How to tackle the Implications passage using Ayer paragraph 1

Clarification summary part (a)

In this passage Ayer, having dismissed the idea of animistic gods, goes on to claim that philosophers now ‘generally admit’ that no God’s existence is ‘even probable’ because, as an hypothesis, the assertion ‘God exists’ is unverifiable because it is a ‘metaphysical’ claim referring to a ‘transcendent being’ about which nothing can be known and therefore the whole exercise is pointless or as he puts it of no ‘significance.’

In this paragraph he has also dismissed the traditional teleological argument on the basis that all this argument does is claim that there is ‘regularity in nature’ and since this is not what theists are really claiming about God but about his ‘transcendent’ nature which cannot be limited by being defined in ’empirical’ terms, this cannot be empirically verified, cannot be true or false and thus is again as he says in the title of his article ‘evidently nonsense.’


So what are the concepts which need clarifying if we are to understand Ayer’s position?

  1. not even probable


One of the things which Ayer does is to equate ‘metaphysical’ with im-‘probable’ rejecting the possibility that there is anything other than the concrete realm. Another wild claim of Ayer’s is that ‘philosophers’ admit! Which ones? Not all that’s for sure! And what about ‘not even probable’? Dawkins admits that though not probable even he cannot be 100% certain that God doesn’t exist and as a result counts himself ‘in category 6 leaning towards category 7’ in his 7 degrees of belief. ‘Atheists do not have belief and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist.’ But in opposition to Ayer’s intransigence even Dawkins says ‘I believe the existence of God as a scientific hypothesis is at least in principle, investigable.’


  1. cannot be demonstratively proved
  2. transcendent being
  3. metaphysical terms
  4. the dismissal of the teleological argument
  5. empirical hypothesis
  6. cannot be true, cannot be false and therefore of no ‘literal significance’
  7. religious language including the verification and falsification principles.
  8. ’empirical manifestations’ gives you the opportunity to talk about religious experience


(b) Do you agree? What are the implications …

It is in this section in which you get to grips with what you think life / society / groups of people / art/ literature / music / history / geography / politics … whatever… would be if e.g. the existence of God is not even probable or if all non-empirical claims were dismissed as of no literal significance?


Do remember to use examples and quotations too.


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