Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 45, 2008

Philosophy of Religion

Tommi Lehtonen
Pages 177-183

A pragmatic view on existential claims in religion

In this paper, I will introduce and argue for a new view on religious faith and language, a view that focuses on the use and context of use of religious expressions. I call this view implicaturism. As one may guess, ‘implicaturism’ comes from ‘implicature’, a term coined by Paul Grice. For Grice, implicature is a technical term for certain kinds of inferences that are drawn from statements without those inferences being logical implications or entailments. In the view of religious faith and language, implicaturism denotes the claims about the existence of God or other supernatural beings as pragmatic conclusions of the expressions used in religious practice, not the ground or presupposition of religious practice. In other words, in religious context, the claims of the form “X exists” (e.g. “God exists”) or “there are Xs” (e.g. “There are angeles”) are inferences that are based on prayers and worship expressions and their related background assumptions. This pattern of reasoning is not deductive, but abductive, thus inference from consequences to a possible cause. This kind of inference is logically invalid, in that the conclusion “God exists” is not a logical consequence of the premises: the religious expressions. The existential claims in religion (”God exists” or “There are angels” as examples) are thus some sort of a posteriori reasons or explanations for religious behaviour and related expressions, not their prior presuppositions.