Ayer paragraph 7

He begins this paragraph with the assertion that he has ‘disposed of the argument from religious experience’ on the basis that any assertions arising out of said experience would be unintelligible because they would derive from ‘intuition.’ Since he does not regard intuition as a ‘genuine cognitive state’ and it reveals no ‘facts‘ then all we can actually learn from the experient’s experience is about ‘the condition of his own mind‘ and no ‘intelligible propositions at all.’

    He makes the distinction between those ‘philosophers’ who don’t see a problem with believing equally the claims of the man who sees a yellow patch and yet who also claims to have seen God. He himself doesn’t think it is irrational at all to believe the former and doubt the latter. They are not the same kind of claims.

He goes on the kind of assertions made about a transcendent being have no ‘literal significance’‘ unlike any that may be made about ordinary objects, a pink bus, a purple elephant etc all are ‘empirically verifiable.’

It is the fact that the person who is making the claim is not just saying that they have had this unusual experience but above all are claiming that it is of a ‘transcendent being’ and that therefore this being exists. If they could just make the first claim all might be well but to make the second is not a ‘genuine synthetic proposition’, cannot be verified and is above and beyond the range of the actual experience.


An equivalent might be those strange Americans who believe they have been abducted by aliens. They seem pretty convinced but…


Clarifying of concepts:

  • Has religious experience as an argument been disposed of?
  • Believing people’s claims
  • Differences in the nature of the claim
  • ‘no literal significance’?
  • Religious language –verification principle – take issue with what kind of assertions Ayer considers ‘verifiable’ and mention those that Ayer wouldn’t consider but which we would definitely think significant.


Swinburne’s principles of Credulity and Testimony

Is cognitive the only ‘meaningful’ aspect of life?

Ayer as dogmatic as those he criticises

Doesn’t he contradict his own claim in paragraph 1?



Remember what is Ayer actually trying to say? Or claim? Isn’t his own claim that ‘these statements are of no literal significance’ just as meaningless?

And remember Bertrand Russell (LP) who refused to even sit down at the chessboard? (An analogy – to the debate being pointless)

And what have other people said that may have a bearing or comment on his views?


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