• Language,  Philosophy of Language,  Trinity,  Wittgenstein

    Language, Mind(s) and Propositions in the Trinity

    God speaks. The Bible records the first speech and God makes it. If the chronology of scripture is to be believed, God could speak prior to creation and, therefore, God can speak sans creation. He could use a language in eternity past. This seems clear: he is the first to utter a word (Gen 1); he determines the world and everything in it including all the languages, sentences, and what they mean prior to creation; and God, the Son, is identified as the “Word” that pre-exists creation (John 1). He doesn’t actually have to say anything, but he has to be able to express his thoughts in a language. On…

  • Funny Things,  Language

    The Demise of Word

    This morning I wrote a string of sentences that use the plural of the noun ‘text’. For example, I wrote: “Promise texts tell us that God guarantees to save those who persevere.” Microsoft Word underlined ‘tell’ indicating some grammatical error. “What error?” I wondered. After wracking my brains for an answer, I asked Word for some suggestions. It gave me one: ‘to tell’. I realized that Microsoft have deemed it more likely that when someone is writing ‘texts’, he or she is using it as a verb, not a noun. ‘Promise’ is thus the name of a person and she is texting to tell us that God guarantees to save…

  • Language,  Philosophy of Language,  Politics

    Presuppositions and Public Discourse

    When my students get a Latin test they make mistakes because they attempt to translate sentences according to what they think I would say. For instance, consider the following sentence: vīnum virōs cōservat The English translation is: wine preserves men However, nearly everyone in the class translated the sentence as: the men preserve the wine What explains the mistake? Presuppositions. Given that most of them know their Latin endings, they should be able to work out that ‘wine’ is a nominative singular and ‘men’ is accusative plural. It seems that the most likely explanation for their mistake is a presupposition. A presupposition in interpreting speech or writing is what we…

  • Language,  Politics

    On Meaningless Waffle

    Waffle is speech or writing that appears thoughtful at first glance, but has no discernible content. The New Civics Statement is waffle: The New Civics initiative starts with the assumption that a central aim of civic education is to prepare young people to act with civic purpose and to do so effectively and with good judgment. Like others, we presume that individuals must be educated for citizenship and that schools have a historic mandate to develop young people’s knowledge, skills, and dispositions for responsible citizenship. At the same time, we expand the scope of civic learning for civic action beyond the school; as community organizations, political parties, and many other groups…

  • Language,  Mind,  Wittgenstein

    Could God Talk to Himself?

    Does the private language argument succeed if we apply it to God? Could God have a private language? A private mental entity (PME) is an entity only accessible by the mind that has it. A sensation, like toothache, is a good example (L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations). No one apart from the person with toothache has access to that toothache. But a thought might also count as a PME. A human thought is usually about something public, a tree perhaps, but it might be about something private like a sensation. Thoughts like these are privately owned. My thought that the Christmas tree looks good is my thought; I own it, it is had…

  • Apologetics,  Existence of God,  Language,  Transcendental Arguments for the Existence of God

    If There Is No God, Then There Is No Sense

    When two people talk about something they assume there is something to talk about and that they have the necessary means (reason, language, shared experience etc) to talk about it. It does not strike us as odd that this is possible; we take it for granted. Friedrich Nietzsche, on the other hand, did not.  Nietzsche famously describes a scene in which a madman proclaims the death of God. And if God is dead, says Nietzsche, we can no longer assume that what we are talking about makes any sense at all. Why? because if there is no ultimate explanation for everything, there is no explanation for anything. And if there is no explanation, talk cannot get anywhere.If…

  • Bible,  Hermeneutics,  Language,  Philosophy of Language,  Propositions

    How Many Meanings Does a Sentence Have?

    A declarative sentence is said to express a proposition. Propositions have truth-values: they are either true or false.[4] Furthermore, the truth-value of a proposition is objective. It is true or false whether or not it is believed by anyone. The alternative to thinking that propositions have objective truth-value is self-refuting. This is clear from the following dilemma: Either propositions have objective truth values or the proposition expressed by the statement, “no propositions have objective truth values,” has no objective truth value.  Clearly, the proposition expressed by the statement “no propositions have objective truth values,” has an objective truth value. It cannot be both true and false, something in between or neither…

  • Epistemology,  Ethics,  Language,  Marriage

    It Depends on What You Mean By “Marriage”

    When marriage is debated the disagreement comes down to definition. I don’t mean what the definition of marriage is (that is what we disagree about). I mean how we get a definition in the first place. Is there some independent standard by which our definitions are proved good? Can we point at some authoritative definition and say, “see, there, that’s what marriage is.”? Can we look at a couple and say, “marriage is that”? Or is marriage something we purely stipulate? Does the Supreme Court have the power to construct a definition from scratch or should they merely recognize a preexisting entity and enshrine it in law? And is there any…