WORLDS OR WORDS APART? WITTGENSTEIN ON UNDERSTANDING RELIGIOUS LANGUAGE

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Abstract

In this paper I develop an account of Wittgenstein's conception of what it is to understand religious language. I show that Wittgenstein's view undermines the idea that as regards religious faith only two options are possible – either adherence to a set of metaphysical beliefs (with certain ways of acting following from these beliefs) or passionate commitment to a ‘doctrineless’ form of life. I offer a defence of Wittgenstein's conception against Kai Nielsen's charges that Wittgenstein removes the ‘content’ from religious belief and renders the religious form of life ‘incommensurable’ with other domains of discourse, thus immunizing it against rational criticism.

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