[L] [C] [Wittrs] Re: Wittgenstein on Religious Belief

  • From: Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 27 Nov 2009 09:25:00 -0800 (PST)

(to Gerardo)

 ... the "criticism" isn't very good. Wittgenstein had incredibly-intelligent 
views on everything from mathematics, to language, to art, religion, etc. One 
of the interesting features of his intellect is his ability to be 
insightfully-dismissive with how others construct thoughts, yet to remain 
somewhat paralyzed or passive in the face of the unknown. In fact, if 
an educated person -- knowing silly things like mathematics and logic (or 
perhaps even science) -- were to use those activities as a way to pronounce 
falsity upon something purportedly of a completely different matter, he would 
find much more irritation with the failure of you to see this "criss cross" 
than with any specific content of a religious belief.

Of course, Wittgenstein was dismissive of religious claims as well, but 
generally for the SAME REASON (for the failure to see "criss crosses" and the 
trappings of assertability conditions).

Even in the Tractarian period, the mystical had a legitimate place. 
Later Wittgenstein would go through the ritual of confessions to his friends as 
if purge both his character and his soul, and would even write in a letter a 
very insightful reason as to why even someone like him could come to believe in 
the Resurrection of Jesus. (He's just pondering in the letter). Wittgenstein 
was as interested in the God concept in his diaries as he was in art. Go look 
at Culture and Value. See also, Monk, p. 383.

I made a comment to Stuart a while ago, and it reminded me exactly what the 
problem is today (and what Wittgenstein faced). I said to him that it seemed 
more sensible to believe in spirits (that physical reality was only a dimension 
of some kind) than to believe that aliens were visiting here by craft from 
"sector 9." The point was eminently Wittgensteinian. I had said it made for a 
better story. The assertability conditions seemed less troublesome. 
That people today would cast voodoo aside as a kind of "gas" but would indulge 
the most childlike inventions of their sci-fi imagination as being 
"possibility" is a sign of a cultural prejudice.

Here is what I want to say to you. If beliefs are insightful -- if the mind is 
at its best -- there are no means by which its value can be dimmed. In this 
sense, all ideas are a kind of aesthetic.  Wittgenstein could see the beauty in 
some of the God stories as well as the senselessness. Just as he could in the 
stories of science. 

The only thing Wittgenstein was ever against was the inability of others to see 
what causes or governed senselessness -- in short, the challenges of their own 
insight, and the failure to properly "live" ideas. 

Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
Personal Website: http://seanwilson.org
SSRN papers: http://ssrn.com/author=596860
Discussion Group: http://seanwilson.org/wittgenstein.discussion.html 

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