ELIZABETH BEIRNE, Fordham University


Throughout his life Ian Ramsey struggled to defend the meaningfulness of religious language against what he called "The Challenge of Contemporary Empiricism." This is a study of the development of Ramsey's thought, and particularly of his key concept of disclosure. The chronological approach taken in this endeavor has shown that Ramsey's ideas changed over the years. He originally attempted to answer the "challenge" through language analysis, developing a total language map that included religious terms. In his next phase, Ramsey introduced qualified models, the appropriate phrases for religious language. In order to justify such language, Ramsey than developed the concept of disclosure as the experiential basis of qualified models. Since disclosures are not describable in perceptual language, Ramsey claimed that they are logically odd, and, consequently, require a unique kind of argument in which stories must be told to evoke the disclosure experience in the listener. Ramsey gave many examples of disclosures to try to evoke the proper response and thereby justify his claim. Analysis of Ramsey's examples has revealed that they are useful and illuminating, but do not answer the "challenge." The problem stems from Ramsey's uncritical acceptance of the parameters of empiricism. This forced him to view disclosure as logically odd. It is suggested that a more fruitful tactic would have been to use disclosure to demonstrate the inadequacy of the criteria of the empiricists. Using this strategy, disclosure could be accounted for by a different logical category such as Peirce's "abduction." The major shortcoming of Ramsey's work is that he did not fit disclosure into an epistemological framework. Disclosure, however, can be seen within the framework proposed by Bernard Lonergan, as it is similar to Lonergan's concept of insight. It is proposed that Lonergan's theory of knowledge offers a direction in which Ramsey's concept of disclosure could be developed.

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Recommended Citation

BEIRNE, ELIZABETH, "IAN RAMSEY: ON THE LOGIC OF DISCLOSURES" (1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8323514.