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Wittgensteinian Fideism

  • Kai Nielsen (a1)

Extract

Wittgenstein did not write on the philosophy of religion. But certain strands of his later thought readily lend themselves to what I call Wittgensteinian Fideism. There is no text that I can turn to for an extended statement of this position, but certain remarks made by Winch, Hughes, Malcolm, Geach, Cavell, Cameron and Coburn can either serve as partial statements of this position, or can be easily used in service of such a statement. Some of their contentions will serve as targets for my argumentation, for as much as I admire Wittgenstein, it seems to me that the fideistic conclusions drawn by these philosophers from his thought are often absurd. This leads me back to an inspection of their arguments and the premisses in these arguments.

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page 191 note 1 This now turns out to be inaccurate. Since this was first written, the following book has been announced: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief.

page 191 note 2 The scattered but central sources here are as follows: Winch, Peter, The Idea of a Social Science (London: 1958); Understanding a Primitive Society’, American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. I (10, 1964), pp. 307325; Hughes, G. E., ‘Martin's Religious Belief’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 40 (08, 1962), pp. 211–19; Malcolm, Norman, ‘Anselm's Ontological Arguments’, The Philosophical Review (1960); ‘Is it a Religious Belief That “God Exists”?’; Faith and the Philosophers, Hick, John (ed.) (New York: 1964); Geach, Peter, ‘Nominalism’, Sophia, vol. III No. 2 (1964); Cavell, Stanley, ‘Existentialism and Analytic Philosophy, Daedalus, vol. 93 (Summer, 1964); Cameron, J. M., The Night Battle (Baltimore: 1962); What Is a Christian?’ The New York Review of Books, vol. VI (05 26 1966); Coburn, Robert, ‘A Neglected Use of Theological Language’, Mind, vol. LXXII (07, 1963).

page 192 note 1 Ziff, Paul, ‘About God’ in Religious Experience and Truth, Sidney, Hook (ed.) (New York: 1961).

page 192 note 2 Malcolm, Norman, ‘Anselm's Ontological Arguments’, The Philosophical Review (1960).

page 192 note 3 Hägerström, Axel, Philosophy and Religion (London: 1964), p. 216.

page 193 note 1 I do not necessarily lay all these aperçu at Wittgenstein's door, but all of them can clearly be found in one or another of his disciples.

page 194 note 1 Hughes, G. E., ‘Martin's Religious Belief’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 40 (08, 1962), pp. 211–19.

page 194 note 2 Ibid., p. 214.

page 194 note 3 Ibid.

page 195 note 1 Ibid.

page 195 note 2 Ibid., pp. 214–5.

page 195 note 3 Ibid., p. 215.

page 195 note 4 Ibid.

page 195 note 5 Ibid.

page 195 note 6 Ibid.

page 195 note 7 Ibid.

page 196 note 1 Ibid., pp. 215–6.

page 198 note 1 The central essay here is his Understanding a Primitive Society’, American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. I (10, 1964), pp. 307325. But see also Winch, Peter,The Idea of a Social Science (London: 1958).

page 198 note 2 Winch, Peter, ‘Understanding a Primitive Society’, American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. I (10, 1964), p. 308.

page 198 note 3 Ibid.

page 198 note 4 Ibid.

page 199 note 1 Ibid.

page 199 note 2 Ibid., p. 309.

page 199 note 3 Ibid.

page 199 note 4 Ibid.

page 200 note 1 Peter Winch, The Idea of a Social Science, p. 100.

page 202 note 1 Fiedler, Leslie, ‘Introduction’ to Simone Weil's Waiting For God (New York: 1951), pp. 34.

page 203 note 1 That ‘determinate reality’ is a pleonasm has been argued in a powerful way by Hägerström, Axel in his Philosophy and Religion (London: 1964). It is surely to be hoped that the rest of Hägerström's writings in Swedish will soon be made available to non-Swedish readers.

page 203 note 1 Nielsen, Kai, ‘On Speaking of God’, Theoria, vol. XXVIII (1962, Part 2); ‘Religion and Commitment’, Problems of Religious Knowledge and Language; W. T. Blackstone and R. H. Ayers (eds.), forthcoming; Eschatological Verification’, Canadian Journal of Theology, vol. IX (1963); God and Verification Again’, Canadian Journal of Theology, vol. XI (1965); ‘On Fixing the Reference Range of “God”’, Religious Studies (October, 1966).

page 205 note 1 Winch, Peter, ‘Understanding a Primitive Society’, American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. I (10, 1964), p. 319.

page 206 note 1 Winch, Peter, The Idea of a Social Science, pp. 100–1.

page 206 note 2 Winch, Peter, ‘Understanding a Primitive Society’, American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. I (10, 1964), p. 319.

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