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Lecture

Wittgenstein'ssuggestion.doc

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHL 110
Professor
David Chalmers
Semester
Fall

Description
Wittgenstein= s Suggestion th Among his scattered notebooks, the 20 -century Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein left the following remark: In religion every level of devoutness must have its appropriate form of expression which has no sense at a lower level. This doctrine, which means something at a higher level, is null and void for someone who is still at the lower level; he can only understand it wrongly and so these words are not valid for such a person. - L Wittgenstein, Culture and Value This is a dark saying, but it suggests a picture of religious doctrine, or at least of religious texts, somewhat as follows: 1) Religious doctrines are expressed as they are in part to enable believers to progress spirituallythrough different levels of devoutness or understanding; 2) Therefore, they are often expressed in language which admits of different interpretations/understandings; 3) It is therefore easy to misconstrue the content and nature of religious faith/belief; 4) It is generallyan open question what understanding of a doctrine/text is the “right” one, or at least a deeper/higher one; but Wittgenstein says nothing about how such an issue might be settled; nor does he suggest that such understandings can be easilyput into words; indeed, in his other writings he seems to suggest that such understandings cannot be put into straightforward propositions; 5) There is, or at least may be in a given case, a different sort of connection between religious practices/attitudes than is envisioned in the
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