An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion by Kai Nielsen (auth.)

By Kai Nielsen (auth.)

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Ziff rightly argues that he can understand certain conditions, for example, 'what the last man ever to live, were he alive now, would approve,' without having any idea of how actually to establish when such a condition is satisfied. But, Hoffman argues, it is not whether we actually know how to satisfy a given condition that is crucial to the question of intelligibility, but whether it is in principle empirically satisfiable, that is, whether it is logicallY possible to state (to describe) what one would have to observe or fail to observe for the conditions to be satisfied.

How do we identify such beings? Perhaps such questions have answers, that is, perhaps they are genuine questions. Alternatively, it may be the case that they are wrongly put. But we need to show either that they have answers or that such questions are wrongly put in this context, or that it is a mistake to think they are conceptual confusions misleadingly put in the form of questions. We need very much to have some reasonable response here and not to be put off with the remark that these are old questions.

But it should also be remembered that his short essay is a very methodological one. He is, I believe, in effect trying to suggest that most analytic philosophers have gone at the analysis of God-talk in the wrong way. He is trying to suggest a new approach to the subject and in such a programmatic essay he could hardly be expected to consider all the problems. I t should be further noted in this vein that Zitrs sins are sins of omission. They weaken but do not constitute a death-blow to his defence of the intelligibility of a plain man's account of ' God exists'.

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