Wittgenstein on Religious Belief

Stephen Mulhall

in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199287505
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Wittgenstein on Religious Belief

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  • Philosophy of Religion
  • History of Western Philosophy



This article is based on three assumptions. The first is that Ludwig Wittgenstein's impact in the philosophy of religion has been more a function of the work of those inspired by him than of his own writings on this topic. The second is that Wittgensteinian philosophers of religion took their primary inspiration from Wittgenstein's later approach to philosophy in general, as manifest in the Philosophical Investigations, rather than from his specific writings on religion. The third assumption is that such Wittgensteinian philosophy of religion has been burdened virtually from its outset by the fateful charge of fideism. This charge originated with Kai Nielsen, who argued that assumptions common to a range of Wittgensteinian authors entailed an unacceptable immunisation of religious belief against rational criticism (just as theological fideists hold that religious belief is grounded on faith rather than reason). This article also explores Cora Diamond's development and application of a third perspective known as ‘The Realistic Wittgenstein’, in addition to the first two: ‘The Fideist Wittgenstein’ and ‘The Canonical Wittgenstein’.

Keywords: Ludwig Wittgenstein; philosophy; religion; Philosophical Investigations; fideism; Kai Nielsen; religious belief; reason; Cora Diamond; faith

Article.  11076 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Religion ; History of Western Philosophy

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