boundary between “literal” and “metaphorical” language is not possible. The context always plays a primary role in making this determination. Specifying rules for determining when one should accept the “sentence meaning” or the “speaker’s meaning” (eg., John Searle) is declared pragmatically impossible. This is so because, even if all contextual assumptions were specified, the project would succeed only if all persons shared the same ultimate ideological paradigm. This however, would be very unlikely.


Metaphors, models and paradigms.


           Dissimilarities between metaphors and models are recognized. A third type of extended metaphor is presented--the paradigm.


           The “bi-directional” influence between metaphor and paradigms is extremely important.


           (1) The “upward influence” (from metaphor to paradigm) is discussed as to how


                    (a) different natural languages affect world-views.

(b) how language influences the capacity for recognizing certain gestalts within a single language.


           (2) The “downward influence” (from paradigm to language) is ultimately unavoidable.


(a) The role of “context” is important regarding the meaning and cognitive status of particular linguistic utterances.

(b) The role of an “ideological paradigm”--the ultimate extension of context--affects the meaning and      cognitive status of utterances in every context. An utterance might be completely without meaning to those operating within an entirely different ideological paradigm.


           Even if a single statement is meaningful to those in different ideological paradigms, it may be understood in radically different ways.




           Ultimately, reality is always interpreted from some perspective. This is illustrated by Wittgenstein’s “duck-rabbit” sketch.

           This “changing gestalt,” however, should be distinguished from an “ambiguous gestalt”--the latter involving perspectives only one of which (if any) can be true. Acceptance of any ultimate ambiguous gestalt necessarily involves a certain commitment to that paradigm.

           Many areas of experience ultimately involve ambiguous objects, including science. However, complete epistemological relativism is rejected.




Thoughts on cognitivity.


           Only some religious sentences are intended to be cognitive.

           But the truth of such statements is not established by mere correspondence. Cognitivity is not to be denied to a sentence on the sole basis that it does not “literally describe” reality.

           An utterance may function in more than one way at the same time. Making simple distinctions between “performative” and “constative” utterances (J.L. Austin) seems impossible.

           Although no sharp demarcation can be made between “contextual meaning” and “conventional meaning” (Heimbeck), it is still helpful to recognize these roughly-defined types of meaning.

           Recognizing non-cognitive uses for an utterance does not itself preclude the involvement of cognitive elements. The former may be “functionally dependent” upon the latter.


An experiential base for meaning and cognitivity


           This experiential base gives rise to attempts at understanding what transcends finite experience.       Regardless of the discipline, this must be done by analogical predication.

           Religious language employs anthropomorphism and anthropopathism.

           The evaluation of these uses involves a commitment to some ideological paradigm.

           Analogical predication regarding God’s nature does not relate to God’s essence.

           The analogy involved in “God is perfect” is unlike the    metaphor “man is a wolf.” “God” functions as an “integrator term.”

           Scientific models employ similar terms with which one has   no “literal” knowledge.

           “The universe is a machine” is an analogy similar to “God      is perfect.”


Meaning and truth as contextually dependent.


           The problem of Biblical utterances pertaining to cosmology.

           Such language may be phenomenological (i.e., true relative to the context of the perceiver).

           Some religious utterances appear to be statements about actual states of affairs. For instance, “God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.”

           The meaning of this example sentence is determined by context and by ultimate world-views. A neutral evaluation of religious language, then, is not possible.


           The Verification/Falsification controversy (Death of God - Death of Language - Death of Logic - Death of Man - Death of History - Death of True Truth - Death of Science).


           Any constructive encounter with the challenge of the Truth/Relevance of theological language will necessitate critical awareness of the narrative displacements in Science, Logic, Mathematics, Linguistics, Philosophy, Semantics, especially the Verification/Falsification controversy from Russell/Whitehead Principia to Goedel’s Theorem to Linguistic Analysis to Wittgenstein’s Language Game, i.e., demise of God talk as True Truth. (See my essays, “The Search for Meaning in Our Post Modern Culture”; “Search for A Criterion of Meaning”; “Tracing Trends for the 21st Century”; “Prolegomena of Scientific Revolution with Attention to Kant, Lakatos, Carnap, Popper and Kuhn”; Pike and Nida’s Tagmemics and Narrative Displacement and The Corruption of Language; Goedel’s Refutation of The Mechanical Model of Explanation; Davis, Metanarrative for Mathematics. The most referenced author in the last forty years if Thomas Kuhn who is approached reverentially for his The Structure of Scientific Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970); also Kuhn, Concept of Paradigm, i.e., Narrative Displacements eg. Meta Narrative) The History of Science.


           Post Modernism denies that language, logic, history and reason are bridges to True Truth. This same nihilistic milieu was also present in the classical gnostic position and the Visigoths. Our Post Modern chaos is not a new phenomena--it rejects language, logic, reason, etc., as sources for decoding reality.


Introduction: The problem of religious knowledge in the context of Post Modern philosophical analysis is basically this: no one has any! The problem of religious language in the same context, is this: can we find an excuse for uttering these sentences we apparently have no business saying?[1]


Historical Background: The relevance of considering the nature of language as a philosophical problem has been recognized explicitly at least since the time of Plato.[2] But viewing the analysis of language as the philosophical problem is of modern origin.[3] The fathers of the so-called logical positivists intently sought for an eradication of century- problems. They held that not only had there been no progress made toward solving metaphysical queries, but that the non-recognition of their pseudo-nature was the immediate problem to be overcome. Science and philosophy were demarcated as those disciplines which may be defined as the “pursuit of truth” and the “pursuit of meaning” respectively.[4] Traditional philosophical problems were viewed as either solvable by language analysis alone or by recognizing them as “ordinary scientific questions in disguise.”[5] The new concept of philosophy took the position that “all philosophical problems are questions of the syntax of the language of science.”[6] For those philosophical problems which could not fulfil the requirements of being ultimately questions of science, their solution rested in the disclosure that they were not problems of any cognitive significance. Thus, they were not problems at all.


           Much of traditional philosophy was conceived as “non-propositional.” The traditional claim that philosophers asserted propositions (i.e., sentences which are either true or false) about the “real world” was rejected. Their claims had no verificational status and were thus considered “meaningless.”[7] Therefore, the criterion for cognitivity was initially that of verification.


           The impact of the logical empiricists’ project has been immense. As it called into question the entire pursuit of metaphysics, so it also jeopardized the traditional notions of theology and ethics. The most basic of theological assertions, being metaphysical in nature, were also abandoned as “meaningless.” A.J. Ayer summarizes the situation when he says,


    . . .if god is a metaphysical term then it cannot be even probable that a god exists. For to say that ‘God exists’ is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false. . . no sentence which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent god can possess any literal significance.[8]


           Thus, that which was “cognitive” was that which had “meaning;” and that which had “meaning” was that which was “verifiable.”[9]


           The difficulties with the verification theory of meaning, however, were soon exposed. The principle of verifiability underwent several major transformations.[10] Beginning with “strong” verification, it traversed through verification “in principle,” to a criterion of “falsifiability,” to “confirmation,” to “translatability” into an empiricist language. Having been constructed greatly under the influence of Wittgenstein’s “picture theory of meaning” as presented in the Tractatus (1931), the logical empiricists’ project and the philosophy of language based on it were further influenced toward emendation through Wittgenstein’s own change of view. Although his lectures from 1930 to 1933 contained the first formulations of Wittgenstein’s developed views, the real impact came from the posthumously published Philosophical Investigations (1953). It is in this work that Wittgenstein stated his now well-known claim that “the meaning of a word is its use in the language.”[11] Rather than speaking of “the logic of language,” he now recognized various “language games”--each, in a sense, having its own “limit.” Unlike the original project of the Vienna Circle, sentences could no longer be declared “meaningless” simply because they failed to fulfil the one criterion of verification (in whatever form). Words were no longer considered as having a definite meaning by virtue of their “reference” or their “naming.” Their meaning was rather derived from their use. Each language game has its own rules and logic. Therefore, the task of the philosopher is to insure that the “rules” of each language game are not broken.


           In the minds of many philosophers of religion, the later Wittgenstein provided a means by which meaningful religious discourse could once again be conceived. However, for many of these, the notion of cognitive religious language was still not plausible.[12] Hence, the formerly accepted co-extensionality between what is meaningful and what is cognitive was abandoned. Religious language became meaningful, but only in various “emotive” senses. Since it was perceived as having its own “langauge game” with its own logic and domain, it was viewed as inherently not in opposition to the language (and, therefore, the truth-claims) of science. In the minds of these philosophers of religion, the perennial conflict between science and religion had found its solution.


           The philosophers of the Vienna Circle had suggested that meaning was inextricably tied to verification; while later linguistic analysts proposed that meaningful discourse was possible without requiring any correspondence with the “real world.” Thus, four logical categories for sentences were to be recognized: (1) those which are true, (2) those which are false, (3) those which are meaningless, and (4) those which are meaningful and yet not capable of being either true or false. Categories one and two, by virtue of the fact that their truth value could at least in principle be determined, were viewed as “cognitive.” And categories three and four were perceived as “non-cognitive.” Although categories three and four differ on the possibility of “meaning,” it appears that the truth criterion of both is essentially the same: both held that genuine propositions, (i.e., sentences which were capable of being true or false), are those which entail an adequate capacity for verification or falsification.[13]


           Utterances which are distinctly religious (eg., sentences speaking of “God,” etc.) are generally evaluated as falling within categories three or four. The view that uniquely religious terms and/or sentences are meaningless is still a live option for many philosophers. This position seems to be based on the idea that adequate verifiability or falsifiability[14] is a necessary condition for meaning. The early Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell have had immeasurable influence on those of this persuasion. Russell’s theory of definite descriptions, the notion that “exists” is not a predicate (supposedly derived from Kant), and associated views on “naming” have served to sustain the idea that God talk is meaningless.


           A second major approach to religious language which suggests that religious discourse may be meaningful but not cognitive, is also well established among philosophers. Those following the later Wittgenstein are the main proponents of this viewpoint. For these philosophers, adequate verifiability or falsifiability is a necessary condition for cognitivity.

           The importance of recognizing the foundational epistemology upon which both approaches mentioned above are founded cannot be overemphasized. It is derived from and built upon Kant’s dichotomy between the world of “fact” and “value”--between the “theoretical” use of reason and the “practical” use of reason.[15] The influence of Kant on subsequent philosophy and theology is clearly outlined by Jerry Gill.[16] The significant point to be recognized, however, is that the relationship between these two approaches and Kant’s epistemological dualism is not one of “coincidental affinity,” but one of “indispensable dependence.”


THESIS AND SCOPE: The essential purpose of this paper is to question the correctness of these two approaches to religious language.[17] It will be denied that verifiability or falsifiability is a necessary condition for either meaning or cognitivity. Positively stated, adequate verifiability or falsifiabiilty may be viewed as a sufficient, but not a necessary condition for both meaning and cognitivity. The strategy will be to expose some of the fallacies of specific arguments which oppose this thesis, and to demonstrate that recent developments in the philosophies of science and language support it. Hopefully, conclusions will be drawn which will provide ideas leading to a more adequate approach to the nature of religious language.


           The domain of immediate concern must be restricted. Religious language is extremely multifarious. It would be wholly inane to discuss areas of religious discourse (RD) about which there is no fundamental dissension. But as Bochenski states, “. . .nobody denies that there are vast parts of RD which are not intended to mean propositions. . . But the question is whether this is true of all parts of RD. . .”[18] Therefore, in proposing that religious language is both meaningful and cognitive, the primary emphasis will lie with those sentences which have been particularly intended by their users to be both. A further restriction on the scope of the paper is that only sentences within the Judaeo-Christian tradition will be considered--particularly those formulated in the didactic passages of the Bible and by subsequent creeds and theologians.[19] For example, sentences such as “God created the universe” and “God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead” will be dealt with. It will be discussed how metaphorical sentences (including those within religious discourse) can be both meaningful and have cognitive worth.




           I am urging that there is more of poetry in science and more science in poetry than our philosophy permits us readily to          grasp. (R. David Broiles)[20]


           It has been a major preoccupation with modern philosophers and scientists to pinpoint properly the boundary between science and metaphysics. The common opinion that science is that which makes inevitable and accumulative progress, arriving closer and closer to “the truth”--and that metaphysics is that which deals with “unknowables” and produces no real ultimate truth--has essentially been derived from Immanuel Kant. The twentieth century development of logical empiricism emphasized this idea to the point that “one might almost define a metaphysical argument as one which is never finally settled.”[21] There could be no truth unless there was correspondence between the assertion of a genuine proposition and objective reality. But some philosophers went further: without the possibility of checking for correspondence between a sentence and reality, the sentence was one without meaning. And the only way to know whether there is something to which a term or sentence might correspond is through some form of verification. A theory of meaning, therefore, was essentially equated with a theory of truth. It will be argued, however, that this identification is not only not proper, but not plausible.




                  Bertrand Russell was one of the foremost proponents of this essential identification between meaning and verifiability.[22] His theory of definite descriptions, referred to by one philosopher as opening “a new era in metaphysics,”[23] has had significant influence on philosophic thought, and has served as support for the meaning/verification connection. Although the theory has many ramifications, not all of which need emendation or refutation, its import regarding the notion of “existence” is vital to the present topic. In part, the theory attempts to show that the great metaphysical problem of “existence” can be resolved by purely logical analysis. In a section on “Descriptions,”[24] Russell sets forth three distinctive categories: indefinite descriptions (i.e., which take the grammatical form “a so-in-so”); definite descriptions (i.e., which take the grammatical form “the so-in-so”); and names (i.e., which is a “simple symbol whose meaning is something that can only occur as subject”).[25] The major conclusion is that “it is only of descriptions--definite or indefinite--that existence can be significantly asserted.”[26] Further, to say the words “a exists” where “a” is a name is meaningless.[27] The basis for distinguishing between “descriptions” and “names” lies in the idea that the former is a complex symbol which derives its meaning from that of its constituent symbols, (eg., so “I met a unicorn” is meaningful even though a unicorn does not exist); while the latter is a simple symbol which must derive its meaning from the actual existence of its referent. Thus, any simple symbol acting as a name must refer to real entities with which we have immediate acquaintance.[28]


                  A typical criticism of Russell, which may misinterpret some of what he says, is that each constituent of a proposition must have reference to some real entity--an entity about which one has immediate acquaintance. This type of criticism points to the fact that many terms have no apparent reference (eg., ‘and’, ‘not’, ‘therefore’); and/or that many terms which plainly do have reference point to entities about which there can be no immediate acquaintance (eg., ‘Attila’).[29] In the latter, the difficulties of verification are emphasized; thus, statements about ‘energy,’ ‘mass,’ etc., are problematic. These criticism are valid and do place this form of reverential theory in a dilemma.


           However, Russell appears to say that only simple symbols acting as names must refer to real entities. His solution to the ‘ATtila’ problem is the same as in his discussion of ‘Homer.’[30] Neither are actually names, but rather are “abbreviated description.” So ‘Homer’ can be replaced by “the author if the Iliad and the Odyssey.” This does away with the potential problems which might ensue if ‘Homer’ were taken as a name. The problem is avoided by translating the apparent name into a definite description.


           Since two basic interpretations of Russell’s theory of descriptions have preceded, two essential responses are required regarding its relevance to speaking about God. First, if a referent is required with which we have immediate acquaintance before meaning can be ascribed to a term, then the term ‘God’ apparently can have no meaning whatsoever. If ‘God’ is a name, then it is meaningless to say “God exists.” Further, there can be no “immediate acquaintance” of God on any strictly empirical criteria. According to Russell, it seems that ‘God’ is intended to function as a name; but since there is no referent--or at least one that satisfies a verifiability criterion--then it is meaningless. This position can be confronted by pointing to the difficulties of verification with other ‘accepted’ terms of science. Secondly, if the use of ‘Homer’ can escape the perplexities of being a name by being translated into a description, what is it about the use of ‘God’ that prohibits the same translation? Perhaps the meaningless term ‘God’ can be translated into a description--for instance, “the creator of the universe” or “the one who revealed the ten commandments to Moses.” It is clear that nether of these suggestions will satisfy a verifiability criterion; for a ‘creator’ and ‘revealer’ cannot be verified in any simple manner. However, if such a translation can be made, then one cannot impute meaninglessness to ‘God’ simply because it appears to function as a name. It also suggests that if any apparent name can be made into a description--thus avoiding the problems of naming--the value of having a separate ‘naming’ category seems dubious.[31] It is paradoxical to think that the statement “God exists” is meaningless (because ‘God’ is a name); but that the statement “the creator of the universe exists” is meaningful (in somewhat the same sense as “I met a unicorn” is meaningful)--especially when ‘God’ and “the creator of the universe” are meant as synonymous, (i.e., synonymous in the same sense that ‘Homer’ and “the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey” are). Therefore, the meaningfulness of ‘God’ cannot be denied merely because it apparently functions as a name. The denial must stem from the term’s unverifiability.




           It has been argued that the meaningfulness of ‘God’ talk cannot be denied on mere logical grounds.[32] But it may still be rejected if verifiability is viewed as a necessary condition for meaning. Identifying the boundaries of meaning and the means of verification has largely been rejected by most philosophers.[33] A major difficulty with the view is expressed by Bochenski when he says,


For no sentence can be verified apart from its meaning--in other words, only a sentence which already has meaning can be verified, and not a mere string of words without meaning. It follows that meaning cannot be identical with the method of verification.[34]


           Unless the meaning of a sentence is understood, one would not know what it would even be to verify it. If the logical priority of meaning is not recognized, then one actually demands the verifiability of a statement before the process of verification can being--which is a paradigm of circularity.[35] If meaning is a precondition, presupposition of verifiability, then the latter is a sufficient condition of the former; and the former can no longer be viewed as a necessary condition of the latter.[36]


           The suggestion that meaning requires verifiability ultimately rests on a view of language and an epistemology that an independent knowing subject is able to ‘verify’ conditions of the ‘real world’ by recognizing a kind of ‘picture’ correlation between langauge and reality itself. A statement’s verification occurs when the claim of the statement corresponds to the real world. The truth or falsity of a statement is determined by ‘comparing’ it with reality.[37] This epistemology involves the idea that the knowing subject is a kind of “independent third party” who has direct access, by reduction, to both reality and language. Hence, one can ‘objectively’ compare language and reality--and thus verify or falsify a statement’s claim. If this epistemology is not adequate--if this totally ‘objective’ evaluation by a knowing subject is not attainable--then the goal of verification itself is not obtainable.


           The epistemology and view of language briefly described above has dominated most of Anglo-American philosophy during the twentieth century. However, it has been challenged so strongly in the last twenty years that its inadequacy has received general consensus.[38] This “Received View” of science which postulates a world of ‘facts’--and which discusses truth in terms of correspondence between language and the world of ‘facts’--has been directly challenged by what may be termed “Weltanschauungen Analyses.” The leading proponents of this approach are Paul Feyerabend, Norman Hanson, Thomas Kuhn, and Stephen Toulmin.[39] According to Frederick Suppe, three major theses--all of which directly challenge the “received view”--are: (1) observation is theory-laden; (2) meanings are theory-dependent; and (3) facts are theory-laden.[40] Detailed presentations of these views are not within the scope of this paper. The influence of these views on the philosophy of science, however, has been extensive, and several writers have recognized their relevance to religious language and knowledge.[41]


           The most significant point to be made from this development is that the foundational epistemology upon which discussions of verifiability and falsifiability depend has been radically, and to a great extent successfully, rejected. The formerly accepted dichotomy between science (as being that which produces objectively derived ‘facts’) and metaphysics (which has not, and or which cannot, achieve any knowable truth) is shown to be without justification. The situation is not that metaphysics has been reinstated to a position of possessing assured knowledge; but that science has been divested of its claim to it. Rather than speaking of verification or falsification, it now seems more appropriate to speak of the adequacy of conceptual systems. If the influence of theory upon data is greatly significant--even if not to the extent claimed by the ‘Weltanschauungists’--an appeal to particular ‘facts’ will never be sufficient to verify or falsify truth-claims made involving large scale conceptual disputes. For this reason, the problems involved in justifying interpretive systems may be quite similar for the sciences (natural, political, economic) as well as for metaphysics and even literary exegesis.[42]




           Further discussion on the relationship between scientific and religious theories and models will appear later in the paper. Sufficient at this point is the claim that developments in recent philosophy of science challenge the traditional demand for verification--a demand which, for some, was a necessary condition for meaning. Therefore, it is proposed that meaning is not verificationally based; but is experientially based. This claim is directed to meaning per se, and is intended to hold true for meaning in all contexts--scientific as well as religious. It should be stressed immediately that the term ‘experientially based’ is used in a rather large sense. In no way is it being restricted only to that which passes through the ‘senses.’ Rather, its use is integrally connected with a non-reductionistic understanding of perception, which involves all of one’s interaction with the world in which one lives. ‘Meaning’ is thus viewed as “a matter of the significance of human experience within a physical, cultural, and intellectual environment and not merely a matter of matching words and the world.”[43] Meaning is not ‘dis-embodied’ as though it rests within words themselves. Meaning is always meaning to someone--someone within a particular context.


           Neither knowledge nor meaning are reducible to ‘atomic units’ from which a claim to the former and an apprehension of the latter can be ‘built.’ Even the most ‘literal’ of statements or terms cannot be rightly understood without contextual background that involves numerous indefinite presuppositions.[44] The difficulty, or perhaps the impossibility, of supplying machines with this background has led to some scathing critiques of the potential for artificial intelligence. This is the basis of the analysis made by Hubert Dreyfus as he explains one of his major theses:

…as I argue in this book, intelligence requires understanding, and understanding requires giving a computer the background of common sense that adult human beings have by virtue of having bodies, interfacing skillfully with the material world, and being trained into a culture.[45]


           The ‘meaning’ even of singular terms which apparently have reference to some specific object in the real world (eg., table or chair) cannot simply be defined by necessary and sufficient criteria. The boundaries of meaning, even of such simple world-object relations, cannot be sharply drawn and clearly specified. Meaning involves a complex of ideas (not necessarily explicit) which is derived from one’s perceptual interaction with the world in which one lives. The fact that human rationality can focus upon specific ideas makes a considerable amount of explicit knowledge possible. What accompanies this knowledge (even knowledge of meaning), but what is not focused upon, is a part of one’s tacit knowledge. The important insight is that no sharp demarcation can be erected between these two types of knowledge. They are a part of a continuum which, when not recognized, leads to the absolute dichotomy between cognitive and non-cognitive judgments.[46] Although the notions of ‘subsidiary awareness’ and ‘focal awareness’ may be viewed as mutually exclusive in one sense,[47] their inter-relationship should be recognized. It may rightly be claimed that “no knowledge can be made wholly explicit,”[48] and that some tacit knowledge can never be known explicitly. Yet what is tacitly known in one context may be explicitly known in another. This may be accomplished by virtue of a change in the setting; and can also be achieved within the same setting by altering one’s own focal awareness. The transfer from tacit to explicit knowledge in the latter case is a matter of common experience. As one types, the y key is a part of tacit knowledge. The typist knows the key is there but does not focus on it. It becomes a part of explicit knowledge when its presence is brought into the focus of consciousness. The ability of human rationality to alter focal awareness proposes a continual bi-directional interchange between tacit and explicit knowledge. The added element of communication suggests that this interchange can be guided by the speaker and most often be followed by the hearer.


           Not only is it being claimed that “tacit knowing is more fundamental than explicit knowing,”[49] but that meaning is more fundamentally a form of tacit knowledge than explicit knowledge. Meaning can be made explicit but never exhaustively so. The knowledge of meaning always transcends the capacity for articulation. The process of this articulation (ie., defining) concentrates on those aspects of meaning (tacitly known) which are most frequently and most readily focused upon by the speakers of a particular language and culture. But in so doing, this process necessarily presents meaning within a range more narrow than its potential. The reason for this is that our knowledge is fundamentally tacit. And because of this, our knowledge of meaning (or meaning itself) is also fundamentally tacit.[50]


           Support for the view expressed above is difficult to directly produce. It must be said, however, that all attempts to explicitly spell out what meaning is have never been able to accomplish the task adequately, although they perhaps have provided valuable insights into various aspects of the nature of meaning. Not only does this fact not falsify the view presented, or even suggest an anomaly to it, but it actually furnishes indirect support for it. If the view that meaning is ultimately tacitly grounded in the experiential interaction between a person and his world, then explicit articulations of meaning must be declared, in principle, as exhaustively unattainable. The somewhat embarrassing situation (for philosophers) that both the child and the philosopher are unable to be explicit about the meaning of “meaning” and yet that both quite obviously know what it means[51] also provides indirect attestation for this position. Further support is suggested by the situation that “it is impossible to say what ‘meaning’ means until one has already grasped what ‘means’ means; and then it is no longer necessary!”[52]




           The grounding of meaning in the experiential yet tacit dimension has inestimable consequences for the analysis of the meaning and the cognitive world of metaphorical utterances. It has been observed that metaphors serve to highlight and suppress certain features entailed by the use of a term--what Max Black refers to as “the system of associated commonplaces.”[53] In his more recent work on the subject, Black points out that regarding the ‘primary subject’ as well as the ‘secondary subject’ as a system--which he did in his earlier writing[54]--“seems in retrospect needlessly paradoxical, though not plainly mistaken.”[55] Taking ‘system’ in a somewhat broader sense, this writer affirms that the attendant system of ‘associated implications’ for each subject of a metaphor cannot be avoided; that such implications are already present--explicitly to some extent, and tacitly to a great extent--for each native person encountering a metaphorical utterance.


           Within this purview, Black’s highly debated remark, (i.e., that “it would be more illuminating in some of these cases to say that the metaphor creates the similarity than to say that it formulates some similarity antecedently existing”)[56] can be reformulated. A metaphor which is meaningful to the speaker[57] involves the attempt at making explicit those ‘associated implications’ which may have been formerly tacit, as well as suggesting relationships among them. The term ‘explicit’ is not used to imply that every ‘associated implication’ of each subject is made clear and definite; and even less does it mean that the relationship of these ‘associated implications’ between subjects is made clear and definite. It is correct to speak of an ‘open-endedness’ to metaphor. A metaphor cannot be replaced by a set of equivalent literal statements; for it has an unspecifiable number of potentialities for articulation.[58] What is meant by ‘making explicit’ is that a speaker--uttering a meaningful metaphor, meaningful to himself--highlights or focuses attention on certain aspects of the terms’ associated implications. The speaker must be aware of his primary intent for the utterance. But he need not be consciously aware--if even this is possible--of every possible meaning of the utterance. He may attempt to articulate in more literal terms what he had in mind when making the utterance; but, if his knowledge of the subjects involved is ultimately tacit, his articulation will always fall short of that of which he is tacitly aware.


           The ‘open-endedness’ of metaphor also generates an indefinite number of ‘meanings’ on the part of the hearer. The hearer may ‘focus’ on those similarities between subjects which were primary in the mind of the speaker, and thus be adequately ‘communicated to.’ But because of different perspectives, experiential background, etc., the hearer may discover meaning in a metaphor that was never in the mind of the speaker. Thus, the comparison being made between subjects “is left for the reader to explore.” “It is not an illustration of an idea already explicitly spelled out, but a suggestive invitation to the discovery of further similarities.”[59] In summary, a metaphor, in highlighting certain features of the subjects, makes explicit certain relationships between the subjects by suggesting that there are similarities, and by prompting the hearer to understand what these similarities might be. The similarities between two subjects may never have been thought prior to the construction of a particular metaphor. Their similarity cannot be said to have ‘antecedently existed.’ But a metaphor can frequently ‘create the similarity’ by highlighting certain features of both subjects that may have been only tacitly known to the hearer prior to the utterance.

           This account of metaphor recognizes the human mind as an active participant in structuring the world. It may rightly be said that “such creativity seems a minor matter only to those who insist that the world is given and that we are limited to standing apart and commenting on it.”[60] This epistemology does not necessarily deny that ‘the world’ actually does stand apart from the mind, or even that it does not possess a definite structure of its own. But it does acknowledge the wide hiatus between the possibility of something being the case and the mind’s capacity to know that that something is the case. The only access one has to the world is through the mind, which projects onto reality a coherent structure formulated from an experiential base. This formulation is often manifested by linguistic metaphors as well as by scientific models.




           Before attention is turned to religious language more specifically, it would be well to review several major points. The idea that verifiability is a necessary condition for meaning has been shown inadequate on several grounds. Along with the logical difficulties of such a view, the very epistemology upon which it must necessarily be based has been seriously questioned as being even adequate as a scientific epistemology.[61] A new epistemology was proposed which gives primacy to perception--a theory of knowledge that mutually excludes the notion that the human mind is merely an observer of a world of ‘facts.’ It suggests that both knowledge and meaning are fundamentally tacit, yet experientially based. With this new emphasis on the ‘constructive’ participation of the human mind, the use of metaphor may be seen as an attempt to give coherent organization to the world as it interacts with the complex of experience. Therefore, meaning is viewed as neither wholly objective nor wholly subjective. It involves “constant successful interactions” with the make up of the world; and yet is influenced by one’s own personal and cultural background.[62]


           The primary proposal of this section is that the meaning of religious language also has an experiential base--that its metaphorical remarks can be understood in much the same way as those of a non-religious nature. Frederick Ferre recognizes but overstates the dependency religious language has on an evaluation of metaphor when he says, “If there is no role for metaphor in contributing to human understanding, then all claims to religious knowledge and truth go down the same drainpipe.”[63] This statement assumes that all of religious discourse is metaphorical. It is not at all clear that Mr. Ferre wishes to restrict his meaning of religious discourse to statements about God, or even to what Jeffner refers to as “the problematic set of religious sentences,” (i.e., those sentences which have statement form and which remain after those sentences used as empirically testable statements by religious believers have been removed).[64] He rather asserts that “all theological claims are symbolic” and that any “theological literalism” leads to absurdity.[65] Although this issue will be elaborated on below, it is here claimed that Ferre’s apparent position must rest not upon mere linguistic considerations (i.e., syntactic or semantic absurdities), but upon a commitment to a particular model of interpretation. Nonetheless, much of religious language is clearly metaphorical in nature.


           Although Duns Scotus argued for a univocal language about God, Aquinas rightly understood that no finite concepts are adequate for expressing the infinite essence of God. Wishing to avoid both univocity and equivocation in religious language, Aquinas presented a rather involved view of ‘analogy.’[66] Most importantly, Aquinas recognized that any meaningful discourse about God would have to be derived from the language of ‘ordinary’ experience. It seems quite reasonable that any meaningful or potentially cognitive religious language must be based on some form of analogical predication. A language that is purely ‘heavenly’--possessing terms and categories completely transcending human experience--would be useless. Indeed, one cannot even imagine what such a language would be like. Even those theologians who wish to speak of God as being “Wholly Other’ and who emphasize the mysterium tremendum (Rudolf Otto) can offer no insight into the nature of God by employing the term unless one has some understanding of how the terms ‘wholly’ and ‘other’ are used in human experience. Without some experiential base, silence would be the only consistent alternative remaining. On the other hand, it seems quite clear that any language that does not attempt to describe God in terms transcending human experience itself will only be describing a finite God--one quite different from the traditional Judaeo-Christian conception.


           One recent writer attempting to construct an adequate form of predication regarding God is I.T. Ramsey.[67] Ramsey recognizes that without an empirical anchorage for religious discourse, all theological thinking would be in vain.[68] Yet he is quick to point out that religious language must have its reference “to a characteristically religious situation--one of worship, wonder and awe.”[69] Theological language, according to Ramsey, must avoid being “imprisoned by descriptive grammar.”[70] “Theological language can be made significant and empirically grounded without its nouns having to talk of particular landmarks in the way they would do if it was ordinary matter-of-fact language.”[71] Religious discourse must be empirically grounded and yet be such that it can possess “an important imperative force as well.”[72] It should serve as a means to ‘disclosure’ or ‘insight.’ Ramsey claims that whether such a ‘disclosure’ occurs is not something which can be mechanically produced or predicted for a particular person at a particular point. Rather, it leaves the initiative of such a disclosure to God, in much the same way as traditional Christian theologians have contended.[73]


           How does Ramsey suggest that such purposes for religious language can be fulfilled? The major considerations concern ‘models’ and ‘qualifiers.’ Models place the religious story or phrase on empirical ground. For instance, in speaking of God as First Cause, Infinitely Wise, Infinitely Good, or Eternal Purpose, the latter term in each suggests a view of God according to some specific model--a model with which one can be empirically familiar. The notions of causality, wisdom, goodness, and purpose are adequately understood within human experience so as to make possible their intelligible use in communication. Ramsey argues, however, that the model is not of itself of suitable currency to be used of God unless it is qualified.[74] The qualifiers serve to develop the story or predication in such a way that it evokes a typically religious situation and gives “an appropriately odd logical position for the word God.”[75] The odd logical position for Ramsey involves his apparent attempt at not speaking God in some ‘straight-forward language’ as though “we had privileged access to the diaries of God’s private life.”[76] However, the ‘oddness’ of speaking of God in such a way is not to be viewed as wholly unique to religious discourse. Ramsey alleges that the way the theologian uses the term ‘infinite’ is “not at all unlike its use in mathematics in relation to generated sequences for which a word of odd logic is posited at the end in relation to what could be called ‘mathematical insight.’”[77] Hence, ‘Infinite goodness’ has a very similar logical structure to ‘infinite sum’ or ‘infinite polygon.’


           The connection between, and the relevance of, models and metaphors will be discussed later at greater length. However, it is important to give some preliminary indication of their relationship. Ramsey’s own presentation is quite similar to that which will later be proposed.[78] Sufficient at this point is the claim that metaphors have important similarities to models. And both, in different degrees, “project onto reality a coherent structure formulated from an experiential base.”[79] With this similarity, the possibility is suggested that the language of science, with its models and metaphors, is not greatly unlike the language of religion, with its models and metaphors.




           The major purpose of this chapter has been to contend that the notions of verifiability and/or falsifiability are perhaps sufficient, but not necessary, conditions for meaning. The meaning and cognitive import of a sentence cannot be either validated or refused together on the basis of a common criterion. Meaning must be logically prior to the acceptance or rejection of a sentence, religious or otherwise, having cognitive significance. The claim that religious sentences have been deprived of meaning (1) on logical grounds and (2) because they are not verifiable or falsifiable has been seriously questioned. Whether, and in what possible sense, such sentences may have cognitive significance is the major topic of the following chapter.[80]




           . . . science, like the humanities, like literature, is an affair of the imagination.[81]


           . . . I would hazard the guess that the same interactive,    similarity-creating process which Black has isolated in the functioning of metaphor is vital also to the functioning of metaphor is vital also to the function of models in science.[82]


           The most prominent view toward religious language at present is not that it is meaningless per se, but that it has meaning without having cognitive import. Perhaps no one denies that a significant portion of religious language functions in capacities other than making direct propositional truth-claims about reality. Among the various types of discourse are utterances which are emotive, (eg., “I feel at peace with God”); prescriptive (eg., “If one hits your right cheek, turn the other to him”); and invocative (eg., “God, you know we are your people”).[83] The issue is whether all language which is apparently distinctively religious is reducible to types of utterances which make no real claim with regard to states of affairs in the real world. The ‘falsifiability’ challenge as presented by Antony Flew has occupied much of the contemporary discussion. He asks, “What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence of, God?”[84] His position is that the claims of the theist cannot have cognitive content because such claims are totally incapable of being falsified. R.M. Hare introduces the term ‘blik’ (i.e., statements such as “God exists” or “God loves us as a father loves his children”), which essentially means that there is no way of deciding on what is apparently proposed by reference to what happens in the world.[85] It can be observed that the cognitive status of religious assertions is evaluated on approximately the same basis as were metaphysical assertions by the earlier positivists. They are viewed as non-cognitive because they are incapable of being true or false.


           One of the theses of this chapter is that some distinctly religious assertions are cognitive. What is meant by a sentence being ‘cognitive’ is a difficult problem in itself. One possibility is merely to give a definition to ‘cognitive’ that can be used of religious utterances while their capacity for making knowledge-claims continues to be deemed impotent. This is clearly not satisfactory. What is being challenged is not simply the use of a single term, but an entire epistemology that directly influences how that term is to be employed. This point is clearly made by Blackstone, even though he rejects any cognitive status for religious utterances:


In the last analysis, the clash between those who maintain that the key religious sentences. . .do constitute knowledge and those who deny this is based upon normative differences. They differ on both the norm or standard for cognitivity and the norm or standard for knowledge.[86]


Thus, what is meant by ‘cognitive’ is greatly determined by the larger framework within which it is used. Frankena is correct when he says that “one cannot call any utterance cognitive or noncognitive, scientific or emotive, without explanation.”[87] Indeed, he outlines none different approaches to the meaning of ‘cognitive’ and ‘noncognitive.’[88] To simplify the discussion, the term ‘cognitive’ will be taken to be an attribution applied to a sentence which can be used to make a knowledge claim, to make a statement which is either true or false, or to convey factual information or misinformation.[89]


           The meaning of ‘cognitive’ accepted above, however, cannot be adopted or even rejected without some background epistemology. What constitutes a knowledge-claim will be dependent upon one’s theory of knowledge. If knowledge is understood as simply the accurate correspondence between an objective real world and the proposition of a sentence uttered by an essentially independent observer, then what is cognitive may well be what is empirically ‘checkable.’ And what is non-cognitive may be what is not adequately ‘checkable.’ However, the notion of cognitivity will be viewed quite differently within an epistemology similar to that discussed above. A cognitive sentence will not be that which is merely capable of being ‘checked’ with an independent reality by its passive observer; but it will be that which contributes to one’s understanding of that reality as it relates coherently to the observer’s own mental framework. Hence, a much greater importance will be given to the context in which meaning and cognitivity are understood.[90] One major proposal is that, rather than viewing meaning as something objectively inherent in a sentence, and viewing cognitivity as having reference to some type of relationship between a sentence and the real world, meaning and cognitivity are properly understood and accepted or rejected respectively only within a contextual setting. This setting includes the specific circumstances in which an utterance is made, as well as the explicit and tacit knowledge of those involved in the communication process. The tacit knowledge relates particularly to one’s personal experiences and also to one’s culturally adopted perspectives. The role of models, therefore, will be proposed to be of extreme importance as to their influence on both meaning and cognitivity.




           That some definite relationship may be noted between metaphors and models is suggested by the title of Max Black’s boo, Models and Metaphors. Since models are widely accepted within science, the possibility is raised that the models employed by scientists have significant parallel functions with metaphors in other disciplines. (1) One parallel is that both metaphors and scientific models may be viewed together as being either cognitive or non-cognitive. Some assert that models and metaphors do function in some cognitive capacity. Those who make this claim have adopted, in general, some form of the epistemology proposed briefly in this paper: that cognitivity must be discussed more in terms of one’s contextual understanding, not simply in terms of some criterion established by an independent, passive observer of an objective world. Metaphors and models are conceived as being necessary to understanding at certain levels; and they should be taken seriously but not literally as representations of the world.


           Others contend that metaphors and scientific models may be understood together as being helpful in serving some heuristic function, but as dispensable in principle. A prime example of those holding this view are the ‘instrumentalists.’[91] According to this approach, models are not only not taken as literal representations of the world, they are not viewed as being serious representations either. A somewhat ironic observation on this situation is that both groups, in dealing with commonly accepted phenomena in need of some explanation (i.e., that is with metaphors and scientific models themselves), are apparently operating from very different perspectives--from within widely divergent ‘models.’


           (2) Another similarity between metaphors and scientific models is that both possess a certain ‘open-endedness’. The use of a particular model may “encourage the postulation of new rules of correspondence and the application of a theory to new kinds of phenomena.”[92] Not only do metaphors have a “built-in possibility of endless novelty,”[93] but scientific models seem to have, according to Mary Hesse, a certain ‘open texture’ or ‘surplus meaning.’ This is because a theoretical model “is richer than the explanadum” and “it imports concepts and conceptual relations not present in the empirical data alone.”[94]


           (3) In the discussion on metaphor above, it was claimed that a metaphor suggests relationships between the subject involved, thus prompting the hearer to understand what these similarities might be. This attempt at ‘conceptual organization’ also occurs with theoretical models. Such models may be viewed as ‘explanatory paradigms’ or ‘conceptual archetypes’ fro the “synthetic organization and synoptic ‘seeing’ of all that is within the purview of the natural sciences.”[95] Metaphors and models may be perceived as attempts, and frequently as successful attempts, at organizing certain ranges of experience into a coherent perspective that may be described as having been derived from ‘insight’ or even ‘inspiration.’[96] Both enable their users to relate different areas of experience in new ways (i.e., to “see new connections”).[97] By linking “widely divergent domains of understanding in a freshly intelligible way,” a well chosen model amy substitute “coherence and unity for fragmented and partial explanatory systems.”[98] Thus, a primary function of models and metaphors is not merely to serve various heuristic purposes, but to suggest perspective on understanding various ranges of experience.

           The nature of science does not involve a mere ‘objective’ description of a finite state of affairs. Its fulfillment is not attained by a simple correspondence between a particular statement and a particular state of affairs. Science attempts, and must attempt, to relate the phenomena of experience within a coherent, conceptual framework. As Toulmin claims, “Science progresses, not by recognizing the truth of new observations alone, but my making sense of them.”[99] The functioning of models, and even metaphors, as indispensable tools for ‘understanding’ and ‘making sense’ of experience clearly validates the claim that they retain a definite cognitive purpose. (At least this is true from the epistemological perspective that has been proposed.)[100]


           (4) A fourth important similarity between metaphor and model is that both function in some analogical capacity. This analogical employment--present not just in religious or secular metaphor, but also in scientific models--suggests that the indispensable nature of analogical predication is a common feature to all major disciplines. It is not unique to, and therefore not a unique problem for, religious discourse. Barbour is correct in saying that “there are enough similarities between metaphors and models to illustrate the importance of analogical imagination in very diverse fields of human thought.”[101]


           One major effect of these similarities (which also stems from the epistemology presented) is that the sharp distinction between ‘literal’ language and ‘metaphorical’ language cannot easily be recognized, and perhaps cannot even be drawn. The determination of what is literal and what is metaphorical is not possible independent of the utterance’s context as well as the experiential background of those involved in the communication process. The idea that literal meaning is what a sentence possesses in ‘zero context’ or ‘null context’ may appear enticing’ but it seems that even the most ‘literal’ sentences can only be understood in a rather elaborate, context-dependent situation.[102] An extremely important issue is whether the attainment of ‘zero context’ is even possible in principle. It might indirectly be reached if it were possible to “do a completely general specification of all the assumptions, all the things we take for granted, in our understanding of language.”[103] Were this possible, then perhaps rules might be formulated for determining when a sentence is to be taken in its ‘literal sentence meaning’ and when it is to be taken in its various departures from this, i.e., the speaker’s utterance meaning.[104]


           It seems to this writer that, although this achievement might not be theoretically impossible, it is pragmatically so. It might conceivably be possible if, within the context of a single language, all people shared common cultural and ideological conceptual systems. This common experiential and conceptual background would be a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for such a project. What makes the project pragmatically impossible is that, within a single language community, there are not only people with diverse individual and cultural backgrounds, but there are radically different, and frequently opposing, ideological systems. Any attempt at formulating such rules for knowing when to transfer meaning from ‘literal’ to ‘speaker’s’ meaning will be accepted, and perhaps only acceptable to, those who share sufficiently the rule-formulator’s experiential and ideological background.



           In spite of major functional and status similarities between metaphors and models, their differences and interrelationships should be recognized. Since Max Black discusses five kinds of models,[105] it should be noted that the type of model discussed in the previous section has been roughly equivalent to what Black calls theoretical models. Compared with metaphors, which generally are more restricted temporally in their use, and which are much more frequently used to evoke various emotional and valuational responses[106], these models call for a certain ‘systematic complexity.’[107] Thus, metaphors and models may be seen as dealing with roughly distinguishable ranges, and complexities, of experience, yet fulfilling very similar purposes.


           Along with recognizing these two ‘strata’ of metaphor (i.e., metaphor itself and the theoretical model), a third ‘strata’ of model-metaphor is of extreme importance. This third type of extended metaphor is referred to in different terms, but apparently with the same essential intended ideas: Max Black labels it a ‘conceptual archetype,’[108] Stephen Pepper as a ‘root metaphor,’[109] Dorothy Emmet as a ‘metaphysical analogy,’[110] and Thomas Kuhn as a ‘paradigm.’[111] It involves one’s ‘ultimate frames of reference’ or ‘ultimate presuppositions.’ Using various analogical extensions from experience, persons accept ultimate frames of reference and categories derivative from them, to interpret all ranges of their experience.[112] World views are thus adopted, many of which are incompatible with one another.


           The inter-dependence of metaphors, models, and paradigms is of paramount significance. It is proposed that a bi-directional influence exists in these three ‘strata’ of metaphor; although metaphor and paradigms are the two key elements prominently involved with the process of communication. (1) The upward influence (from metaphor to paradigm) is that the use of a metaphor, or a coherent system of metaphors, may influence one’s capacity for recognizing certain conceptual schemes (paradigms) different from that presupposed by the metaphor user. (2) The downward influence is that one’s accepted paradigm will greatly affect the meaning and cognitive status ascribed to a particular metaphor or set of metaphors. In fact, one’s ultimate conceptual paradigm may play a vital role as to when sentences are to be interpreted literally or in some other way. Ultimate presuppositions may exert an extensive influence on the interpretation of language in general.


           (1) What of the upward influence from metaphor to paradigm? This should be discussed under at least two sub categories: (a) How different natural languages affect the world views of their uses, and (b) How the use of vocabulary and metaphorically coherent systems within a single language affect the capacity for recognizing various possible conceptual gestalts.

           (a) Claiming that there is some causal relation between language and culture is much easier than arguing successfully that the causation is unidirectional. It seems that “either may be the causal agent” or that “both may be joint effects of a common cause, [or that] there may be mutual causal action.”[113] The influence of language upon thought has been cogently argued by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf.[114] When compared, the vocabularies of different languages frequently expose differences in ideas and thought. The ability for understanding the ideas unique to a different language and vocabulary is adversely affected because one’s own ideas--structured significantly by one’s own language--cannot easily be transposed into those of that other culture. Therefore, language impedes, but not completely so, the capacity for recognizing certain conceptual paradigms within other language systems.[115]


           (b) Within a single language system, language use still possesses a notable influence on the capacity for recognizing certain gestalts. If metaphor organizes the users’ view of things (eg., as Max Black claims that the ‘wolf-man’ metaphor “organizes our view of men”),[116], then the capacity for understanding contrasting or contradictory views (eg., of man) will consequentially be reduced. For not only are there various world-views undergirded by different language systems, but there are different ideological gestalts present within every language system. The employment of certain metaphorical expressions, because of the various ideas and expectations evoked by them, “might determine our experience of the entity in such a way that we see one Gestalt and not another.”[117] Because of this effect on perception and conception, a natural language itself, as well as the language employed within a particular ideological gestalt, present a certain ‘givenness’ to those within the language system and conceptual gestalt respectively. An ontologically neutral langauge is not what is ‘given,’ but a langauge which generally suggests specific ways of ‘seeing’ the world. It is most natural, then, for children to adopt those ways of ‘seeing’ the world that are supported by the language system in toto, and by particular ideological employments within a single language.


           For instance, if the initial language one learns contains fifty-five different terms to describe fifty-five different kinds of snow, then this person’s view of this aspect of ‘reality’ will clearly be different from one who was raised in Kansas. But further, within the same language system used in Kansas, many diverse ideological gestalts are present. Some children are raised within a political gestalt using language which suggests that Democrats are “money wasters” robbing the American people of their tax money. Others may be raised to see political reality, with a language that structures the mental conception that Republicans are against the poor people and are to be despised. Most generally, children naturally adopt the conceptual model promoted by the language learned. The more engrained this model becomes, the nearer it approaches becoming an ideological paradigm (ie., a conceptual system highly resistant to criticism of its ultimate presuppositions). When this level is attained (in a logical sense more than temporal), the major influence is ‘downward,’ from the paradigm to language and metaphor.


           (2) The acceptance of ideological paradigms is not simply a matter of children being passively educated. People do break out of their heritages and sometimes adopt paradigms highly unlike that to which they would ‘naturally’ be led. In addition, the human mind has the capacity to frame new ideas, to add new vocabulary, and to draw new relationships. The insightful use of metaphor occasionally captures a cognitive insight that can be presented equivalently in no other way. This suggests that the means to ideological paradigms are multifarious, not that such paradigms can ultimately be avoided.


           Models and paradigms greatly influence the meaning and cognitive status ascribed to particular language utterances. (a) The role of context focuses more on those temporally immediate elements accompanying the utterance than does the ideological paradigm. That context can suggest a meaning dramatically different from the utterance’s ‘literal meaning’ is common knowledge. In a certain context, the words “I love you, too” can mean something like: My abhorrence for you is matched only by your hostility for me. The context not only includes the tacit knowledge possessed by persons involved in a present communication situation, but also the knowledge uniquely held (through memory) by various persons involved in a communication setting. Thus, ‘esoteric’ contexts for an utterance are quite common. The meaning of an utterance may be wholly unintelligible to some persons in a communication setting. When a man utters the following sentence in English to five other English-only speaking persons: “I am looking for someone to kalaka with,” only those persons who have seen or heard about the ‘car-pooling’ advertisement with the original share-the-ride-with-a-friend’ will have any idea what this man is talking about.


           In other situations, an utterance might intelligibly mean very diverse things, depending to a great extent on the background knowledge possessed by persons involved. For example, just before Mrs. Jimmy Carter was to arrive in southern Illinois in March of 1980, I stated to two of my colleagues that she would come unless she gets “burned out” before she makes it. One of my colleagues understood the statement metaphorically, thinking that I was speaking of the possibility of her becoming exhausted. The other colleague, who knew, like me, that Mrs. Carter had to be removed from her sleeping room the night before because of a dangerously close fire, understood the “meaning” of the statement completely differently. Both persons understood the meaning of the statement, but the background of each controlled the understanding of the statement, whether it was to be literal or metaphorical.


           Making a sharp distinction between literal and metaphorical meaning, as though some universal determining criteria can be supplied for when a particular utterance is to be taken one way or the other, is not possible. Even if all the background knowledge and assumptions of the immediate context of an utterance might be specifiable theoretically, differences in the larger ideological paradigms prevent any specific conclusions produced from such a project from being universally acceptable.


           (b) In one sense, an ideological paradigm is the ultimate extension of context. As context greatly affects the meaning and cognitive status ascribed to utterances in a smaller domain, so also an accepted paradigm plays a more comprehensive role in its impact on the accepted meaning and cognitive status of utterances in every context. Much of what was stated regarding the influence of context in (a) above is applicable to this section on paradigms. Ultimate presuppositions may be so radically divergent that meaningful statements to persons within one paradigm may almost be completely unintelligible to those within another. Krishna’s statement, “Those who eat the nectar-like leavings of the sacrifice repair to the eternal Brahman” would be rather meaningless to a devout Southern Baptist from Oklahoma.[118] The problem is deeper than a mere ignorance of terminology. It involves fundamental differences in world view.


           Even when the same statement is meaningful to persons in very different ideological paradigms, its meaning may be understood in drastically different ways because of the paradigms accepted. For example, suppose that persons within two very different cultures, having two very different perspectives, have strong beliefs regarding a certain beastly creature who has not been seen by anyone for many years. Both groups regard the following statement as true: “The beastly-looking creature kills all humans it meets.” Without apodeictic evidence supporting the view, one group may understand this statement to mean that this creature physically mutilates every human it encounters. The creature is conceived within this paradigm as necessarily desiring human death; and, in every case of human encounter, capable of fulfilling this desire. However, other persons operating with totally dissimilar presuppositions concerning the creature’s nature insist that this encounter with humans is very much opposite to what described by the first group. The ideological paradigm employed by the second group suggests that the creature actually has compassion for all humans; and it is against his nature and capacity to harm any person physically. Thus, when confronted with the statement “the beastly-looking creature kills all humans it meets,” this groups refuses to accept that “kill” has reference to physical death. Although this group may concede that this statements “true,” the persons within this group understand the statement to mean that the creature has such an awesome, completely dominating effect on humans when they are encountered that their spirit of courage is completely destroyed. Because of the creature’s compassion, he wishes to initiate no contact with humans, for he knows the effect it has on them. And because of this effect, no person has ever sought him out a second or third time--something necessary to the discovery that the creature really does have compassion for humans. With both groups, the controlling interpretive paradigm dictates the meaning of various statements made about this beastly creature. It may directly influence whether the statement is to be taken literally or in some non-literal way.




           What has been implicitly suggested throughout this paper is that there are different ways of seeing reality. Perception itself is not a build-up of atomistic particulars. It occurs in a wholistic fashion, with a sort of givenness. The givenness in perception is greatly affected by the language used by the perceiver, by the cognitive elements suggested by coherent metaphorical systems within the language, and by ultimate ideological paradigms. It is not, therefore, an ‘objective givenness in the sense that one has neutral, direct access to the world. It is contended that one does not simply passively see, but that one actively participates in structuring what is perceived. One always sees from some perspective. This idea is referred to in various ways--John Wisdom speaks of seeing as; John Hick talks of experiencing as; Max Black argues that metaphors and models involve ‘construing as’; and Ian Barbour prefers the rendition of ‘interpreting as’.[119] The notion has been popularly illustrated by Wittgenstein in the Philosophical Investigations where the famous duck-rabbit sketch appears. The figure may be construed as either a duck or a rabbit. It cannot be perceived as both at the same time, however. With this example, it cannot be said that the sketch is truly one and definitely not the other, for the gestalt changes.


           A changing gestalt, however, should be distinguished from another kind of gestalt, a kind actually more pertinent to this discussion. This is an ambiguous gestalt.[120] It is suggested that ideological paradigms are primary examples of this type of gestalt. Contrary to changing gestalts, which can truly be seen as one thing and then another, ambiguous gestalts may be mutually exclusive, such that only one (if any) of the possible incompatible descriptions can logically be called true. A reference to experience can perhaps be made for every ambiguous gestalt to support its truth. But the possibility of verification or falsification is almost completely inconceivable in any strict sense. An acceptance of a specific ambiguous gestalt, therefore, necessarily involves a certain commitment to that paradigm. Because of this, the idea that there exists some neutral observer who can give a completely uninfluenced interpretation of the phenomena to be accounted for by large conceptual systems is absurd. Such systems are always based in the finiteness of human experience. Only someone transcending this finiteness could possibly offer an authoritative interpretation for the phenomena accounted for by various world views.


           One of the major conclusions that is proposed is that many disciplines ultimately involve objects which are ambiguous. Not only do religion and metaphysics entertain such objects, but science itself involves ultimate commitments to paradigmatic interpretations of ambiguous objects. It has been argued that the acceptance of certain paradigms directly influences how language, meaning and cognitivity are understood. Although arguments against complete relativism have not been presented, such arguments would still be consistent with this presentation. A type of critical realism is suggested toward meaning, scientific theories and models, and even ideological paradigms.





           As William James as pointed out the varieties of religious experience, so also one should recognize the varieties of religious language. The primary concern of this paper rests with those statements which are apparently intended by users to make some cognitive claim about the world. The fact that some sentences are intended as such, of course, does not of itself assure that such sentences are justifiably used in such a way.[121] But if no religious sentences were intended in some cognitive sense, it would be quite unlikely that any would actually function in that capacity. Such intentionality, then, is not a sufficient condition for cognitivity; but it approaches the status of being a necessary condition. Since some sentences are intended cognitively and others not, the number of sentences involved in a cognitive analysis is conveniently reduced.


           The previous chapters have indicated that recognizing a statement to be a claim about the world is not a simple process of noting correspondence between the statement and the world. The cognitivity of a sentence is greatly affected by the immediate context of the utterance, the ideological paradigms employed by persons involved, and the personal levels of awareness possessed by these persons. Jerry Gill stresses that these considerations are also involved in the case of metaphor:


The cognitivity of any given metaphor must be established in relation to the context within which it is used. . . . As in the case of cognitive significance in general, metaphorical cognitivity must be seen as a function of the subject’s awareness of and response to the multi-dimensional and contextual structure of experience.[122]


The meaning and truth of statements, including metaphorical ones, is always relative to some particular conceptual understanding. True statements need not be viewed as those which literally describe the actual nature of things. Rather, “the truth of a given metaphor must be determined on the basis of the interrelation between the context, the speaker’s intention, and the levels of awareness.”[123] Therefore, denying cognitivity to sentences, religious or non-religious, on the sole ground that they do not, or cannot, describe reality as it “literally is” is possible only with an epistemology that has been seriously questioned in this paper.


           One reason why religious utterances have been denied cognitive import is that the cognitive appearing ones frequently have a non-cognitive use. Sentences like “God is love” are often used in a context to convey the meaning “love your neighbour as yourself.” Therefore, it might be claimed that the original sentence was really an imperative, not a cognitive claim concerning the nature of God. However, such a position overlooks the well-supported idea that an utterance may function in more than one way at the same time. The notion that an utterance must be either cognitive or non-cognitive but not both is without adequate evidence in recent linguistic theory. John Austin, who greatly elaborated on the distinctions between performative and constative utterances [124] remarked that “It [is] not always easy to distinguish performative utterances from constative.”[125] Jerry Gill explains that the more Austin attempted to pinpoint the differences between these utterances, the more he recognized that such pinpointing was ill-conceived. Gill continues to point out that Austin concludes that this project could not succeed because it was “predicated on the assumption that statements can have only one function at a time.”[126] Indeed, Austin says that “whenever I say anything. . .I shall be performing both locutionary and illocutionary acts, and these two kinds of acts [are used] as a means of distinguishing... performatives from constatives.”[127]


           It is particularly important for religious language that the possibility of multiple, simultaneous functions of an utterance be recognized. Heimbeck suggests that those who feel that by proving non-cognitive uses of an utterance establishes a non-cognitive meaning mistakenly neglect to distinguish between what he terms contextual meaning and conventional meaning. The contextual meaning is “the function that a sentence performs in any particular context and reflects the speaker’s purpose or intention on that particular occasion.” The conventional meaning “has nothing to do with specific contexts, particular occasions, or speaker’s purposes.” It deals with “the rules, habits and conventions which govern the correct use of that expression on all occasions and which determine the speaker’s understanding of its general use regardless of his special employments of it.”[128] A noticeable similarity may be noted between Heimbeck’s distinction and the sentence meaning/speaker meaning distinction made by John Searle. Neither Heimbeck, Searle, nor this writer suggests that a sentence possesses meaning in and of itself. It is dependent upon a vast array of background assumptions. Following the discussion above, it is proposed that a sentence can have a ‘conventional meaning’ or a ‘general use’ by virtue of persons sharing adequately similar ideological paradigms. Somewhat unlike Heimbeck and Searle, this writer hesitates drawing a very definite boundary between these two types of meaning. But even though there may be a pragmatic barrier to specifying rules for knowing when to distinguish them, it still seems consistent and helpful to this presentation to recognize these roughly defined areas of meaning.


           One of the most significant consequences of this discussion is that religious sentences may function non-cognitively (because of their contextual meaning); and may simultaneously function cognitively because of their conventional meaning. Although they may function in such ways simultaneously, it seems correct that the former is functionally dependent upon the latter.[129] Without the conventional meaning, the non-cognitive contextual meaning would not really be operational. The evaluation of many biblical assertions will directly be affected by these considerations. Many biblical utterances are hortatory in character, thus having a non-cognitive function. Scholars have recognized that the Gospels, are much more than apparent historical records; they were written with the hope of winning converts (John 20.30-31). The New Testament letters perhaps are primarily hortatory, written to admonish persons toward more consistent Christian living. Yet both the Gospels and the letters contain numerous indicative-type sentences in which God’s mighty acts in history are declared. These utterances definitely seem to intend to portray a straightforwardly cognitive function. Thus, the historically based cognitive kerygma was used by New Testament writers for non-cognitive purposes. An example of this type of use is Paul’s statement, “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you” (Ephesians 5.2). It is concluded with Ian Barbour that “the presence of these non-cognitive functions does not require that cognitive functions be absent.” A Cognitive model, if accepted, can account for both cognitive and non-cognitive functions; whereas a non-cognitive model cannot.[130]




           It has been claimed that meaning and cognitivity are not necessarily dependent upon a criterion of verifiability or falsifiability; that, in fact, such an objective, universally applied criterion is not even possible, given the epistemology that has been proposed. Both meaning and cognitivity are heavily dependent upon contextual considerations, including ultimate ideological paradigms as well as on the explicit and tacit knowledge involved in the immediate contextual setting. Meaning and cognitivity are experientially based. This experiential basis gives rise to analogical attempts at understanding “that which lies beyond our powers of direct inspection.”[131] Therefore, any discipline which seeks to make sense of phenomena which transcends finite experience must understand by way of analogical predication. This is true not only for religion and its language, but also for science and its language. If the use of analogy (i.e., models) in science serves as a necessary and cognitive means of making sense of phenomena transcending finite experience, then perhaps the use of analogy in theology will not be prematurely dismissed as non-cognitive in its attempt to accomplish a very similar goal.

           The use of anthropomorphism in religious language seeks to describe God in experiential terms--terms associated with bodily members and physical movement. For instance, “Jehovah’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59.1). References to the arm of God are frequent in the Old Testament (e.g., Deuteronomy 4.34; 5.15; 7.19; 9.29; Psalm 44.3; 98.1; Isaiah 40.10-11).


           In addition, the Christian Bible employs anthropopathism, which ascribes human emotions and responses to God. Thus grief (Psalm 95.10; Hebrews 3.10), anger (Rev 14.10,19) and wrath (Rom 1.18; Eph 5.6) are predicated of God. Like other types of utterances, the meaning of religious utterances are heavily dependent upon the contextual setting. The religious context gives some guidance as to which of the associated implications of such anthropopathic terms are to be focused upon. For example, grief can involve self pity, anger can be filled with an irrational obsession for revenge and wrath can be overlaid with a passion to return in kind. The religious context, however, would dissuade one from focusing upon these possible implications as a part of the terms meaning.


           This type of language helped prompt such men as Ludwig Feurbach and Sigmund Freud to assert that the notion of God is nothing more than a projection of man’s self. Such language then has an empirical base, but it has no actual referent beyond that posited in the mind of man. This position, however, cannot be derived from a mere analysis of the language; it must involve the acceptance of an ideological paradigm that directly affects the evaluation of the meaning and cognitive status of the language employed.


           Analogical predication regarding the nature of God is also frequent in religious language. It is common to hear people speak of God as perfect, as love and as omnipresent. All of these terms have an anchorage in experience. It is at least possible then for one to have some idea of what they mean when juxtaposed with God. It is by such terms that the nature of God is understood; and without such terms, God’s nature would be completely unknowable. The word God predicates nothing of itself. Thus, the claim of W.T. Blackstone that “if one is to know analogically something of God or any other object, then one must know something of God literally” is not acceptable.[132] This claim disregards the idea that these predications may be viewed as not attempting to relate to God’s essence, but as only allowing one to affirm God’s existence. Gilson alleges that this thought is consistent with Aquinas’ view on analogy: “. . .unless we are to admit that St. Thomas has grossly contradicted himself, we must suppose that the knowledge of God which he grants does not in any way bear upon his essence.”[133] From this it may be said that no one knows God; yet it is possible for one to have adequate knowledge about God.

           To explain further, the statement “God is perfect” is unlike the metaphor “man is a wolf.” The latter expression has two subjects with which one may have direct acquaintance.[134] The analogy, then, is between man and wolf. The meaning of this metaphor rests upon the tacit and explicit knowledge of the associated implications of the subjects involved. It functions to create similarities and yet remains open-ended. It may be diagrammed as follows:


                      level of experience man wolf


           However, in saying “God is perfect” the analogy is not between God and the notion of perfection. The analogy is between perfection and that in experience from which this notion is derived (eg., an understanding of goodness). No one experiences pure perfection. It is analogically postulated from experience, and then predicated of God. God has no associated implications produced from one’s explicit or even tacit knowledge of Him. Rather, the term God functions as a logical construct as an integrator term serving an important theoretical function, in much the same way as the terms “I”, “self,” and “person” do.[135] This analogy may be diagrammed as follows:


                                                                                                            (God is)


           level of experience goodness


           It seems that much of the criticism of analogical predication concerning God does not recognize the distinctions mentioned above. Such criticism assume that all valid analogies must take the form of the man-wolf analogy; that is, that one must have some literal knowledge of both subjects involved in the analogical utterance before the analogy can properly be employed. Demanding that one have the same literal access to the subjects involved in the analogy, however, would challenge the validity of many scientific models which are plainly analogical in nature.


           Theoretical models, particularly, are “imaginative mental constructs” which may be suggested by observations from experience, but models of which no one has any literal knowledge. For instance, the “billiard-ball model” of gas involves an imaginative mental construct derived from observations on billiard balls that “gas is tiny elastic spheres.” From this model, the Kinetic Theory of gases may be developed. Yet no one has any literal knowledge of these tiny elastic spheres. The theory of these hypothetical spheres involves equations interrelating the mass, velocity, energy, and momentum of these spheres. None of these theoretical properties can be observed.[136] But the analogy drawn is not considered invalid because one cannot have literal knowledge of both the gas and the tiny elastic spheres.


           The idea that “the universe is a machine” involves an analogy perhaps even closer to the God is perfect analogy. Having an experiential knowledge of what a machine is makes it possible to use it as a model on a larger scale, although its meaning has been somewhat revised. No one has literal knowledge of a universe. The term universe functions logically as a mental construct used for the purpose of understanding the nature of things. Conceptualizing the universe as a machine gives one considerable help in understanding something of the possible nature of what is called the universe. Similarly, having an experiential knowledge of what goodness is makes it possible to use it, in a revised and expanded way, as an aid in understanding something abut the nature of that which is called God. Like universe, the term God functions logically as a mental construct which may be employed in an ultimate explanatory capacity. (This is not to say that God is merely a mental construct; but only that, as far as one’s knowledge of Him is concerned, the term God functions with this status.) This analogy may be diagrammed as follows:           (the universe is a)


                                                                                                            machine                                                         (perhaps involving action at a distance) level of experience machine (direct, physical, causal connection)




           It has been argued that the meaning and cognitive status of utterances are greatly dependent upon the immediate context of the utterance and upon one’s ultimate ideological paradigm. This directly influences whether statements are understood literally or in some metaphorical way. Although no well-defined boundary can be identified between what is to be literally or metaphorically understood, it is still almost necessary to recognize these roughly defined areas of meaning. The truth of utterances is also contextually dependent. Statements may be contextually true without requiring a true correspondence between the proposition and the actual state of affairs. One category of statements in the Bible, and in religious discourse in general, which may illustrate some of these points pertains to cosmological considerations. Some people have adopted an interpretive paradigm that the Bible speaks literally on cosmological issues. One group may use a passage to prove the Bible’s truthfulness; for instance, that God “hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7). Another group may use verses to prove that the Bible is filled with error; for it speaks of pillars of the earth (Job 9.6) and of a vault of heaven (Isaiah 40.22; Job 22.14). It speaks of the sun rising and falling; it refers to the “four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11.12) and it portrays heaven as being up.


           Given our present knowledge of cosmology, these statements definitely do not correspond to the actual state of affairs. Does this mean that they are necessarily false? If truth and falsity are determined solely by the “literal match” between a statement and reality, then such utterances are false. But if truth is viewed within conceptual and experiential contexts, then such statements may be understood as true without corresponding literally to the real world. The context, the speaker’s intention, and the levels of awareness by the audience are extremely important. Thus, the truth of many such terms and phrases mentioned above may be relative--relative to the perspective of the perceiver. Many of these utterances involve attempts at explaining the world in the context of the phenomena perceived. It is frequently the case, not only for religious language but for language in general, that one’s conceptual system is structured through spatialization metaphors.[137] Therefore, the use of phenomenological language to express truth may be seen as not only valid, but as quite common.


           Some religious language may more readily be accepted as metaphorical in some sense rather than literal. Other religious utterances, however, are made by some persons who fully intend to make truth-claims about reality, claims pertaining to actual state of affairs in nature and/or history. Such claims apparently are made within the Christian scriptures. For instance, many of the miracle accounts in both testaments have the logical and grammatical form of propositions about reality. Since the resurrection of Christ has been taken as the primary miracle account within the Christian tradition, it will be used as a focal example. Consider the statement: “God has raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.” The logical and syntactic elements of this sentence appear identical to any declarative sentence. If so, then the meaning of this sentence cannot be distinguished qualitatively from other declarative sentences on mere logical or syntactic grounds.


           What is the meaning of this example sentence? Following the preceding discussion, it must be said that the meaning of this sentence will be dependent upon the context and upon one’s accepted ideological paradigm. It is without doubt that this sentence has been understood in many diverse ways. Some understand the sentence as making a literal truth-claim about an actual event that occurred within the space-time matrix. Others understand the sentence as making no literal claim about the body of Jesus of Nazareth, but as constituting an expression concerning the nature of man’s existence; thus, the sentence is interpreted existentially.[138] Still others may not know what to make of the sentence. It is not the purpose of this paper to argue for any one meaning as being correct.


           What can be shown, however, is that the meaning of this sentence (and others like it) cannot be objectively or neutrally determined by a mere consideration of language. Meaning is not something possessed by language itself, as though it were inherent within it, but is something attributable to language based on the explicit and tacit awareness of the use of terms within contexts; and dependent upon the interpretive, ultimate paradigms utilized by those attempting to understand the meaning of particular utterances. Perhaps more than any other type of discourse, the meaning of religious language is immeasurable influenced by one’s commitment to a particular ontology and world view. If this point is recognized, then one may understand that a neutral evaluation of religious language (or any other type of language for that matter) is not possible to attain. This writer concurs with R. David Broiles when he says,


Those who claim that religious statements are really expression of bliks, or discernment-commitment situations, or confessions, or convictions, or presuppositions, or emotions, or attitudes are recommending a particular way of viewing religious language and not, as most claim, describing the     logic of religious discourse.[139]


Nonetheless, it is affirmed that progress can be made in this area, in much the same way that progress can be made in other areas involving large-scale conceptual disputes. This must include an openness to expose and critically examine one’s own foundational presuppositions.


           Most crucial in the preceding survey is the fact that in linguistics and hermeneutics in the 19th/20th/21st centuries, cultural anthropology and linguistics expressed extreme relativism in these disciplines. One of the great masters of the hermeneutical revolution, Dilthey’s Structuralism, expresses our relativistic plight in the following five propositions:


           1. There is no such thing as a determinate, exclusive starting point of any kind of inquiry or action.

           2. There is no such thing as a singular, primary and privileged or absolute source for human knowledge or action.

           3. There is no such thing as a primary and privileged or absolute foundation or ground or guarantee of validity of knowledge or reliability of ways of acting.

           4. There is no such thing as a primary, ultimate or absolute criterion for the truth or falsity of knowledge and/or the reliability of a rule of action. (Krausser, “Dilthey’s Revolution” Review of Metaphysics (1968,69):262-280).

           5. The implications of these ‘relativistic axioms’ for the biblical view of incarnation, canon, i.e., any final authoritative word within the space-time matrix, should be crystal clear. Their significance lies in the fact that they dominate much or most biblical hermeneutics under the auspices of being scientific, of course.


           In the context of Dilthey’s hermeneutics, there had been 18th/19th century narrative displacement in historiography. The following are some of the issues:


           1. Kant’s First Critique, Critique of Practical Reason and Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Alone.

           2. Lessing’s Theological Writings: The Leibnitzian epistemology of the “broad ugly ditch.”

           3. Herder’s naturalistic pantheism, natural religion and immanent god.

           4. Hegels’ geist as the orderer of all matter; Marx inverted “geist” into natural laws controlling matter, directing it to higher forms of expression.

           5. Marx and Hegel’s dialectical view of reality contra--

                      a. The Law of Identity, i.e., 1 = 1.

                      b. The Law of the Excluded Middle, i.e., A cannot be     both A and Non A at the same time. From absolute Time and Space to Space-Time.

                      c. The Law of Contradiction, i.e., A cannot be both true and false at the same time under the same circumstances.

           6. Theory and Practice from Aristotle to Marx: Priority to Theory or Practice?

           7. From Dilthey to Darwin: Erlebnis and the meaning of history

                      a. Dilthey to Troeltsch: Analogy of expression and recovery of the past.

                      b. Overcoming polarity of Subject/Object logic and epistemology in 19th century existentialism and phenomenology,     eg., Husserl, Egner and Buber.’

                      c. Encounter epistemology and historically mediated data about truth (from realism to existential view of truth).

                      d. History, Truth and Encounter.

                      e. God, mediated knowledge and Man.

           8. Nietzsche and Freud: Death of God and rejection of objective status of God’s existence.

           9. From the death of God and the death of absolutes to the death of man. Keats stated, “All things are falling apart. . .the center cannot hold.”


           In the same context, it is imperative to recall the theories of Sapir-Whorf’s linguistic relativism thesis. The so-called Sapir-Whorf’s hypothesis expounds at least ten propositions: (These are taken from the following works: B.L. Whorf, Language, Thought and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Edited by J. B. Carroll (NY, 1956); and Sapir, Selected Writings of Edward Sapir, ed. D.G. Mandelbaum (University of CA Press, 1949).


           1. Languages embody “integrated fashions of speaking” or “background linguistic systems,” consisting of prescribed modes of expressing thought and experience.

           2. A native speaker has a distinctive “conceptual system” for “organizing experience,” and (3) a distinctive “world view” concerning the universe and his relations to it.

           4. The background linguistic system partially determines the associated conceptual system, and

           (5) partially determines the associated world view.

           6. Reality consists of a “kaleidoscopic flux of impressions.”

           7. The “facts” said to be perceived are a function of the language in which they are expressed, and (8) the “nature of the universe” is a function of the language in which it is stated.

           9. Grammar does not reflect reality, but varies arbitrarily with language.

           10. Logic does not reflect reality, but varies arbitrarily with language. (Max Black, Models and Metaphors (Cornell University Press, 1962, pp. 245,246)


THE CHALLENGE OF LINGUISTIC RELATIVISM must be placed in the context even of a brief historical survey, if this post modern malaise is to be taken seriously. Understanding anthropology as a science will necessitate a preview of the founders of cultural anthropology and we must have some awareness of the rationalists of the Enlightenment (see syllabus on The Enlightenment in the LCC/S library). From Kant forward “facts and values” were separated. The physical sciences were interested in facts of all other areas and the humanities were interested in cultural values (a shift from Greek Ethics to Latin moral mores were the culturally relative value systems).


           Enlightenment rationalism is the origin of The Idea of Progress. The continuity of cultural history from lower to higher degrees of culture, was not original with Tylor. Two characteristics of The Enlightenment were the Inevitability of Progress and the Perfectibility of Man (via science technology and education). All progress was grounded in the instruments of divine providence for the perfecting of mankind (see my study, “Counterfeit Kingdoms of God”). Man had endless possibilities to transform the inherited historical cultural order in the light of newly emerging moral ideas. By living in harmony with the biblical laws of human nature and the order of cosmic nature, man could regulate his individual and social life in accordance with the dictates of reason so as to promote universal peace and the general happiness of mankind.


           Rousseau completely distorted the positive impact of the arts and sciences as an impediment which corrupt and hinder human intelligence. In Germany the concept of culture (cultur or kultur) was contrasted with Rousseau’s deification of nature and the cult of sophisticated primitivism.


           The Enlightenment/Humanistic concept of man as creator and transformer of his culture implied a distinction between the fixed order of nature and the variable order of human culture. This view conceived increasing perfection through creativity in time; this meant only a gradual increment of forms of being, but no essential transformation in the order of nature as a whole (see my paper, “The Conflict Between Positivism and Historicism”).


           Once it became apparent that culture was a natural process and that man was by nature a self-perfecting, culture-producing animal, then philosophers and historians attempted to describe the “natural history” of man from “rudeness to civilization.” The concept of natural history as originally utilized by Vico, Herder, Rousseau and Ferguson, involved the assumption of the continuity of cultural development from savagery to civilization. Culture history was progressive precisely because it was continuous and did not involve any radical breaks with the past. This meant also that time was an essential factor in the evolution of human culture and that time made for progress (see my papers “Paradigms of Time: From Newtonian Absolute Time to Einstein’s “Relativity of Time” and these pantheistic factors developing in Western Civilization from Hegel to Darwin as these movements are crucial for understanding the resurgency of Pantheistic Post Modern thought).


           The idea of progress which the 18th century philosophers accepted was combined with the antithetical (Hegelian “Dialectic Logic”) theory of history which assumed the discontinuity of history and the static character of time. Human progress was inevitable while deploring the vice, ignorance, and superstition of the past (note the post modern implication) nothing and no one from the past can be normative for all times, eg., Scripture, Incarnation and the implication of our Restoration Heritage was totally absurd to the post modern mind). In conflict with this entire development, Gibbons’Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire demonstrated how Rome had declined from the high point to the task of recovery from the triumph of barbarianism and superstition. The origin and development of early Christianity to the conversion of the Roman Empire cut right across the Enlightenment idea of Inevitability of Progress by human ingenuity. At this juncture in cultural development we note the conflict between the “natural” and the “unnatural,” which was evaluated as being contrary to human nature and reason. Now the philosophers can moralize about “progress” and “regression” in cultural history. Here the dichotomy of the “state of nature” versus the “state of civilization” becomes crystal clear.


           This mode of thought was exemplified by Adam Smith from his discussion of the natural progress of opulence in his book Wealth of Nations. The theme generalized that the natural course of things invariably led to similar stages of economic development from agriculture through manufacturing, to foreign trade in every society. This “natural economic sequence” is interfered with by governments which tend to interfere with the natural order and to produce an unnatural, retrograde order which gives precedence to manufacturers and foreign trade (eg. conflict between politics and economics eg. capitalistic Democracy and socialistic Communism (see my paper, “The Lord of All Millenniums: Major Turning Points, Persons, Ideas and Events”).


           The proper conditions of human culture would prescribe the ideal condition of human virtue and happiness suitable to the “proper state of man’s nature.”


           The Comtean Positivism and the origin of the Social Sciences along with the advent of the Darwinian revolution and resurgent concern for archaeological evidence bearing on the antiquity of many the quest for human origins was revived. While biblical origin of nature, creation, man, social institutions was totally repudiated, so was the biblical understanding of the origin of personal and social disorder, i.e., sin against the Holy Creator God with the ensuing development in the cosmology, biological, geological, social sciences God was removed from the explanatory equation. From Copernicus to Newton’s celestial mechanics (God removed as creator), Darwinism removed the biblical explanation of the origin and nature of God. Hegel to Marxism removed the biblical explanation of the origin of personal and social alienation and finally Freudism removed God from the inner person. Prayer, worship, meditation, etc. were dismissed as projections and expressions of neurosis. Wholeness of men was available not through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but through the psychoanalysis of the subconscious via Psychology and post modern Counseling (the Freudian turn to irrationalism as the explanation of human behavior).


           According to Positivism, the concept of progress had to be sharply redefined and re-evaluated. The three stages of Comtean progress are theological, metaphysical and scientific in the course of linear progress. Man evolved from a primitive to a full stage of civilization and in the course evolved out of theology and metaphysics (see my paper “Darwinian Influence on American Pragmatism and The Liberal Social Gospel”).


           In taking over the positivistic philosophy of science and the philosophy of culture history, the evolutionary ethnologists also assumed the value theory which positivism presupposed. This procedure is most clearly developed by Frazer’s thesis that the development of primitive thought was from magic through religion to science. Frazer’s main point of disagreement with Comte was that science was not the ultimate development, but that there would be a new mental stage which is expressed in our post modern anti-science, revisionist history culture. We have returned to Gnostic Pantheism as the new thought pattern, as with the classical mystics, Gnostics, Visigoths and Post Moderns, we have returned to a “new era” of irrationalism, expressed most powerfully in the media and education revolutions from the 1980s to 2001 A.D.


           When Andrew Lang (1909) and later Father Schmidt (1931) objected to Tyler’s thesis of unilinear development of religion from Animism and pointed out the concept of a “high god” was to be found in the most primitive cultures (but certainly not the creator God of Genesis).


           Post Modern cultural anthropologists are inclined to accept the evolutionary interpretation of religion and to explain the origin and development of religion from a stage of pre-animism through pluralistic animism to monotheistic thought. Myths become the traditional rationalizations used to validate religion’s ritual, a theme developed by Robertson Smith in the Religion of The Semites and made current in Modern Ethnology by Boas and Malinowski. The entire developments are in Anthropology/Ethnology, etc. There is a constant fallacy of identifying Description with Explanation. This naturalistic thesis claims that Christianity is fighting a losing battle against science. The discussion of religion in textbooks places it within a discussion of a branch of culture which is very significant for the study of primitive cultures and in the folklore of all peoples. Post Modern anthropology and ethnology have failed to provide the solidarity and peace of mind which religion formerly produced by Christianity (not religion) (see Bube’s work, Seven Patterns of the Response of Christianity to Science ).


           From Boas to Benedict cultural relativism reigns as the interpretive core. Cultural equality is a fundamental presupposition of all academic anthropologists and ethnologists (exempting a few Christians). In the process, the development of “all” social sciences led to explicit avowed Cultural Relativism. Sumner gave classic expression of this thesis in his Folkways (1940), p. 79). More recently, Herskovits has articulated the thesis of Cultural Relativism in his Man and His Works; he devoted an entire chapter to “The Problem of Cultural Relativism.”


           Ethnocentrism is defined as “the point of view that one’s own way of life is to be preferred to all others.” (Herskovits, 1948, p. 68). The post modern “tolerance” syndrome, which rejects the rights of others to their own cultural values, i.e., any effort at missions and evangelism calling for conversion from “one narrative/paradigm legitimization structure ideology to another.” Intolerance of other cultural systems are reprehensible! Why??? If there is no meta-narrative, what is the criteria for negative evaluation? (See my papers: “Chameleons in The Temple of Tolerance; Christian Conviction Between Chameleons and Musk Oxen;” “Cultural Wars in Our Post Modern Culture; Social Construction of Reality and Tracing the Maze from Foundationalism to Non- Foundationalism in Our Post Modern Culture;” “From Syncretism to Relativism to Pluralism: A Challenge of Pluralism in Our Multicultural Maze.”) (See my paper, Lord of All Millenniums)


           From a philosophical perspective, it is extremely interesting to note that Herskovits is in common with metalinguistics (eg., Chomski’s brilliant work attacking the possibility of empirically explaining language acquisition of children in all cultures). Such as Whorf adopts the thesis of historical Idealism and quotes Cassierer with approval to corroborate his view that “experience is culturally defined.” (Herskovits, 1948, p. 27) Reality as it is known is a function of culture (a’la’ Kant’s First Critique “constructivism”).


           Even the facts of the physical world are discerned through the enculturative screen some maintain that the perception of time, distance, weight, size and the other realities is mediated by the social conventions of any given group” (1948, p. 63). It is because Herskovits explicitly adopts the epistemological thesis of historical idealism that he is so uncompromising in his advocacy of cultural relativism. For him there is literally no other reality than cultural reality, and hence he maintains quite logically that the perspective of an individual is culturally conditioned by his cultural environment and that the only values which are acceptable to the individual are these which are relatively valid for his society at a given time. His foundational thesis is that “evaluations are relative to the cultural background out of which they arise.” (1948), p. 68); see my paper “Lost Transcendence in Our Post Modern Culture: Narrative Displacement From the Enlightenment to the Post Modern Demise of True Truth.”)


           Clearly, Herskovits maintains that the term “primitive” is not to be taken in the sense in which the evolutionary anthropologists understood it, namely as an evaluative term implying the judgment that the culture of native peoples is inferior in quality to that of historic civilizations. If used at all, the term ‘primitive’ should be employed descriptively as a synonym for non-literate (1948), p. 75; there is more to this discussion than playing Post Modern lexical word games).


           Herskovits distinguishes between cultural absolutes and cultural universals (note Wissler and Malinowski’s previous discussions). As a liberal Democrat, Herskovits, like Boas, asks us to show a high degree of tolerance and respect for cultural differences in the name of cultural relativism. Post Modern multicultural pluralism has now entered the market place. Only when we discount our western ethnocentric biases, we will emerge from the ethnocentric morass in which western thinking about ultimate values has for so long bogged down.” (1948, p. 78)

           We are told to transcend our ethnocentrism in the name of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is used as a value charged attitude, while ethnocentrism denotes a negative value incompatible with an unbiased objective approach. Herskovits does not explain how it is theoretically possible to have a cultural relativism without ethnocentrism, in view of the fact that cultural conditioning necessarily leads the members of any given society to prefer their own value system above all others. He cannot escape cultural relativism of his historic cultures! There is no scientific procedure to escape the “is” of cultural relativism and rationally move to an “ought.” This is clearly a positivistic (naturalistic) fallacy. The entire history of science is opposed to this view that cultures are necessarily closed systems. Cultural relativism’s opposition to the classical doctrine of linear evolution and cultural progress is hardly a place to stand in order to critique linear evolution and the inevitability of progress (compare my Enlightenment Chart with Modernism Themes).


           The historical developments in the physical sciences and Goedel’s theorem contra autonomous mathematics (number theory) of Russell and Whitehead’s Principia is more than adequate refutation of linear evolutionary development and the inevitability of progress as well as the cultural chaos from World War II to September 11, 2001. No form of vicious or benign ethnocentrism explains the phenomena. All superstitions were not displaced in the scientific developments of either anthropology or ethnology. No mere romantic interest in cultural pluralism and cultural relativism can escape their Gnostic irrationalism.


           In our Post Modern world of cultural/epistemological relations there cannot be any “universal loss of human rights.” No form of functionalistic pragmatism can provide constructive analysis of our present global chaos. In a world where “values” are merely subjective delusions, anthropology, ethnology and linguistics as scientific studies of man--are nonsense! All that remains is “Power Encounters” in our global village where terrorism and patriotism are merely private social constructions! (see especially A.L. Kroeber’s Anthropology Today (Chicago, 1953); Moises Silva, God, Language and Linguistics (Zondervan, 1990); Bruce Malina, Christian Origins and Cultural Anthropology (John Knox Press, 1986). Much of the preceding discussion is inseparable from the developments in the Physical Sciences, Philosophy of Science, Linguistics and Mathematics after Goedel’s Theorem; then we can recognize the death of Positivism/Scientism and autonomous mathematics. These phenomena are inseparable in understanding the Post Modern denial of True Truth and opts for multicultural diversity in our Post Modern culture. The consequences of the aforementioned results stems from the Kuhn, Polanyi, Feyerabend, Popper, Quine debate concerning the academic demise of Foundationalism. (The influence of Kant’s First Critique is the root source of our cultural/epistemological relativism.) This influence has invaded every dimension of our culture in the temporal victory of Post Modern left wing gurus in the academy. The significance is especially clear in the Multicultural Education and MTV Media (Hollywood in general). The horrible events of September 11, 2001 (the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon) is the death nell of Post Modernism. When there is no “True Truth,” why the enormous negative response to terrorism and destruction? The Post Modern Milieu is critical of resurgent patriotism and Christian conviction where there is no normative evaluation available of “all positions,” excluding Post Modernism. Only a Judaeo/Christian world can positively address our 21st century malaize. Denial and rejection of this proposal places all mankind in peril! The whole Judaeo/Christian Heritage and the Restoration Heritage fall under the sharp knife of Post Modern relativism.

           (See the author’s following articles regarding language: Narrative Displacement and the Corruption of Language; Christian Faith and Theories of Language: Kenneth L. Pike’s Tagmemics; Nietzsche’s Step Children: “All Interpretation Is Misinterpretation;” From Eye Gate to Ear Gate: The Power of The Word in Our Dot Com Culture; Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally (Preaching and Teaching in a Post-Gutenberg World); Contextual Preaching: Culture, Symbols and Media (Philosophical and Scientific Moves Towards Deconstructionism).




[1] R. David Broiles, “Linguistic Analysis of Religious Language: A Profusion of Confusion,” Religious Language and Knowledge, ed. by R.H. Ayers and W.T. Blackstone (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1972), p. 135.

[2] Plato’s concern for a proper understanding of the nature of language is dispersed throughout his dialogues. The Cratylus, however, deals almost entirely with the nature of language and its relationship with reality. Socrates stands between Cratylus and Hermogenes who feel that ‘names’ are connected with reality by nature and by convention respectively. Socrates recognized the weaknesses of each approach, as well as the importance of having a view of language that made it possible for him to speak about truth

[3] Among the many accounts of the logical positivist movement, note especially A.J. Ayer, ed., Logical Positivism (NY: The Free Press, 1959); Maxwell Charlesworth, Philosophy and Linguistic Analysis (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1959); Victor Kraft, The Vienna Circle (NY: Philosophical Library, 1953); and Richard Rorty, ed., The Linguistic Turn (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967). Many books dealing with religious language also find it necessary to survey the positivist project: W.T. Blackstone, The Problem of Religious Knowledge (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963); James Campbell, The Language of Religion (NY: Bruce Pub. Co., 1971); Frederick Ferre, Language, Logic and God (NY: Harper and Row, 1961, Harper Torchbook ed., 1969); R.S. Heimbeck, Theology and Meaning (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1969).

[4] Cf. Moritz Schlick, “The Future of Philosophy” (1932); reprinted in R. Rorty, The Linguistic Turn, p. 48.

[5] Ibid., p. 51.

[6] Rudolf Carnap, “On the Character of Philosophic Problems,” Philosophy of Science 1 (1934); reprinted in Rorty, the Linguistic Turn, p. 61.

[7] Most influential in developing this meaningless category were Bertrand Russell in his theory of “types” and his theory of “definite descriptions” and Ludwig Wittgenstein in The Tractatus. Concerned with the ‘limits of language,’ Wittgenstein essentially equated “what can be said” with “the propositions of the natural sciences.” Elsewhere, he stated, “The totality of true propositions is the totality of the natural sciences.” What transcends the limits of language (what cannot be said) is meaningless.

[8] A.J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, 2nd ed. (NY: Dover Pub, 1946), p. 115.

[9] As Carl Hempel points out, the term verifiability is not to be understood as “the possibility of actually finding directly observable phenomena” which would conclusively verify a statement, thus implying the actual truth of the proposition; and it does not mean “the technical possibility of performing the tests needed to obtain such evidence.” It is better conceived as “the logical possibility of evidence of an observational kind which, if actually encountered, would constitute conclusive evidence for the given sentence.” (See “Problems and Changes in the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning” (1950); reprinted in Jay Rosenberg and Charles Travis, eds., Readings in The Philosophy of Language (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971), p. 422, note 6.)

[10] For a good discussion of the chronological-logical development of the verification theory of meaning , see R.W. Ashby, “Verifiability Principle,” Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by Paul Edwards.

[11] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 2nd ed. (NY: The MacMillan Co., 1953), p. 20.

[12] For a rather elaborate listing of those within the cognitivist and non-cognitivist camps, see R.S. Heimbeck, Theology and Meaning, p. 22.

[13] Michael Foster asks, “It is true that Oxford has broken through the Viennese restriction in respect of meaning (it does not confine meaning within the limits marked by the Verification Principle) but has it broken through the parallel restriction in respect of truth? Does it admit as true any statement outside those classes of statement which the Viennese philosophers marked off as meaningful?” (See his “Contemporary British Philosophy and Christian Belief,” The Christian Scholar (Fall, 1960):191.)

[14] The phrase “adequate verifiability or falsifiability” already recognizes the almost universally accepted inadequacy of the original verification principle. And it implicitly raises the question not to be glossed over--adequate for whom and under what criteria?

[15] Kant’s well-known dictum: “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith” (cf. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman K. Smith (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1929), p. 29) is made more explicit in the following statement which Jerry Gill terms “the cornerstone of nearly all of contemporary philosophy and theology”: “The theoretical use of reason was concerned with objects of the cognitive faculty only. . . . It is quite different with the practical use of reason. In this, reason is concerned with the grounds of determination of the will. . . .” (cf. Critique of Practical Reason, trans. T.K. Abbott, The Great Books of the Western World, vol. 42 (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1951), p. 296; cited in Jerry Gill, The Possibility of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1971), p. 81).

[16] Cf. Jerry Gill, The Possibility of Religious Knowledge, pp. 13-87.

[17] Bochenski lists six theories toward religious language which are a priori possible: nonsense theory; emotionalist theory; non-communicative theory; communicativist, non-propositional theories; theory of incomplete meanings; and propositional theory. (See Joseph M. Bochenski, The Logic of Religion (NY: New York University Press), 1965, pp. 28-29) Although the first two theories will be focused on, the adequacy of theories three, four and five will also be implicitly denied.

[18] J. M. Bochenski, the Logic of Religion, p. 31.

[19] Similar restrictions are accepted by R.S. Heimbeck in his Theology and Meaning (cf. pp. 39-40). He states, “I have reduced the scope of my subject matter to that sub-area of Hebraic-Christian religious language which surely would be cognitively significant if any of it is and which surely must be cognitively significant if the cognitivist is to make good his case. . . if they [God sentences] are not cognitively significant it hardly matters if other religious utterances are.” (p. 40).

[20] John Wisdom, Paradox and Discovery (NY: Philosophical Library, 1965), p. 7).

[21] M. Charlesworth, Philosophy and Linguistic Analysis, p. 153.

[22] Schlick and Carnap also express classic statements of this view. Schlick says, “It is impossible to specify the meaning of an assertion otherwise than by describing the state of affairs that must obtain if the assertion is to be true” (Erkenntnis, V, 3, p. 6; cited by Paul Marhenke, “The Criterion of Significance,” Semantics and The Philosophy of Language (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1952), p. 150). Carnap states, “. . .the meaning of a sentence is in a certain sense identical with the way we determine its truth or falsehood” (cited by Marhenke in Semantics, ed. by Leonard Linsky, p. 154).

           The idea that meaning and verification are ‘identified’ does not imply that they have the same meaning. Schlick describes the relationship: “. . .meaning and truth are linked together by the process of verification; but the first is found by mere reflection about possible circumstances in the world, while the second is decided by really discovering the existence or nonexistence of those circumstances” (cf. Rorty, ed., The Linguistic Turn, p. 49). What is meant is that the criterion employed for both meaning and truth is the same (i.e., verification).

[23] . Cf. John Wisdom, Philosophy and Psycho-Analysis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953), p. 204.

[24] Cf. Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1919), pp. 167-68; reprinted in Rosenberg and Travis, eds., Readings, pp. 166-175.

[25] Ibid., p. 170.

[26] Ibid., p. 174

[27] It seems that this point by Russell cannot sufficiently be made on the sole basis that a name must name something. All that seems to be established here is that to say “a exists” when a is a name is wholly redundant, not meaningless. The proof for its meaninglessness must be derived “a does not exist” where a is a name is meaningless; for the same sentence both affirms and denies a’s existence.

[28] Russell’s statement in 1905 is easily misleading in light of this discussion and has been misinterpreted by critics. He says, “. . .in every proposition that we can apprehend (i.e., not only in those whose truth or falsehood we can judge of, but in all that we can think about) all the constituents are really entities with which we have immediate acquaintance” (Mind 14, 1905:492 cited by Max Black, “Russell’s Philosophy of Language,” The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, ed. by Paul A. Schilpp (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1971), p. 247). Unless there is overt contradiction, Russell is not claiming that each constituent of a statement must actually exist. Otherwise, he could not make a meaningful statement about unicorns at all, which he does claim to be able to do (cf. Rosenberg and Travis, Readings, pp. 167-168).

           The resolution seems to be that, within a complex symbol (i.e., like an entire sentence or a description), it is admissible to entertain entities which are only concepts (i.e., entities which do not actually exist, but about which we do have “immediate acquaintance”). However, for a simple symbol, “mere concepts” are not admissible as being meaningful. Their meaningfulness is derived from their actually existing referent.

[29] Cf. Max Black in P. Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, p. 248.

[30] See Russell’s reply to Black in P. Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, p. 693; and in Rosenberg and Travis, Readings, p. 174.

[31] It is not contended that no names exist, but that a name necessitates the existence of its referent. Russell’s project projects onto reality what he finds in language. Max Black contends, “To anybody who still feels that there must be an identity of logical form between language and reality, I can only plead that the conception of language as a mirror of reality is radically mistaken. . . . No roads lead from grammar to metaphysics” (cf. Models and Metaphor (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1962), p. 16). If there is no ‘name’ category that demands the existence of the referent, then exists must always function as a predicate, a synthetic notion that, in Kant’s sense, is not already contained in the subject.

[32] An analysis of Russell’s concept of logical form should be pursued to establish this claim more definitely. However, Russell’s translation from grammatical to logical form is clearly not a neutral method of translation. On this issue, Black says, “It seems to me impossible to maintain that russell has a philosophically neutral method. His proposed methods of analysis and criticism rest upon dubious epistemological and metaphysical views and to accept his program is to be committed to controversial answers to fundamental questions.” (cf. Max Black, ed., Philosophical Analysis (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Cornell University Press, 1954), p. 8.

           The metaphysical nature of Russell’s project is clearly stated by Edward Cell Language, Existence, and God (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971), p. 67): “The reason for preferring Russell’s ideal syntax is the metaphysical judgment that this form corresponds to or pictures the form of the real world. If one does not accept this metaphysical judgment, he will not concur in this translation.”

[33] Eight representative references are given by R. Heimbeck, Theology and Meaning, p. 66 note 1. The theory, however, is not without its present adherents. See Peter Nidditch, “A Defense of Ayer’s Verifiability Principle Against Church’s Criticism,” Mind 70 (1961):88-89; and Wolfgang Yourgrau and Chandler Works, “A New, formalized Version of the Verifiability Principle,” Ratio 10 (1968): 54-63.

[34] J.M. Bochenski, The Logic of Religion, p. 97.

[35] Cf. P. Marhenke in L. Linski, ed., Semantics and the Philosophy of Language, p. 153. He also cites the dilemma posed by historical statements (eg., “Caesar was shaved by his barber on the morning of the day he crossed the Rubicon”). Such a statement certainly has meaning; yet there is no way of verifying it.

[36] Cf. R. Heimbeck, Theology and Meaning, p. 75. This point is also made by P. Markenke in L. Linski, ed., Semantics, 152-3.

[37] “What a picture represents is its sense. The agreement or disagreement of its sense with reality constitutes its truth or falsity. In order to tell whether a picture is true or false we must compare it with reality” (L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961), p. 19 (2.221-3).

[38] See Frederick Suppe’s extensive treatment of this development in his edited work, The Structure of Scientific Theories, 2nd ed. (University of Illinois Press, 1977), pp. 3-241; esp. pp. 115-118.

[39] For an extensive bibliography, see F. Suppe, ed., The Structure of Scientific Theories, pp. 731-67.

[40] Ibid., p. 191.

[41] Cf. Ian G. Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms (NY: Harper and Row, 1974); Basil Mitchell, The Justification of Religious Belief (NY: The Seabury Press, 1973); and Roger Trigg, Reason and Commitment (Cambridge University Press, 1973).

[42] This thesis is explicitly presented by B. Mitchell in The Justification of Religious Belief.

[43] George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Toward an Experientialist Philosophy (unpublished preliminary draft), p. 42.

[44] Note the discussion on the sentence, “The cat is on the mat” by John Searle, Expression and Meaning (Cambridge University Press, 1979), chapter 6.

[45] Hubert L. Dreyfus, What Computers Can’t Do, rev. ed., (NY: Harper and Row, 1979), p. 3.

[46] Cf. J. Gill, The Possibility of Religious Knowledge, p. 133.

[47] Cf. Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, corrected edition (University of Chicago Press, 1962), p. 56.

[48] Idem, Personal Knowledge (NY: Harper & Row, 1964), p. x; cited by J. Gill, The Possibility of Religious Knowledge, p. 133.

[49] Ibid.

[50] “The formalization of meaning relies therefore from the start on the practice of unformalized meaning. It necessarily does so also in the end, when we are using the undefined words of the definitions. Finally, the practical interpretation of a definition must rely all the time on its undefined understanding by the person relying on it. Definitions only shift the tacit coefficient of meaning; they reduce it but cannot eliminate it” (Idem, Personal Knowledge (1962), p. 250).

[51] Cf. J. Gill, the Possibility of Religious Knowledge, 134.

[52] Ibid., p. 108.

[53] Cf. Max Black, “Metaphor,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 55 (1954-55); reprinted as chapter three in M. Black, Models and Metaphor, p. 40.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Max Black, “More About Metaphor,” Metaphor and Thought, edited by Andrew Ortony (Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 28.

[56] Idem, Models and Metaphors, p. 37.

[57] This qualification precludes total nonsense utterances and assumes that, for at least one individual, the experiential base is sufficient enough for meaning; and that it is at least logically possible for another individual to share a similar enough background to ‘make sense’ of the utterance.

[58] Cf. I. Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms, p. 14; M. Black, Models and Metaphors, p. 46; Ina Loewenberg, “Creativity and Correspondence in Fiction and in Metaphors,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36 (1977-78): 348.

[59] I. Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms, p. 14.

[60] I Loewenberg, “Creativity and Correspondence,” p. 347.

[61] Worth noting is F. Suppe’s claim that the reason a positivistic epistemology survived long after logical positivism is that “in rejecting logical positivism as a general epistemology, they were willing to concede that positivism was adequate as an analysis of scientific knowledge” (The Structure of Scientific Theories, p. 6, note 7).

[62] Cf. M. Johnson and G. Lakoff, “Toward an Experientialist Philosophy,” p. 26.

[63] Frederick Ferre, “Metaphors, Models, and Religion,” Soundings 51 (1968):332.

[64] Cf. Anders Jeffner, The Study of Religious Language (London: SCM Press, 1972), p. 21. For instance, “Christ was dead but arose again from the dead after three days” is a member of the problematic set; while “Jesus was crucified near Jerusalem” is not.

[65] Cf. F. Ferre, “Metaphors, Models and Religion,” pp. 328,7.

[66] See the discussions on Aquinas’ view by the Neo-Thomists: Norman Geisler, Philosophy of Religion (Zondervan Pub. House, 1974), pp. 239-42, 265-66, 268-88; and James F. Ross, “Analogy as a Rule of Meaning for Religious Language,” International Philosophical Quarterly 1 (1961):468-502.

[67] Note especially I.T. Ramsey, Religious Language (London: SCM Press, 1957); Models and Mystery (Oxford University Press, 1964); and Christian Discourse (Oxford, 1965).

[68] Idem, Religious Language, p. 89.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Idem, Christian Discourse, p. 69.

[71] Idem, Religious Language, p. 82. Ramsey continues, “Indeed, the curse of much theological apologetic is that it talks as if theological language worked like ordinary matter-of-fact language, which is precisely what his opponents wish to hear the theologian say, for then theology has lost the day before the battle begins.”

[72] Cf. Idem, Christian Discourse, p. 71.

[73] Cf. Idem, Religious Language, p. 79.

[74] Ibid., p. 78. Ramsey states, “It is because of such qualifiers, and only when he is careful never to overlook such qualifiers, that the theist can listen undeterred to the charge of anthropomorphism.”

[75] Ibid., p. 91.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid, p. 70.

[78] See the chapter “Models and Qualifiers: Understanding and Insight” in Models and Mystery, pp. 47-71.

[79] Refer to the discussion on metaphor above.

[80] Several originally projected areas of discussion have been left out of this first chapter. First, since the notion of falsifiability has gained a central role in the evaluation of religious sentences, a presentation of, and responses to, various parables which illustrate certain problems with religious discourse should be included. For this discussion, see Antony Flew and Alasdair MacIntrye, eds., New Essays in Philosophical Theology (NY: The MacMillan Co., 1955), chp. 6; W. T. Blackstone, The Problem of Religious Knowledge, chps. 6,7; and J.I. Campbell, The Language of Religion, chp. three.

           Secondly, criticisms of analogical predication should have been dealt with. One of the most telling of criticisms suggests that the difference between making predications of man and of God is not just one of degree but one of kind. This criticism is given by W.T. Blackstone in The Problems of Religious Knowledge, pp. 65-68. A similar approach is taken by W.P. Alston in his rejection of the ‘whittle-down method’ in “The Elucidation of Religious Statements,” Process and Divinity (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Pub., 1964), pp. 429-43. Although this criticism deserves full response, the following sections will argue that statements about God are not so unique in kind as those made within metaphysical, and even scientific, systems.

[81] M. Black, Models and Metaphors, p. 243.

[82] Thomas S. Kuhn, “Metaphor in Science,” Metaphor and Thought, ed. A. Ortony, p. 415.

[83] For further discussion, see. J.I. Campbell, the Language of Religion, chp. 4; Mary C. Rose, “The Language of Religion,” Anglican Theological Review 40 (1958): 108-19; Alexander Gibson, “Empirical Evidence and Christian Faith,” The Journal of Religion 36 (1956): 24-35; and Luther Binkley, “What Characterizes Religious Language?” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 2 (1962): 18-22.

[84] A. Flew, New Essays in Philosophical Theology, p. 99.

[85] Cf. Ibid., pp. 99-103.

[86] W.T. Blackstone, The Problem of Religious Knowledge, 168.

[87] W. K. Frankena, “’Cognitive’ and ‘Noncognitive’,” Language, Thought, and Culture, ed. by Paul Henle (Ann Arbor,MI: University of Michigan Press, 1972), p. 172.

[88] Ibid., p. 169.

[89] This sense of ‘cognitive’ is also used by R.S. Heimbeck, Theology and Meaning, p. 34.

[90] “Rather than thinking of cognitive significance as a static, dualistic relationship between the knower and the known, it is more helpful to think of it as a dynamic, contextual relationship in which the factors and dimensions comprising the knower and the known are subject to a good deal of fluctuation” (J. Gill, The Possibility of Religious Knowledge, p. 126).

[91] See the discussions in Ian Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms, pp. 36-42; and M. Black, Models and Metaphors, pp. 233-238.

[92] Cf. I. Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms, p. 33.

[93] Cf. I.T. Ramsey, Models and Mystery, p. 52.

[94] Mary Hesse, “Models and Analogy in Science,” Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 5:356.

[95] Cf. Frederick Ferre, “Mapping the Logic of Models in Science and Theology,” The Christian Scholar 46 (1963):17. (This article is reprinted in Dallas M. High, ed., New Essays on Religious Language (NY: Oxford University Press, 1969), pp. 54-96.

[96] I.T. Ramsey remarks: “Metaphors then are not just link devices between different contexts. They are necessarily grounded in inspiration;” and “So whether it be metaphor or model we have ways of being articulate about what is disclosed to insight” (cf. Models and Mystery, pp. 53,54). Max Black adds, “Metaphorical thought is a distinctive mode of achieving insight, not to be construed as an ornamental substitute for plain thought” (Models and Metaphors, p. 237).

[97] Cf. M. Black, Models and Metaphors, p. 237.

[98] F. Ferre, “Mapping the Logic of Models,” p. 22.

[99] Stephen Toulmin, Foresight and Understanding, p. 81; cited by F. Ferre, “Mapping the Logic of Models,” p. 23.

[100] Ferre says, “Grant science the function of making sense of phenomena, illuminating data, searching for understanding of reality, and models achieve a cognitive status of their own which defies replacement by the abstract calculi of theoretical constructs” (Ibid.).

[101] I Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms, p. 44. Ramsey concurs in this claim: “It is my thesis, then, that by virtue of the models they variously incorporate or the metaphors which they employ, or the distinctions native to their exercise, all disciplines combine insight and discursive reasoning, mystery as well as understanding” (Models and Mystery, p. 56).

[102] Cf. John Searle, Expression and Meaning, chapter six; especially pp. 117, 127-32, 136.

[103] Cf. Ibid., p. 130.

[104] Cf. Ibid., p. 133.

[105] Cf. M. Black, Models and Metaphors, pp. 219-43. The five kinds of models are : scale, analogue, mathematical, theoretical and archetypes.

[106] Cf. I. Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms, pp. 16, 44.

[107] . Cf. M. Black, Models and Metaphors, p. 239.

[108] Cf. Ibid., p. 241.

[109] Cf. Stephen Pepper, World Hypotheses, p. 91; and Concept and Quality (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Pub. House, 1966), p. 3.

[110] Cf. Dorothy Emmet, The Nature of Metaphysical Thinking (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1957), chp. Nine.

[111] Cf. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

[112] M. Black states, “Use of a dominating system of concepts to describe a new realm of application by analogical extension seems typical of much of theorizing” (Models and Metaphors, p. 240).

[113] Paul Henle, Language, Thought and Culture, p. 5.

[114] Note Henle’s discussion in chapter one of Language, Thought and Culture.

[115] A parallel point has been presented in reference to various scientific language communities. The contemporary debate over the commensurability or incommensurability of scientific theories arises from this.

[116] Cf. M. Black, Models and Metaphors, p. 41.

[117] A. Jeffner, The Study of Religious Language, pp. 45ff.) suggests and discusses this distinction.

[118] Selected from the Bhagavad-Gita, chapter four; cited in Allie M. Frazier, ed., Readings in Eastern Religious Thought: Hinduism (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969), p. 105.

[119] Cf. I. Barbour, Myths, Modles, and Paradigms, pp. 51f.

[120] Anders Jeffner, The Study of Religious Language, pp. 45ff. suggests and discusses this distinction.

[121] Blackstone discusses four reasons why religious sentences appear cognitive: they have indicative form like other cognitive sentences; they pose questions which call for a true or false response; they employ terms like God which function as the object of cognitional verbs like know and believe, and they are often appraised by such terms as correct or mistaken. He concludes, “One could intend to say something cognitive but not really assert anything” (cf. The Problem of Religious Knowledge, pp. 48-51.

[122] J. Gill, The Possibility of Religious Knowledge, p. 160.

[123] Ibid.

[124] See J.L. Austin, “Performative Utterances,” Philosophical Papers (London: Oxford University Press,,, 19661), chapter ten; and “Performatif-Constatif,” Ordinary Language, ed. by C. Caton (University of Illinois Press, 1963), chapter two.

[125] From How To Do Things With Words; reprinted in Rosenberg and Travis, eds., Readings, p. 560.

[126] J. Gill, The Possibility of Religious Knowledge, p. 109; also see J.L. Austin, How To Do Things With Words, pp. 90-93.

[127] Cf. Rosenberg and Travis, eds., Readings, p. 573. William Frankena presents a cogent attack against a simple dualistic evaluation of utterances as cognitive or non-cognitive but not both. He argues that an utterance may be cognitive in some senses and non-cognitive in others. With Toulmin and Baier, he concurs that there is “no one Great Divide in the linguistic terrain” (cf. “Cognitive and Non-cognitive” in P. Henle, Language, Thought and Culture, pp. 171-172.

[128] R. Heimbeck, Theology and Meaning, pp. 254-55.

[129] Ibid., p. 256.

[130] Cf. I Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms, pp. 14, 69.

[131] “Barring this one logically inappropriate means of testing the reliability of models, i.e., prediction, the metaphors of religion lie open to evaluation along very similar lines to the models used in the sciences to represent a subject matter that lies beyond our powers of direct inspection” (F. Ferre, “Metaphors, Models, and Religion,” p. 341).

[132] See W.T. Blackstone, The Problem of Religious Knowledge, p. 66.

[133] M.E. Gilson, Le Thomisme, 5th ed., pp. 155ff; cited by E.L. Mascall, Existence and Analogy (Longmans, Green and Co., LTD., 1949; Archon Books unaltered edition, 1967), p. 118.

[134] The truth of this sentence is granted for the sake of argument. However, it is highly debatable whether the self is known literally or by direct acquaintance. Even less certain is it that the abstraction man may be known in such a way.

[135] See J. Gill, The Possibility of Religious Knowledge, pp. 222-223.

[136] See I Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms, p. 31.

[137] See Johnson and Lakoff, Toward an Experientialist Philosophy, p. 8.

[138] Reinterpreting the Gospel in existential terms was the essence of Rudolf Bultmann

s demythologizing. See Hans Werner Bartsch, ed., Kerygma and Myth (NY: Harper and Row, 1961).

[139] 139. R. David Broiles, “Linguistic Analysis of Religious Language,” in Religious Language and Knowledge, p. 145.