Wittgenstein: From a Religious Point of View

Richard McDonough


Wittgenstein s remark to Drury that he looks at philosophical problems from a religious point of view has greatly puzzled commentators. The paper argues that the readings given by commentators Malcolm, Winch and Lebron are illuminating, but inadequate. Second, using Wittgenstein s use-conception of meaning as an example, the paper proposes a more adequate reading that emphasizes Wittgenstein s view that nothing is hidden (Philosophical Investigations, para. 435). In this connection, the paper examines Fodor s critique of Wittgenstein s use-conception and shows how Fodor only refutes a misuse-conception meaning because he presupposes a kind of linguistic meaning, the kind that Wittgenstein emphasizes, that is already before his eyes (and, therefore, prior to Fodor s theories of meaning). Wittgenstein s view that the truth is already before one s eyes is further explained by employing an ethical analogy with Raskolnikov s enlightenment in Dostoevsky s Crime and Punishment. Finally, the paper addresses the difficult question whether Wittgenstein is, despite his own denials, a religious man, and argues that there is a non-trivial religious dimension in Wittgenstein s life but that there are several important senses in which Wittgenstein is correct that he is not a religious person.


Wittgenstein, Malcolm, religious point of view, Genesis, use-conception of meaning, unconcealedness, phenomenology, Dostoevsky, ethics

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