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Wittgensteinian Non-Cognitive Significance of Religion

Wittgensteinian Non-Cognitive Significance of Religion

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Published by: Philip Han on Nov 27, 2013
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Wittgensteinian Non-cognitive Significance of Religion Perhaps the most influential philosopher of the 20 th Century, Ludwig Wittgenstein has

provided us with the view that religious beliefs cannot be understood, and therefore, cannot be rejected or affirmed, by an outside, non-religious system of beliefs !eligious beliefs can only be understood by the religious believer i e someone inside the belief system, someone who understand the rules of the religious language game "lso, for Wittgenstein, religious beliefs are not subject to rational justification since they are more of a #form of life$ than factual investigation of reality %ince the way we use words and their meanings in a religious conte&t are essentially different from our ordinary use of the very same words, when we disagree about some religious beliefs or practices, we are not actually arguing the same things and thus not really contradicting with each other, according to Wittgenstein 'n this paper, ' will attempt to understand this view of Wittgenstein with more clarity as his writings are as enigmatic as they could ever be and then to e&amine what attractions this view can have for us, particularly, assigning a non-cognitive significance to religious beliefs and what wea(nesses or difficulties this view still has to resolve Wittgenstein claimed, #%uppose that someone believed in the Last )udgment, and ' don*t, does this mean that ' believe the opposite of him, just that there won*t be such a thing+ ' would say, -not at all, or not always- $ 't could be interpreted as even though the religious believer and non-believer use the very same words such as the Last )udgment day or the !esurrection, they do not mean the same thing !eligious and nonreligious language have the same words but different meanings and usages 'n other words, they are incommensurable with regard to each other .herefore, when religious person said she believed that P is " , and non-religious person said it is not the case that P is ", both are correct in their own language games since they follow their own specific rules .hey are not tal(ing about the same P and thus, they are hardly contradicting each other in a sense .herefore, Wittgenstein argued that two people who do not agree on believing in religious entities and claims would have #an enormous gulf$ between them because they have different understandings and usages of such and such

such a belief of meeting after life may not be the same thing as anything else /artin argued that it could be interpreted as such e&pressions have different natures than the (ind of attitude they are e&pressing 1e pointed out that the statement #1urray2$ probably has a very significant e&pressive function than just the statement #' am happy $ "nother e&ample is that one (issing a photograph is not e0uivalent to one saying that one loves the person in the photograph . if not all. all language-games are incommensurable with regard to each other /artin also pointed out though that by saying religious believer and nonbeliever do not contradict each other. he also says -.religious words and grammatical applications in contrast with our agreement on ordinary words which we use in a fairly similar manner /artin noted that although Wittgenstein thought religious believer and the nonbeliever are #on different planes$ as they use the same words with different meanings. but such beliefs and practices cannot be altogether substituted with any other statements since they have different e&pressive functions .herefore.herefore.he (isser surely is not believing that the photograph has the real person she loves.he difference might not show up at all in any e&planation of meaning. standard language game which we can achieve such an investigation . probably because there is no universal. many. or believing the person in the photograph would return something to her. in a similar way. Wittgenstein might be attributing a non-cognitive significance to religious language games which e&press an attitude toward life and provide a #form of life$ rather than truth and falsehood with regard to reality 't should be noted that Wittgenstein made some 0ualifications of this view of religious beliefs as an attitude 1e said that one believing or saying that one might meet a friend again after life is not e0uivalent to one believing or saying that one is fond of that friend "ccording to Wittgenstein. but rather she is e&pressing an attitude which cannot be replaced by other words or e&pressions .Wittgenstein was probably warning against any attempt to detailed scrutiny of the meanings of words as how differed in conte&t. religious beliefs and practices may e&press an attitude which could be fairly understood with different statements.

he 0uestion is do they play the same language games+ 'f absurdity and incoherence were to be removed as charges against certain religious beliefs. beneficial to society as well as to the individuals 1owever.and persisting< #holy$ wars "n =-religious group could claim that it is >od*s will to eliminate all those non-= religions. there are all sorts of dangerous #religious$ beliefs such as non-tolerance towards other religions. have to con0uer all those people without a belief . could we also do the same thing for #pseudo-religious$ beliefs+ %uch belief could produce devastating outcomes such as 89:: assault or historical . it is then impossible to reject or deny based on factual analysis 4ut then. it could be e0ually argued that when religious believers agree on something. it is plausible that some religious practices could encourage moral cultivation.3ne huge worry for the claim that religious beliefs and factual claims are incommensurable is that we have no way of telling what sorts of religious beliefs are admitted in this Wittgensteinian approach /artin claimed that #it is difficult to see where to stop if we start on the incommensurability road$ %ince religious views are not subject to empirical verification. even among these very same specific groups. unfortunately. religious groups ma(e all sorts of different claims regarding to the nature of their deities 5ot only do they differ with regard to other major religious group. they are not actually agreeing on the same thing since they mean different things although they use the same words and practices " more serious challenge could be made by as(ing whether or not there are certain rules or standards for separating the #good$ religious practices and beliefs from the bad ones 6or e&ample. better social relations. their psychological comfort and satisfaction etc and therefore. individuals* optimism on life. and there are a lot of Christian sects and groups which would have all different beliefs about the origin of the universe "lso. and therefore. Christians would differ with the 4uddhists on the beginning of the universe. they also differ among themselves 6or e&ample. discrimination against a certain gender or race or social class 7&treme terrorists or venerable saints all depend their beliefs on faith without rational e&planation . individuals could have different conceptions of the very same words and might disagree with each other 3n the other side.

they could be either beneficial or harmful pragmatically 't could be understood that for Wittgenstein.s< and science dictate that either science or religion must be wrong since they give apparently contradicting answers to the very same 0uestions 4ut.his is why Clifford claimed that one is epistemologically responsible for one*s own beliefs and that one should only believe what rationality suggests 3n the other hand. a non-religious person fail to ac(nowledge the attractions of religious practices and beliefs .in = 'f we cannot dismiss such claims as irrational and unjustified. science. the 0uestion is whether or not we need such an attitude toward life even though we cannot reduce it to a different set of beliefs or practices since we already have a more rational and more pragmatic approach to life that has more relations to reality than any other approaches including religion Wittgenstein claimed that religious beliefs are not subject to reason and factual verification . even if it is granted that we cannot e&amine a religious belief from a non-religious system of belief but can we compare two systems of beliefs and determine which one is more beneficial for the individual and the society in practice+ 'n other words. even if religious beliefs do not have a state of either being true or false.here is nothing much to be argued about if religion concerns itself only with the 0uestions science is not addressing 4ut this is certainly not the case . spreading such to&ic beliefs and ma(ing the whole world a horrible place to be in . art or religion has their own uni0ue way of loo(ing at the ambiguous picture of the world and developed their own different ways of tal(ing about it i e their own language games 't may well be argued that just as a non-artistic person may not appreciate a magnificent painting or a marvelous piece of music that are highly esteemed by the whole artistic community. we would face all groups of people claiming such nonsensical and harmful statements. Wittgenstein would probably argue that religious practices do not see( to answer the same 0uestions science is as(ing Wittgenstein claimed that religious practices and beliefs provide the believer with a certain uni0ue attitude toward and a form of life 'f religion is a language game which cannot attach its significance to the real world e&cept from its certain usefulness to the society and the individual.he overlapping 0uestions and the respective answers from both religion.

but also in reality 6or a non-believer. in the statement #>od e&ists$. ' thought 2A2BC.because the contents of such beliefs means different things than those things when we normally understand as in non-spiritual usage 6or e&ample. what is more interesting is how a converted atheist. religious claims are not just true in her imagination. this answer does not seem li(e a real answer to the clashes between believers and non-believers since this would only further #infuriate$ the religious believers by undermining the truth and falsity of their beliefs Let us consider what one could react to or learn from this Wittgensteinian view if one were to adopt it 6or a typical religious believer. have cognitive significance as opposed to non-cognitive significance Wittgenstein gave such beliefs Wittgenstein might still argue that these believers are either playing a wrong game i e they are mista(en in the sense that they use these words in the same sense as atheists do. the term #e&ist$ might mean something totally different from the term #e&ist$ in the statement # . she would not be satisfied because she actually wants more than mere e&pressions 6or her. rational. actually it s 2A2BD$+ 3r rather. or. he actually does not e&ist$ the same way as. reason etc with their internal meanings as opposed to what atheists mean when they use these words %till.his boo( e&ists $ ?et. would they say that those beliefs and practices no longer ma(es sense or are no longer meaningful to them without claiming they are false 6or many e&-religious believers. their response is closer to the latter . many.or theist< might view this %omeone who has formerly believed in a particular religion but is no longer convinced in beliefs and practices of that religion @o they view that those beliefs they once held have been proven false just as the case in which they learn that their old mathematical beliefs were false after doing some math problems with mista(es+ Would they just say #3h ' thought >od e&ists. religious defenders would still cognitively claimed that those terms such as e&ist mean the same phenomena when they are used in a religious conte&t and therefore. #3h. if not most. she would just nod and deride the religious claims since Wittgenstein said they are not claiming truths about the real world %he does not need such a way of life because she already has something more suited to her rationality 4ut. but no. they are still playing their religious game with words li(e cognitive.

such as that matter consists of fundamental particles. singing hymns. or that organisms evolve throughout the history of the earth. reflecting religious te&ts. but the act of claiming or involving in some acts associating with those claims cannot really be criticiEed or affirmed 'n some sense.he problems ' have discussed include how we can (now what is a proper language. following the physical laws 3ne could. deserve a noncognitive significance in our lives /y view is that we must separate between those religious claims which assert about the nature of the world and those practices. #>od loves us$ cannot either be true or false . but the attitude one could ta(e on the same facts could be significantly different 3ne could be pessimistic in one*s e&istence or in everyone*s e&istence because one thin(s we are all nothing more than matter. Wittgenstein can . and therefore. etc 7ven though those latter practices depend on the former claims and beliefs. not statements about reality. and how we can distinguish admissible and non-admissible religious beliefs 6or the former.here is no doubt that the earth was not created within a few days. as regard to their truth or falsity to ma(e such practices meaningful. perhaps how one interprets scientific facts and formulate an attitude toward life is more interesting to tal( about than mere scientific facts . there are some issues to be considered before claiming that Wittgenstein is correct to say that religious statements are rather e&pressions. on the other hand. reading. meditating. the claims themselves are either justified or not. it may well be that the statement #>od loves us$ is essentially false since there is no such >od but a believer saying. praying.4ut still. but it could be granted a believer asserting the story of >enesis is not subject to rational analysis 'n other words. appreciate how the conditions for our e&istence were so coincidental and have a positive view on life upon discovering the #marvels$ of the universe /aybe that is why some scientists are able to have some religious beliefs while understanding and accepting all scientific phenomenon that have no indication of the truth of their religious beliefs 'n that sense of distinction. such practices are similar to some of our ordinary practices such as admiring celebrities /aybe such a distinction should be made even in the realm of science 3ne could say that what science provides are mere facts.

interpretations References 'nternet 7ncyclopedia of Philosophy.99www infidels org9library9modern9michaelFmartin9wittgenstein html . the latter 0uestion arises because we have to dismiss to&ic religious beliefs as irrational and unjustified as history has shown us how these beliefs could bring us disasters /y response on Wittgensteinian way of thin(ing religious beliefs as having non-cognitive significance is. as humans species. just that some of them are closer to some others 7ven so. and a more detailed understanding of Wittgenstein*s writings are from this piece< Wittgenstein. / #Wittgensteinian Lectures on !eligious 4eliefs $ !etrieved from http. irreplaceable outloo( on life for many believers 1owever. L #3n !eligious 4elief $ Clifford.respond that there is no way to have distinct boundaries for language games. for me. have established 3ne could understandably still hold religious beliefs if one is raised in a religious society and such and such beliefs have been firmly rooted in her conception as commitment and faith has already inseparable from her. who has sha(en beliefs or for someone. affirmative ' could agree that they serve as an important.he analogy of (issing a photograph and the ideas related to it were conceived after reading this< /artin. W #. but for someone. Ludwig Wittgenstein http. distinct forms of life from those facts . should rather follow what facts are out there for her to interpret self rather than confine herself and follow the massively public.99www iep utm edu9wittgens9 .. for the most part. some of the interpretations are closer to the facts in the sense that they do not re0uire a lot more additional fictional conceptions and ignoring a lot of truths that we. the scientific facts remain steadfast .. who has no such previous beliefs.he problem of incommensurability.even if we are still in an intermediate stage of arriving more accurate facts< 't is possible that we could interpret our own.or ignoring some of those facts< %till. yet obsolete.he 7thics of 4elief $ .

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