‘Linguistic’ Arguments

  • William Harvey Austin
Part of the Library of Philosophy and Religion book series


Instrumentalist arguments for the irrelevance of natural science to theology not only turn out to leave room for some important forms of relevance, they also run counter to the conviction of most scientists and religious believers that their respective beliefs are properly to be understood as making truth-claims, not just as useful fictions. The latter point is not decisive against the instrumentalist arguments, but it does (I have argued) impose upon their proponents a burden of proof which they have not successfully borne. Two-realms arguments are free of this difficulty, but if the realms of subject matter assigned to science and theology are understood as non-overlapping sets of elements, they seem to run afoul of the fact that theological statements about nature and God’s relation to it are made. Accordingly, it seems more promising to take the realms as dimensions of reality, but this metaphor proves to be very hard to unpack in a clear and convincing way. MacKay’s notion of complementarity seems a likely tool for its explication; but its usefulness depends upon our ability to determine what sorts of ‘logical preconditions’ there might be for the use of certain sets of concepts, and in what sense they might preclude the use in the same context of other sets of concepts with different ‘logical preconditions’.


Religious Belief Religious Commitment Language Game Religious Doctrine Christian Belief 
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© William Harvey Austin 1976

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  • William Harvey Austin

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