‘About’ and ‘Of’ Languages: A New Way of Framing Religion and Science
Borrowing from the philosophy of Kierkegaard, one way of understanding the apparent conflict between science and religion is to frame each as a discourse in terms of ‘about’ and ‘of’ languages that appeal to objective-explicit and subjective-tacit aspects of experience. About languages are discourses that are about something else, where science is nominally about nature, empirical events and objective descriptions, whereas religions are about doctrines, rituals, liturgies, institutional structures and so on. About languages are those things that can be stated propositionally, explicitly and objectively. In contrast, of languages refers to lived practices that are socio-historical. It is not just the doing of those practices but also the background conditions that contextualise them. This language is experienced tacitly and subjectively. Whilst we might be able to work from definitions by explicitly-objectively stating what science and religion are about, the tacit-subjective element eludes such reduction. Christianity, for example, may be about Jesus, Love and the Gospels, but we might be unsatisfied in saying that is all that Christianity is. Equally, we might be unsatisfied in claiming science is only about experimental verification, consensus building or falsification when history offers scientific counterexamples that fail to meet our definition. I argue that this unsatisfactory result is due to a metaphysical conflation of two discourses, which then create their own pseudo-problems, such as proving the existence of God as a route to the ‘Truth’ of religion or supplying a scientific basis for being ethical as a way of ‘disproving’ the religious experience.
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