ArgLab • Masterclass

Wittgenstein’s Epistemology of Religion

Professor Alois Pichler (University of Bergen)

Alois Pichler is Professor of Philosophy and Head of the Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen. His publications include the revised edition of Wittgenstein’s Culture and Value (Suhrkamp, 1994; Blackwell, 1998), Wittgensteins Philosophische Untersuchungen: Vom Buch zum Album (Rodopi, 2004) and New Essays on Frege: Between Science and Literature, co-edited with Simo Säätelä and Gisela Bengtsson (Springer, 2018).

This masterclass is organized within the framework of the FCT-funded project “Epistemology of Religious Belief: Wittgenstein, Grammar and the Contemporary World” (PTDC/FER-FIL/32203/2017, PI: Nuno Venturinha), hosted by the IFILNOVA.

Attendance is free of charge but space is limited and registration is required.

10:00 – 12:00
An introduction to the later Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language
In the first session, Professor Pichler will, on the basis of the Philosophical Investigations (1953) and On Certainty (1969) – and with the Tractatus logico-philosophicus (1922) as contrasting background – give an introduction to the later Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language and epistemology. He will pay special attention to the role human action plays in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy and to key notions such as “language game”, “family resemblance”, “form of life”, “practice”, “certainty”, “rule” and “grammar”.
14:00 – 16:00
An application of the later Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language to the epistemology of religion
In the second session Professor Pichler will first propose a method to help us separate what Wittgenstein says qua philosopher about religion from what he says in other capacities (e.g. simply as a human being). He will then apply some of the key notions discussed in the first session – foremost “language game”, “family resemblance” and “form of life” – to phenomena of religion and questions about the epistemology of religion. He will particularly focus on the topic of religious belief and will furthermore extract an argument from Wittgenstein against some central assumptions of epistemologically argued cultural / religious relativism. He will end by voicing scepticism about a strong non-cognitive interpretation of historical contents and truth claims contained in religious belief statements, a position that Wittgenstein apparently supported himself. The texts on which the second session will be based will again include the Philosophical Investigations and On Certainty, but also the Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief (1966) as well as selected passages from the entire Nachlass, including some of those which have been published in Culture and Value (1977).