Wittgenstein, Naturalism, and Interpreting Religious Phenomena

In Robert Vinten (ed.), Wittgenstein and the Cognitive Science of Religion: Interpreting Human Nature and the Mind. London: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 109-122 (2023)
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In this chapter, I explore in what senses Wittgenstein might be taken to support as well as to oppose naturalist approaches to interpreting religious phenomena. First, I provide a short overview of some passages from Wittgenstein’s writings—especially the “Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough”—relevant to the issue of the naturalness of religious phenomena. Second, I venture some possibilities regarding what naturalism might mean in connection with Wittgenstein. Lastly, I explore the bearing of Wittgenstein’s remarks on religion for the interpretation of religious phenomena. Ultimately, I argue that Wittgenstein’s remarks on religion depict a way of thinking about the naturalness of religious phenomena, and that naturalistic depiction is part of the clarificatory work of philosophy. Wittgenstein reminds himself and his readers that religiosity is not something mysterious, per se; it is a core possibility within human life, one which can anchor meaningful living.



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Thomas D. Carroll
Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen)

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