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language, religious


Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


Issues about the validity and effectiveness of religious language have turned traditionally on questions about the linguistic and logical status of analogy, symbol, metaphor, allegory or other forms of indirect discourse. This has been the case from the writings of Thomas Aquinas to the contemporary theory of Paul Ricoeur. Language which otherwise signifies objects, events or states of affairs in the physical world has to be stretched by such linguistic devices to signify realities which lie beyond the empirical world. The era of the Enlightenment, however, raised questions stemming especially from Kant which exposed the problematic character of all language as a representation of reality. In the twentieth century some thinkers have pressed the implications of Marxist, psychoanalytical and semiotic theories to suggest that language projects disguised modes of self-interest. Language, it is argued, constitutes an endlessly self-referring system, of which anchorages in extra-linguistic reality are either illusory or radically context-relative. Thus whereas the heart of the problem of religious language has traditionally been perceived to lie in its distinctively ‘religious’ character, especially since around 1967 the deepest problems of religious language are perceived to lie in the opaqueness and deceptiveness which supposedly characterize all language. The following three periods ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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