Allies for Barth’s Heirs

John Allan Knight

in Liberalism versus Postliberalism

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199969388
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199301546 | DOI:

Series: American Academy of Religion Series

Allies for Barth’s Heirs

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If descriptivism is at the heart of liberalism’s method, then, at least for postliberals, rejecting the method of liberal theology requires a rejection of the descriptivist understanding of language. This is what postliberal theologians like Frei and Lindbeck do. They turn to the later Wittgenstein and those ordinary language philosophers, such as Gilbert Ryle, he influenced. In his later years, Wittgenstein abandoned the project of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus on which he had embarked in his earlier years as both a follower and a critic of Russell. This chapter describes the project of the Tractatus in order to understand Wittgenstein’s later rejection of it and what he thought the proper approach to language should be. The chapter discusses Wittgenstein’s later reflections on following a rule, the role of the community in establishing the proper uses of language, and the relationship of such ruled use to linguistic meaning. The chapter then discusses Ryle’s rejection of a “third realm” of abstract objects, his distinction between “knowing that” and “knowing how,” as well as his rejection of the “ghost in the machine” as part of an understanding of human identity. All these philosophical reflections provide crucial allies to postliberal development of Barth’s project.

Keywords: ghost in the machine; abstract objects; forms of life; language games; ordinary language philosophy; rule-following; Ryle, Gilbert; Wittgenstein

Chapter.  7439 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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