Religion, Relativism, and Wittgenstein’s Naturalism

International Journal of Philosophical Studies 19 (2):177-209 (2011)
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Wittgenstein’s remarks on religious and magical practices are often thought to harbour troubling fideistic and relativistic views. Unsurprisingly, commentators are generally resistant to the idea that religious belief constitutes a ‘language‐game’ governed by its own peculiar ‘rules’, and is thereby insulated from the critical assessment of non‐participants. Indeed, on this fideist‐relativist reading, it is unclear how mutual understanding between believers and non‐believers (even between different sorts of believers) would be possible. In this paper I do three things: (i) show why the fideist‐relativist reading of Wittgenstein is not wildly implausible (Sections 1–2); (ii) argue that, despite its initial plausibility, this reading fails to take into account Wittgenstein’s naturalism (Sections 3–4); and (iii) explain what sort of naturalism this is, and how it sheds light on Wittgenstein’s remarks on religious belief (Sections 5–6).



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Author's Profile

Bob Plant
University of Aberdeen (PhD)

References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe.
On Certainty (ed. Anscombe and von Wright).Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1969 - San Francisco: Harper Torchbooks. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe, G. H. von Wright & Mel Bochner.
Tractatus logico-philosophicus.Ludwig Wittgenstein, G. C. M. Colombo & Bertrand Russell - 1990 - New York: Routledge. Edited by C. K. Ogden.
Zettel.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1967 - Oxford,: Blackwell. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe & G. H. von Wright.

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