Revision test for the Edexcel syllabus on Religious Language

THESE QUESTIONS ARE BASED ON THE COURSE NOTES FOR THE ABOVE TOPIC THAT CAN BE FOUND HERE.

THIS TEST (AND MANY OF THE OTHERS ON THIS SITE) MAY ALSO BE OF USE TO STUDENTS FOLLOWING OTHER ADVANCED LEVEL RELIGIOUS STUDIES COURSES.

BEAR IN MIND THAT THESE TESTS ARE MEANT TO BE DIFFICULT. FOR THIS REASON THEY SHOULD BE ATTEMPTED AFTER THE AFOREMENTIONED NOTES HAVE ALREADY BEEN CAREFULLY REVISED. HAVING SAID THAT, IT IS POSSIBLE THAT ERRORS MIGHT HAVE BEEN MADE DURING THE CREATION OF THE TEST. PLEASE USE THE CONTACT FORM TO LET ME KNOW IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE SPOTTED ONE.

OCCASIONALLY, NEW INFORMATION MAY ALSO BE INTRODUCED IN THE TEST.

THE LANGUAGE USED IN ALL BLOG POSTS AND IN THE FOLLOWING TEST HAS NOT BEEN SIMPLIFIED. THIS IS BECAUSE EXPANDING YOUR PERSONAL VOCABULARY IS IMPORTANT IF YOU WISH TO ACCESS THE HIGHER GRADES AT ADVANCED LEVEL.

FOR THE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS, SCROLL DOWN TO THE END OF THIS BLOG ENTRY.

  1. Which of the following was NOT an advocate of the via negativa?

a. Meister Eckhart

b. Pseudo-Dionysius

c. Duns Scotus

d. Moses Maimonides

2. TRUE or FALSE? For supporters of the via negativa, neither positive or negative statements can tell us what God (or Ultimate Reality) is actually like?

3. TRUE or FALSE? Pseudo-Dionysius argued that if someone was given a sufficient amount of negative information about an object (e.g. a ship), they would eventually still be able to figure out what was being described (e.g. that it is not round or flat). Similarly, one could get closer to knowledge of God through a consideration of what He is not.

4. Which of the following is NOT a possible criticism of the via negativa approach to attaining an understanding of God?

a. The via negativa does not sit well with traditions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, whose sacred texts contain many positive statements about God e.g. every surah or chapter of the Qur’an except one begins with the declaration that Allah is compassionate and merciful.

b. The method of the via negativa risks disrespecting God by anthropomorphising Him.

c. It is by no means certain that a person who knows nothing about ships would ever gain a sufficient understanding of what a ship is through this approach and therefore even more unlikely that an understanding of God could be obtained through it.

5. TRUE or FALSE? A strength of the via negativa is that it may assist contemplative practice that aims to produce an experience of a God who is ultimately ineffable.

6. The word ‘bat’ can mean two very different things, a cricket bat or a flying mammal. If we do not know which is being referred to in a sentence, then the use of language in that sentence can be said to be….

a. equivocal

b. analogical

c. univocal

7. If we do know the way in which the word ‘bat’ is being used in the sentence, that use can be be said to be….

a. equivocal

b. analogical

c. univocal.

8. When applied to religious language, the view that it conveys truth but not literal truth about God would mean that this language is….

a. equivocal

b. analogical

c. univocal

9. TRUE or FALSE? In the syllogism ‘All humans are mortal, Socrates is human, therefore Socrates is mortal’ , the word ‘human’ is being used univocally as the middle term.

10. TRUE or FALSE? Aquinas identified two types of analogy – analogies of attribution, according to which, for example, we love according to our different capacities to do so, with God’s love being omnibenevolent in this respect,  and analogies of proportion, where, for instance, from the health of the bull’s urine we infer that the bull is healthy.

11. Which of the following is NOT a possible criticism of the view that religious language about God should be regarded as analogical?

a. The idea of analogy fails to preserve the mystery of God and lapses into anthropomorphism.

b. The idea of analogy is too vague and still leaves us in a position where we are unable to understand God and His actions.

c. The idea of analogy fails because God is essentially ineffable or unknown, and we therefore cannot judge whether a particular analogy is appropriate when it is used in relation to God if this is the case.

12. TRUE or FALSE? For Paul Tillich, religious language is almost entirely symbolic in character.

13. TRUE or FALSE? For Tillich, signs in particular participate in the reality towards which they point. When it comes to ultimate reality, they can therefore successfully convey a powerful sense of what that reality is.

14. TRUE or FALSE? Tillich’s view of religious language is that it is non-cognitive and anti-realist.

15. Which of the following is not a possible criticism of Tillich’s view that religious language is symbolic?

a. His theology is unclear. On the one hand he insists that ‘being-itself’ is the only non-symbolic statement that can be made about God, whilst on the other, he has written that ‘Everything we say about God is symbolic.’

b. As Tillich is a non-cognitivist, this means that symbolic religious language about God can never finally be properly understood because the symbols are incapable of being properly decoded into something that has a literal meaning.

c. Additionally, it matters to religious believers that their God really is all-loving or all-knowing not that the love and knowledge He possesses is in some sense symbolic

d. Some theological terms seem to be used very specifically rather than symbolically e.g. the Qur’an’s repeated insistence that Allah is ‘compassionate’ and ‘merciful’, and that He is ‘all-knowing’.

16. TRUE or FALSE? According to the verification principle, only statements that are true by definition or empirically verifiable are meaningful.

17. Which TWO of the following statements are NOT verifiable according to A.J. Ayer’s principles of strong or weak verification.

a. God is love.

b. Bondi Beach in Australia contains more than 1 billion particles of sand.

c. The universe is expanding.

d. Stealing is wrong.

e. Some male philosophers have beards.

18. Which of the following is not a criticism of the verification principle?

a. The principle is itself unverifiable according to its own criteria.

b. It effectively implies that only scientific or mathematical language is meaningful when perhaps there are many different and useful ways of talking about the world and our experience of it.

c. The principle implies that many of the important things in life (e.g. ethics, the meaning of life, whether there is life after death) cannot be discussed and should be passed over in silence.

19. TRUE or FALSE? A strength of the verification principle is that it can make people more aware of the logical status of the statements they are making.

20. TRUE or FALSE? According to Karl Popper, the Logical Positivists had misunderstood scientific method and the manner in which progress in science takes place. For Popper, scientific advances are made not by trying to verify hypotheses about the world to be true beyond all doubt but when previously held scientific views of reality are found to be wrong, or to contain errors that leave them needing to be improved. The mark of genuine science is therefore that it is falsifiable.

21. TRUE or FALSE? Popper is saying that you can never finally prove a genuine scientific theory to be true.

22. Which TWO of the following are NOT examples of an area of knowledge that Popper considered to be unscientific for the reason that its truth claims were ones that he considered to be unfalsifiable?

a. Young Earth Creationism

b. Psychonanalysis

c. Marxism

d. Astrology

23. TRUE or FALSE? Later critics of Popper, such as Thomas Kuhn and Isaac Newton, rejected the idea that there exists a single method that is applicable to all science and that could also account for its historical progress.

24. TRUE or FALSE? Flew used John Wisdom’s parable of the gardener to demonstrate that statements made by religious believers to defend their belief in God are non-cognitive because they unfalsifiable.

25. Which other contributor to the later debate about religious language, verification and falsification argued that religious language is non-cognitive but that all of us are affected by non-cognitive, unfalsifiable ideas? One such example he gave (not mentioned in the course notes) was our confidence in the steering mechanism of cars. If we do not trust in it, no amount of successful driving will help us to overcome our distrust and we are likely never to drive a car.

a. RM Hare

b. Basil Mitchell

c. John Hick

26. In that same debate, who argued that religious language is cognitively meaningful because religious believers do allow potentially falsifiable evidence to count both for and against their faith that God exists, even though this does not cause them to abandon their faith?

a. RM Hare

b. Basil Mitchell

c. John Hick

27. Whose parable entails something called ‘eschatological verification’?

a. Flew

b. Mitchell

c. Hick

28. Whose parable has been criticised for not conveying the profound significance of the position we are in when we are trying to decide whether God exists or not?

a. Flew

b. Hare

c. Mitchell

d. Hick

29. Whose ideas have been criticised on the grounds that if some of our basic beliefs cannot be proved or disproved, then all that has been shown is that Flew must be right after all?

a. Hare

b. Mitchell

c. Hick

30. TRUE or FALSE? In his earlier philosophy as found in his book Philosophical Investigations (1955), Wittgenstein argued that for statements to be logical, the words in them had to represent clear things. These words could then be thought of as ‘pictures’ of a situation, just as music might be represented by a musical score. From a logical perspective, Wittgenstein thought it better to remain silent about anything that could not be indicated through this approach.

31. TRUE or FALSE? In his later philosophy, Wittgenstein argued that the only world that human beings truly know is one created by the use of words themselves. Reality is therefore to be found in the manner in which those words are deployed by groups of people in a particular way, in their own specific ‘language games’. Ordinary language still identifies ordinary things, but when it comes to complex ideas and views about life, all that can be said is that ‘This language game is played’.

32. TRUE or FALSE? Wittgenstein specifically referred to religion as a language game.

33. TRUE or FALSE? Later thinkers like DZ Phillips built on Wittgenstein’s position to argue that it is therefore wrong to see religion as consisting of a set of theories about the world that might be verifiable or falsifiable. For Phillips, religion is an expression of human needs, values and desires. As such, the religious language game cannot be judged by the standards of another language game such as science, as its crucial terms (like God, salvation, miracle, prayer) are not being used in a scientific way.

34. Which of the following is NOT an accurate criticism of Phillips?

a. Phillips has been accused of deism (the position that belief rests on faith rather than reason and therefore does not need to be justified) in order to protect religion from all criticism. Just because religious language is used in a certain way does not mean that religious beliefs cannot be attacked or exposed as incoherent.

b. Religious believers do tend to think of God as an independently existing supernatural being who may or may not answer prayers. Many also really do regard the Last Judgement as a future event that is of great importance and that will really take place one day. So Phillips is misrepresenting religion, as the making of religious statements does seem to involve making claims about what does and does not exist.

c. A further problem with language game theory is that ethical criticism becomes suspended, as a consequence of the Wittgensteinian assertion (supported by Phillips) that philosophy simply leaves everything as it is. Many would not be happy with such approach to ethics.

ANSWERS

  1. c – Duns Scotus was a supporter of the univocal view of religious language.
  2. True
  3. False – that was Moses Maimonides
  4. b- if language cannot adequately convey what an inherently ineffable God is like, then it is in no danger of anthropomorphising (reducing Him to human terms of reference) and therefore disrespecting Him.
  5. True
  6. a
  7. c
  8. b
  9. True
  10. False – Aquinas identified two types of analogy : analogies of attribution (where from the health of the bull’s urine we infer that the bull is healthy, though the health of each is quite unlike the other) and analogies of proportion: we love proportionate to our nature, God loves proportionate to His. So the supporting examples provided in the question need reversing. Note that in the case of analogies of attribution, the ‘wisdom’, ‘love’ and ‘goodness’ that we see in others are reflections of the properties of their creator God.
  11. a – because this approach still preserves something of the mystery of God and avoids anthropomorphism by maintaining his transcendent nature.
  12. False – ‘being-itself’, otherwise and sometimes referred to as the ‘ground of being’ are non-symbolic, cognitive statements about God, though see criticism ‘a’ in question 15.
  13. False – for Tillich a sign is simply something which indicates something else e.g. a road sign reminds us which town is ahead, whereas a symbol is an object or action which not only indicates something  but also communicates a much greater understanding of the thing than can be put into words. Or as Tillich puts it ‘a symbol unlocks something within our soul and expresses something about the ultimate’. In other words, it allows us to experience other levels of reality that are normally off limits to us. A symbol therefore points towards and participates in that to which it points. For example, a country’s flag not only represents the nation that it stands for but is also an active participant in conveying the country’s ‘power and dignity’ (think of how this works in a World Cup year when many people fly the flag to express their patriotic spirit and confidence in the power and dignity of their national football team).
  14. False – JH Randall takes this view.
  15. b- Tillich is a cognitivist (see the answer to 12 above).
  16. True
  17. a,d
  18. c – that was Wittgenstein’s view as expressed in his Tractatus.
  19. True
  20. True
  21. True
  22. a,d – these are examples of unfalsifiable branches of knowledge but Popper does not discuss them.
  23. False – Isaac Newton lived before Popper. For Feyerabend (see original course notes), there was no ‘scientific method’ that could guarantee scientific progress.
  24. True
  25. a – fear of flying might be a good further example of the kind of blik that Hare is getting at. NOTE: Hick did not participate in the original debate.
  26. b
  27. c – In this parable, a theist and an atheist are both walking down the same road. The theist believes there is a destination, the atheist believes there is not. If they reach the destination, the theist will have been proven right, however if there is no destination on an endless road, this can never be verified. In this way Hick brings out an idea that was implicit in Mitchell’s parable.
  28. a
  29. a
  30. False – Philosophical Investigations was only published after Wittgenstein’s death. The ideas summarised in the question are found in his much earlier Tractatus.
  31. True
  32. False – he never did.
  33. True
  34. a – fideism is what Phillips was accused of (by Kai Neilsen). The term ‘deism’ refers to belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe.