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Conversations on this theme continued. Later, probably in , when Wittgenstein sees Drury is troubled he states:. If you and I are to live religious lives, it mustn't be that we talk a lot about religion, but that our manner of life is different. It is my belief that only if you try to be helpful to other people will you in the end find way to God. During his stay in Norway he grasped that an indispensible condition for it was honesty: if he were not truthful to himself and about himself, his writings would be deceitful.

Therefore he reflected on the whole of his life and decided to confess his failures to those closest to him. In he wrote in a notebook: "A confession has to be a part of the new life"' Introduction to RW, xviii. Confession was to help him to 'become a different man' ibid, xix , a phrase he used often, by means of recognizing his own nature [xxi]. In a notebook of Wittgenstein writes: 'If anyone is unwilling to descend into himself, because this is too painful, he will remain superficial in his writing.

His desire to become a different man is at the same time a desire to become more completely himself.

The clarity he aimed at in his writings had to become one and the same clarity with which the whole of his life was perceived. Thus when he speaks about descending into oneself and the pain that it involves, it is seen as a parallel to the hard intellectual labour of recognizing illusions and finding ways out of them in order to see and express things as they are.

Wittgenstein and Religion:

Wittgenstein's intellectual standards were extremely high and so were the moral and spiritual ones he applied to himself as well as to others. Wittgenstein was convinced that unless there were honesty and integrity, there was no progress anyway. Fania Pascal in her 'Personal Memoir' mentions Wittgenstein's intolerance:. If you have committed a murder, if your marriage was breaking up, or if you were about to change your faith, he would be the best man to consult.

He would never refuse to give practical help. But if you suffered from fears, insecurity, were badly adjusted, he would be a dangerous man, and one to kept away from. He would not have been sympathethic to common troubles, and his remedies would be all too drastic, surgical. If only he has been less imperious, less ready with prohibitions, more patient with another person's character and thought. Alas, he was no pedagogue.

Also, his notion of religion developed as a combination of ascetic strictness, of compassion and sensitivity. A good example is found in a letter that Wittgenstein sent to Drury working in the Dublin hospital, when he mentioned being overworked and lacking peace. Wittgenstein writes:. Look at your patients more closely as human beings in trouble and enjoy more the opportunity you have to say "good night" to so many people. This alone is a gift from heaven which many people would envy you. And this sort of thing would heal your frayed soul, I believe. I think in some sense you don't look at people's faces closely enough.

From the negative descriptions of what religious life was not, as we saw in the conversations, as well as with the example from the Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough Wittgenstein moved to a positive expression. The man who criticized religion as a matter of seeking consolation in belonging to a crowd, said of himself: 'I am not a religious man but I cannot help seeing every problem from a religious point of view. As was said, for Wittgenstein honesty and purity of personal life was a condition for a clarity of thought: only the one who purify oneself is capable of thinking clearly and does not live in illusions.

Here Wittgenstein relates religion to different types of certainty, once again, in his terms, trying to show a way from a mistake to truth. Having rejected what he saw to be false certainties which tried to defend religion as if from outside he found a certainty on which religious life could be based. By means of analysing different types of certainty Wittgenstein arrives at the following distinctions:. One always forgets the expression "I thought I knew".


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Both are related to the notion of certainty, but neither of them is synonymous with it. Wittgenstein points out the difference: 'If someone believes something, he needn't always be able to answer the question "Why does he believe it", but if he knows something, then the question "How does he know", must be capable of being answered. However, he is also aware that there are difficult cases for distinction, where there does not seem to be a clear distincive line between belief and knowledge.

He says: 'We can see from their people's actions that they believe certain things definitely, whether they express their belief or not. Thus, Wittgenstein sees the certainty upon which one acts as a test and a decisive element of religious belief. It does not allow for pretence and, therefore, gives currency to the certainty of belief and of knowledge.

The hierarchy of certainties goes from practice to theory. Thiselton points out that Wittgenstein in The Blue Book , where he analyses the connections between language and life, or in other words, what gives power to our words, concludes that it is human behaviour which gives 'backing' for the paper currency of language [xxv]. If we apply it to Christianity and try to look at its perspectives, it can be said with Thiselton that: 'In Wittgensteinian terminology the deeds of Jesus give transactional currency to the meaning and truth of his words.

Hence he himself may be called "truth" John , since the personal 'backing' of his deeds gives meaning and credibility to his words. As was already said, for Wittgenstein the religion of the future is as much religion of presence. Our deeds create currency for our words, as they disclose things as they are and not as one wishes them to be.


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  7. These are permanent emphases of Wittgenstein. His desire to become a different man involves unselfishness and freedom to be the person one really is, to live in truth and not in illusions, to be gentle and helpful to other people, etc. Thus, Wittgenstein's philosophical approach to religion recognizes four elements: a conversion of life just remember his return from captivity and his desire to break with the past, giving away his property, taking a much lower social status, etc.

    What starts as an individual conversion has a communitarian element, indeed, the late Wittgenstein is much less critical of a public ecclesiastical expression of religion, though he points out that belonging to a church does not mechanically make the person better [xxvi]. Joe Laishley and I often discussed why from the time of Enlightenment so much of the struggle for honest religious expression moved from the field of theology to philosophy Especially in the Roman Catholic tradition, where theologians, such as Loisy, Tyrrell, Teilhard, Kung were marked as unorthodox and often forbiden to write, theology often seemed to lose its potential for honesty of expression.

    Philosophers like Wittgenstein saw the problem and therefore had a tendency to despise theology as such see n. They criticised the authority theology demanded for itself as unjustified or made fun of it. Hume, Nietzsche, Marx, Sartre, Derrida and many others saw in theology's claims to revelation an instrument to deprive people of their freedom.

    Before Lonergan or Metz and before theologies of liberation he emphasized that one must start with practice and not with contemplating ideas. Drury adds: ' I seemed to sense for the first time in my life the idea of an asceticism of the intellect; that this life of reading and discussing in the comfort of Cambridge society which I so enjoied, was something I would have to renounce. Fania Pascal in 'A Personal Memoir' comments on Engelmann's statement that Wittgenstein did not care particularly where he lived and accepted most primitive conditions and the lowliest social milieu see L 60 , stating: 'Precisely: these he did accept.

    But from the conditions he was born and where he "naturally" found himself, from these he was in constant flight - an attitude he shared with many contemporary intellectuals of Central Europe, except that in his case it assumed an extreme form.

    Genia Schönbaumsfeld: What Can Wittgenstein Teach Theologians About Religion?

    When Wittgenstein wished to flee from civilization, no place was remote or lonely enough. By Felicity McCutcheon. Edition 1st Edition. First Published Imprint Routledge. Pages pages. Subjects Humanities. Yet these are the questions to which atheist critics demand answers. Non-cognitivist accounts of how religious language is used really do have the consequence that what religious people express using such language is not something that atheist critics might successfully contradict or refute. He also encourages us to focus on ordinary linguistic practice. But ordinary religious linguistic practice does not appear to be what the non-cognitivist claims.

    A ‘third way’ of looking at religion

    The vast majority of religious people — including most self-styled Wittgensteinians — appear to use religious language to make a variety of metaphysical, historical and other claims. It usually matters very much to them that these claims are true. In particular, it matters very much to most Christians that, as a matter of historical fact, Jesus rose from the dead. Indeed, they often present evidence to support that historical claim, such as eyewitness reports of a postmortem Jesus. Most also appear to use God exists to make a claim about some sort of transcendent, perfect being — a claim they try to defend when presented with criticisms such as the evidential problem of evil the argument that the depth of evil in the Universe provides good evidence against the claim that such an all-powerful, all-knowing and good deity exists.

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    It appears that, if there are religious folk who use religious language in a wholly non-cognitivist way, they form a tiny minority. Given the obvious implausibility of non-cognitivism as an account of how religious language is generally used, many interpreters of Wittgenstein reject it. Their Wittgenstein allows for religious claims. So, on this view, while contrary to non-cognitivism claims are made by religious folk who say God exists and Jesus rose from the dead , there are often further dimensions of meaning or significance that are lost on the atheist.

    There are dimensions to the use and significance of religious language lost on the atheist naysayers. However, a juice extractor does not, as might first be supposed, give us the true essence of a fruit. C onsider this analogy. Suppose Mary overhears Tom say Otto is a Kraut. In so saying, Tom clearly communicates his belief that Otto is German. However, Tom could also be doing much more than that. He might, in using these offensive words, intend to express his contempt for Germans, and thus Otto. Now suppose that Mary suffers from a condition that makes her, as it were, insult-blind.

    In particular, Mary fails to grasp the way in which Tom is using that expression on this particular occasion. Has Mary succeeded in contradicting Tom? Surely she has. There is little if any overlap between what Mary understood and what I actually meant. Certainly, Mary has entirely failed to contradict me.

    But then perhaps what the religious mean when they say God exists is similarly wholly metaphorical, with the result that the atheist critic entirely misunderstands what the religious person is committed to?

    Aeon for Friends

    Call this the strong juicer view. If I shout Checkmate! When the religious person says: God exists , and atheists respond by pointing to the depth of evil in the world, the religious person typically tries to account for the evil by offering theodicies — explanations for the evil This evil — war — is a result of acting freely.