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Abstract

Contrary to a widespread interpretation, Wittgenstein did not regard credal statements as merely metaphorical expressions of an attitude towards life. He accepted that Christian faith involves belief in God's existence. At the same time he held that although as a hypothesis, God's existence is extremely implausible, Christian faith is not unreasonable. Is that a consistent view?

According to Wittgenstein, religious faith should not be seen as a hypothesis, based on evidence, but as grounded in a proto-religious attitude, a way of experiencing the world or certain aspects of it. A belief in religious metaphysics is not the basis of one's faith, but a mere epiphenomenon. Given further that religious doctrine is both falsification-transcendent and that religious faith is likely to have beneficial psychological effects, religious doctrine can be exempt from ordinary standards of epistemic support. An unsupported religious belief need not be unreasonable.

However, it is hard to see how one could knowingly have such an unsupported belief, as Wittgenstein seems to envisage. How can one believe what, at the same time, one believes is not likely to be true? This, I argue, is the unresolved tension in Wittgenstein's philosophy of religion.