9h00 | 29 April 2020
(1) Wittgenstein’s On Certainty and Religious Belief
In the first seminar we will explore the potential for On Certainty to shed light on our understanding of religious belief. In recent years Wittgenstein scholars have given accounts of religious belief in terms of hinge propositions, hinge commitments, or hinge certainties (for example, Daniele Moyal-Sharrock and Duncan Pritchard have given different accounts along these lines). Before discussing their views we will first explore what these hinge certainties are. We will look at examples of hinges and also examples that are more controversial, such as ‘There are physical objects’ (On Certainty, §23, §§35-7, §57, §479, §488) which some claim is a hinge proposition and others deny is one (see Coliva, in Hinge Epistemology, p.9, 2016). An examination of what Wittgenstein says about ‘There are physical objects’ will help refine our understanding of hinges and can also be used to shed light on religious belief. Genia Schönbaumsfeld has brought our attention to the fact that in several places Wittgenstein comments on similarities between the concepts ‘God’, ‘colour’, and ‘object’ (see OC §§35-6, and Culture and Value 82e and 86e. Schönbaumsfeld’s discussion of these remarks is on pp. 162-6 of A Confusion of the Spheres, 2007). Having developed an understanding of hinges we will go on to look at places in On Certainty where Wittgenstein discusses religion explicitly and start thinking about whether it is correct to interpret Wittgenstein as thinking of religious belief in terms of hinges (On Certainty, §§106-7, §239, §§335-6, §§360-1, §436, §459, §§553-4, §612 – also remarks on trust §§159-60, §337).
Suggested Reading Seminar 1:
- Schönbaumsfeld, G. A Confusion of the Spheres, OUP, 2007, pp. 156-166.
- Wittgenstein, L. On Certainty (especially the remarks highlighted above – also note that the ‘hinge’ metaphor appears in §341 of On Certainty (see also §655))
Dates to be announced soon:
(2) Duncan Pritchard’s ‘Quasi Fideism’ and the role of Hinge Commitments in Religion
In a series of papers over the past decade Duncan Pritchard has suggested seeing On Certainty in a new light, by highlighting the influence of John Henry Newman on it. He argues that there is, what he calls ‘Quasi-Fideism’ in the work of both Newman and Wittgenstein. In this seminar we will follow his suggestion and consider On Certainty in the light of Newman’s An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent) and will also examine Pritchard’s novel account of the rationality of religious belief.
Suggested Reading for Seminar 2:
- Pritchard, D. ‘Wittgensteinian Quasi-Fideism’, in Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Religion 2011.
- Pritchard, D. ‘Wittgenstein on Faith and Reason: The Influence of Newman’, in God, Truth and Other Enigmas (ed. M. Szatkowski), 2015.
- Pritchard, D. ‘Faith and Reason’ in Philosophy (special issue on Religious Epistemology), 2017.
- Pritchard, D. ‘Quasi-Fideism and Religious Conviction’, European Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 2018.
(Note: All of these papers are available here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/profile/duncan-pritchard . Of the papers above there is one that is particularly useful to read – ‘Faith and Reason’, in that it discusses both Newman’s influence and Quasi-Fideism. If you would like to read a paper giving a detailed account of the relationship between Newman’s work and Wittgenstein’s see Kienzler, W. ‘Wittgenstein and John Henry Newman On Certainty’, Grazer Philosophische Studien 71, 2006)
(3) A Grammar, Hinges, and Religious Belief – an alternative perspective from Gorazd Andrejč
In Gorazd Andrejč’s paper ‘Reading Wittgenstein (on Belief) with Tillich (on Doubt)’ (2015) he offers an alternative take on Wittgenstein’s remarks in On Certainty as well as an alternative take on religious epistemology to Pritchard’s Quasi-Fideism. Andrejč is eager to distinguish religious belief, understood as “a deep certainty of a grammatical remark” from hinge certainties. This is, in part, because he thinks that Wittgenstein’s account of religious belief leaves room for a particular kind of doubt of those beliefs. He suggests that the protestant theologian, Paul Tillich’s, remarks about faith and doubt can be seen as complementary to Wittgenstein’s account of religious belief and can be used to produce a richer conception of religious belief. That is not to say that Tillich and Wittgenstein are in agreement on matters of faith, belief, and doubt, but a rich account of religious belief can be gleaned from combining the insights of these two thinkers. Whereas Pritchard argues that religious convictions are hinges (while religious beliefs are rationally evaluable), Andrejč rejects this kind of Quasi-Fideism and argues that there is support in Wittgenstein’s remarks for his own view.
Suggested Reading for Seminar 3:
- Andrejč, G. ‘Reading Wittgenstein (on Belief) with Tillich (on Doubt)’, in Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie, 2015 (available here: https://www.academia.edu/8749858/Reading_Wittgenstein_On_Belief_with_Tillich_On_Doubt_)
- Wittgenstein, L. Culture and Value, 37, 38, 52, 64.
- Wittgenstein, L. Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1970.
Mind, Language and Action Group (MLAG)
Instituto de Filosofia da Universidade do Porto – FIL/00502
No contexto do projecto PTDC/FER-FIL/32203/2017 Epistemology of Religious Belief - Wittgenstein, Grammar and the contemporary world