'Objectively there is no truth' - Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard on religious belief

Abstract

Kierkegaard’s influence on Wittgenstein’s conception of religious belief was profound, but this hasn’t so far been given the attention it deserves . Although Wittgenstein wrote comparatively little on the subject, while the whole of Kierkegaard’s oeuvre has a religious theme, both philosophers have become notorious for refusing to construe religious belief in either of the two traditional ways: as a ‘propositional attitude’ on the one hand or as a mere ‘emotional response’ with no reference to the ‘real world’ on the other. This refusal to play by the orthodox dichotomies, as it were, has led to gross misrepresentation of their thought by numerous commentators. Neither Wittgenstein nor Kierkegaard has been immune to allegations of both ‘relativism’ and ‘fideism’, although neither charge could be wider of the mark. It is not that Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard reject the role that reason has to play in both religion and philosophy, but that they try to undermine from within certain common assumptions about the nature of both religious faith and the point of philosophical activity that make us believe that the traditional dichotomies exhaust all the available options. What I hope to show in this paper is that more sense can be made of Wittgenstein’s controversial remarks on religion, if we juxtapose them with Kierkegaard’s religious thought, especially that of Kierkegaard’s pseudonym , Johannes Climacus, in Concluding Unscientific Postscript. The focal point of this paper is going to be the attempt to read what little Wittgenstein has to say about this topic through the lens of Climacus’ claim that ‘objectively there is no truth; an objective knowledge about the truth or the truths of Christianity is precisely untruth.’ I will begin by giving a brief exposition of Climacus’ views, will then sketch out what Wittgenstein has to say on the matter and will then attempt to bring the two together. In the remainder of the paper I will assess the implications of Wittgenstein’s and Kierkegaard’s conception as well as address some of the problems that their account might be said to engender

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Citations of this work

Problems of Religious Luck: Assessing the Limits of Reasonable Religious Disagreement.Guy Axtell - 2019 - Lanham, MD, USA & London, UK: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.

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