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Religion and Pseudo-Religion: An Elusive Boundary Author(s): Sami Pihlstrm Source: International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Vol.

62, No. 1 (Aug., 2007), pp. 3-32 Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27646221 . Accessed: 19/09/2013 10:38
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Int J Philos Relig (2007) 62:3-32 DOI 10.1007/sl 1153-007-9120-2

ORIGINAL

PAPER

Religion

and pseudo-religion:

an elusive

boundary

Sami Pihlstr?m

Received: 27 October 2006 ? Springer Science+Business

/ Accepted: 9 February Media B.V. 2007

2007

/ Published

online:

18 July 2007

Abstract

a boundary This paper examines the possibility of setting between and religion of religion (or superstition). "pseudo-religion" Philosophers inspired by Ludwig Wittgen stein's in particular, can be neither insist that religious nor ideas, language-use legitimated criticized from the perspective of non-religious for the "the Thus, language-games. example, odicist" that the existence of evil should be theoretically reconciled with theism requirement can be argued is the relation to be pseudo-religious Another discussed (superstitious). example between and The concludes paper religion morality. by reflecting the Wittgensteinian from vs. contention that the religion arising can that only be drawn within the religious a religious "uses a picture". framework, and on in the paper the issue

of gion

relativism division

pseudo-reli on Wittgenstein's own

suggestion

person

Keywords James, W

Religion

Pseudo-religion

Superstition

Evil

Ethics

Wittgenstein,

L.

1 Introduction
It is a commonplace of comparative of losophers are, that defining is a very difficult, if not hopeless, task. Scholars "religion" for example, seldom nor do phi definitions; propose any explicit am not I to like in that this either. My propose religion. paper, going anything as philosophical aims should at the meta-level: I am interested what in be, located religion, possibility of drawing the, or even a, boundary between religion and non-religion,

aims

is the very

S. Pihlstr?m (IS1) of Mathematics, unit, Department Philosophy of Tampere, Finland University e-mail: sami.pihlstrom@uta.fi

Statistics

and Philosophy,

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4
between and what also studies, I call

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

particularly "superstition", Through are committed

religion and what may a number of case

sometimes Iwill

"pseudo-religion" come close whether

examine

(or what may to "hypocrisy").1 to draw attempts certain

as well

be called

such

a boundary

to which to essentialism, to a view viz., according or are a of for way given activity making" properties required as religious. to be accurately describable If such an essentialist definition of would be religion of any normative or if essentialism arises can be whether drawn a meaningful discussion

"religion or to be religious, thinking view were true, an explicit would a necessary no essen If, however, be form of metaphysics, vs. supersti in the shape it seems that task to the mere

essential

presupposition tialism is invoked, then tion) the question boundary

and its possibility goal, of religion and religiosity. as a hopelessly is rejected outdated

vs. pseudo-religion religion at all. This takes an especially issue any religion. as D. Z. Phillips, rules of language?the himself hand, of On

(or religion interesting the one hand, their

"Wittgensteinian" Wittgensteinian

tradition philosophers

in the philosophy of religion, such

confine

of religious ways description as one might put it, keeping of a language-game concept busily ways commenting of using religious on the

of using in mind that Wittgenstein to religion. the other On "right" or "correct" latter (and This normative

"language-games", religious never his explicitly applied are often such philosophers

and "incorrect") "wrong" to lay down rules the attempt seems to be a crucial about for genuinely part of their philosophizing language-use, religious even if they explicitly to a mere of language-games, commit themselves description religion, in such-and-such involved that such-and-such rules are defacto that is, to merely observing conversely, task, language. communities, practices, to understand or forms social

of religion, of life. Analogously, pragmatist philosophers or individual the along experiences religious religious practices, to such practices about the ways tend to arrive at statements James, ought a genuinely the kind of experiences be engaged in, or about person may religious enjoy. as Wittgensteinians of in normative discussion and/or insofar Now, engage pragmatists seeking lines of William are religion, self-reflective they committing If they are, don't they end up with to essentialist orientations' hostility given philosophical from a full-blown in the end differ if they are not, how does their position no religion vs. pseudo-religion in the context to which is possible, except or tradition standpoint? religious themselves to essentialism? these treatment of these problems a us to study in some detail would require to which in relation and conceptions concepts or properly and pseudo religious (genuinely) can be applied. Such concepts include, e.g., prayer, on between of faith itself, and the relation religion, on the as science and morality, while others in passing receive will below, I will the the analogies between emphasize institutions

incoherence,

And assumptions? relativism according of some particular A number comprehensive of specific

the distinction

and/or religious theological correct and incorrect, between

and thinking of speaking ways religious, the concept death and immortality, evil, the one side, and such human practices other. Some of these critical issues will an extended discussion.

or social

only In particular,

be mentioned

1 forms of behavior These terms are not always interchangeable, though. For example, not all pseudo-religious can be said to be superstitious?not, at least, if superstition involves some kind of magical attempts to control one's fate. Someone might, for instance, have a "religious" attitude to some sport s/he is a fan of, say soccer, it as superstitious. and others may condemn such an attitude as pseudo-religious without thereby condemning not all superstitious involves forms of behavior need to be hypocritical Furthermore, (given that hypocrisy some kind of pretending or lack of serious commitment): one can be seriously confused in one's (pseudo-)reli cases to be examined in this paper, however, pseudo-religious and superstitious gious life. In the paradigmatic attitudes are usually very close to each other or even amount to one and (though not necessarily hypocritical) the same thing, that is, inmy examples below Iwill be mainly interested in positions that can be characterized as both pseudo-religious and superstitious.

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Int J Philos Relig

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contrasts

between on note,

its distortions, I should will be

religion the other. moreover,

and These

pseudo-religion, issues are not

on

the one

hand,

identical,

but

their

focused

inspired genstein in some the prayer However,

that my of the religion investigation or religiously and language-use, instead of religious thinking religious course are actions of words and too, deeds, anyone (though inspired by the later Witt or another must to action). in one way A terrorist might tie meaning pray solemnly, sense highly and then go on to blow up hundreds of innocent with religiously, people, on still on her/his this essay as pseudo-religious. be classified may lips. Such behavior obviously is concerned with the questions of whether, and how, our more narrowly can manifest life with and/or both argumentative language religious aspects.

and morality is illuminating. vs. pseudo-religion division genuine similarity

and

linguistic, conceptual, and pseudo-religious

2 Examples It is useful

of

the

religion

vs. pseudo-religion

distinction

Wittgensteinian instead games, such We

to briefly the issue I am going to explore introduce the because through examples, in the philosophy method us to look at particular of religion advises language a universal of offering is. It is from the perspective of theory of what religion an apparently anti-essentialist that the threat of essentialism arises. inquiry may ask, then, what genuinely kind religious, of talk or thinking as distinguished about, from say, the following six or topics should

be considered Here Prayer. ical attempt sincere done". Death, Christian one's Evil trust

pseudo-religious

superstitious:2

the contrast to make in God, God

is between do

and magic: religion one wants Him something

whatever attitude and

A magical mortality, hope salvation for

the lines happens, along to prayer par excellence. yields superstition a can be drawn Here distinction immortality. or resurrection sects, Christian and the kind and non-Christian,

the religious is not a mag prayer to do but an expression of one's of the famous be "thy will phrase, the e.g., about certainty

between,

survival

of fundamentalist preach. not aim His will

that various

and

justifying the world. Faith. The

a truly religious does Here, suffering. person arguably, to humans God's trusts God, whatever but simply ways

at a "theodicy" about brings

in

trusts God, rather than seeking believer, religious again, epistemic existence. faith built upon such trust is more fundamental certainty Religious one might come than any evidence for or against theism. (or lack), either up with and morality. A major is the contrast issue between and fundamental tolerance Religion genuine about God's ist, hypocritical socio-politically and e.g., moralizing, relevant matters. science. The either on homosexuality believer and other sex/gender issues or other

Religion

to accept ist, refusing atheist criticism typical In cases fundamentalist also be such as these, of

truly religious fundamentalist

that scientific we should

an anti-fundamental is, once again, or the such as creationism, pseudo-sciences, abolishes the credibility of religious beliefs. progress least would like to) be able to say that certain

ways

thinking

(or at are not only

combined,

pseudo-religious, and

pseudo-religious soul and who ciently 2 This successful

superstition yielding are. For instance, they often someone who in order prayed away and unnecessary faith. exhaustive.

pseudo-scientific instead of genuine we would, to manipulate by

(as creationism

The religion. I think, be prepared as to regard to save her/his God immortal to the sufferers' insuffi

is) but surely cases can also

explained prayers

suffering

referring

list, of course,

is by no means

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6
Recent of religion that might be criticized, philosophers as encouraging ian perspective, pseudo-religious superstition for example, reformed include, evidentialists,3 thought analytic obviously, philosophers creationists and other fundamentalists (though philosophers among others, of religion). The Wittgensteinian to evidentialism include, opposed Mulhall, Stephen offer any close as as well readings illustrative and at

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

rather

from a Wittgenstein than genuine religious as well as, epistemologists,4 least views

the latter whose D.

metrically B. R. Tilghman,

can hardly even be called on religion are dia Z. Phillips,5 Lars Hertzberg, Of texts. to draw course, I will I cannot only use the distinction

in a single paper some of their pronouncements between on my discussion issue ity well. of

Putnam. as, perhaps, Hilary of these various thinkers' of examples of certain ways of evil, the need of drawing leads a novel between be

and pseudo-religion, religion initial focus on two: list, I will of the limits of religious

the problem language,

which

the items it. Among to a "transcendental" on the perspective and moral touched as

vs. religion (Sect. 5). Some

superstition of the other

3^-), (Sects. items will, to bring

thereby opening and the relation through these

religion indirectly

cases,

about

In particular, my discussion in its truly what faith,

aims religious

eventually, be involved marked going

to aWittgensteinian proceed in the claim between that the boundary religion a religious form of life (or language-game, within some philosophers condemn to endorse what might fideism), Iwill

to the fore some Wittgensteinian-inspired to. In Sects. amount 6 and may meaning, that of the issue of relativism discussion and pseudo-religion

ideas 7 I will, seems to

can only be I am not tradition, etc.). Although as "Wittgensteinian relativism" demarcations

(let alone

from Wittgenstein's

for such context-embedded seek resources eventually a "uses a picture". that famous person religious suggestion

3 The

problem

of evil:

religious

and

pseudo-religious that

responses here. of an

The

problem

of evil the issue

is so well is about and

known

Obviously, omnipotent, a lot of at

the compatibility absolutely

to be described in any detail needs it hardly in the existence belief of theism?a fact that there

omniscient, least

of evil problem as an evidential offer a theodicy, As so often,

apparently as a logical challenge

tialist) inspired

explaining a plausible may here position and the non-evidentialist approaches by Wittgenstein, represented most

the atheist employs to the very coherence of theism or, more moderately, challenge to theist seeks the traditional to its rational whereas credibility, can or even must to be evil. allow there a God benevolent why meaningless lie between (sometimes prominently the typical analytic labelled "fideist") by Phillips.7 (mainly eviden thinking contrast of way The basic

the empirical good deity?with The in the world.6 suffering

exists

views on evil and theodicy might be paradigmatic here, as we will perceive. Especially Richard Swinburne's See, e.g., Swinburne (1979). 4 the views on theodicy held by someone like Alvin Plantinga are a case in point, though Plantinga's Again, other ideas might be taken up in this context as well. See, e.g., Plantinga (2000). However, Plantinga's complex theory of the warrant of Christian faith is not something that I can discuss here. 5 In particular, Phillips's numerous works on prayer, immortality, and evil would be important here, though in what follows. only a fragment of his vast output can be discussed 6 For a selection of important classical and modern essays on this topic, see Rowe (2001 ). See also the dialogue between a believer and an atheist, setting the problem of evil in a fairly standard evidentialist manner, inCraig 6 Sinnott-Armstrong (2004). 7 I will own views on religious belief to Sect. 6 (and even there Iwill of Wittgenstein's postpone discussion tradition in the philosophy be extremely sketchy). I will here only loosely speak about the "Wittgensteinian"

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can be framed two viewpoints in terms of the opposition between theodicism to justify God's The theodicist seeks there to be evil in the allowing thus rendering the apparent of there being both evil and an omnipo world, incompatibility on and benevolent The atheist who theism tent, omniscient, apparent. deity merely rejects between and these anti-theodicism. the grounds of the problem evidential (if not a logical) to "justify the theist God's the contrary, atheist forms In addition religious discuss in James thinker the the anti-theodicist of theodicism to recent closer of evil, or who for to man" rejects share.8 William approach ideas, James, than the classical pragmatist, one. Iwill was partly a the argues theist, that is also the existence a theodicist, for of evil constitutes s/he an because

problem ways

as a criterion project

this entire

the acceptability of of justification that both

requires theism. On theist and

Wittgensteinians, to the anti-theodicist to Jamesian

to the theodicist

issue with

reference

Like theodicist thinkers, scholarship.9 to God's kind of moral will. "oughtness" prior or anyone, the Hegelian including philosophers' instance, corrupt, purely or so with some or morally intellectual in sight. greater good at best, insensitive and reasons, Such no

is not here though my purpose to think that James does appear be ethically unacceptable to let innocent children would simply thinker in her/his are be

to engage there is a for God, die, even for and for

It would

Absolute, a sacrifice

immoral

ethically

concerned or God,

should,

the Jamesian considerations argues.10 to human to live a human, about how applicable only beings thinking in this world in which evil is an undeniable The problem factuality. an ethical It is not primarily?or for humans. not at all?an problem exercise rationalization. worry faith that theodicist In this way, and may James can be rationalizations even, for in fact ethical

such an Absolute, postulate the other hand, On ethical

metaphysics? in James's religious, is, above

view life all,

perhaps of evil abstract seen blind

intellectual later that

of philosophical who Wittgensteinians makes people's that faith.11

as joining the us to the evil lead them

religious

fragile

reasons,

to lose

Footnote 7 continued of religion, assuming that what is usually meant by this expression is sufficiently familiar to my readers. No will be made here. Thomas Wallgren's discussion of strong claims about how to properly interpret Wittgenstein how Wittgensteinian reflection on language may transform us and our problems but should Wittgenstein?on not dictate general norms about meaning?is also applicable toWittgensteinian of religion (which philosophy is not Wallgren's see Wallgren (2006), especially Ch. 5. explicit concern) and is thus highly recommendable; 8 Rowe theodicist approaches, featuring work by leading analytic (2001) is a prime example of evidentialist, of religion such as Swinburne, Plantinga, and others. For recent philosophical philosophers (non-theological, to the problem of evil, see Bernstein though not atheological) (2002) and Neiman approaches (2002). 9 This section is partly indebted to Pihlstr?m (2002b). I certainly do not mean to assimilate Wittgenstein's and James's quite different views to each other. From a one might resist Jamesian Wittgensteinian perspective, the basis of their function arguments for justifying religious beliefs on pragmatic grounds?on pragmatists' in people's practices of life?and argue against any justificationist ality or satisfactoriness project, pragmatist ones included. Yet there are similarities between the two approaches varia (and their numerous contemporary Iwill suggest, regarding evil. Both Jamesians and Wittgensteinians tions), especially, may argue, for instance, that a believer's standards is not a inability to objectively "justify" her/his religious beliefs by evidentialist sufficient basis for genuine doubts about those beliefs, i.e., that more specific reasons for doubt would be needed for the believer to really change her/his life. (Evil might, but also might not, be such a reason for someone.) 10 The central reference here is James's 1891 paper, James (1979). The Jamesian pragmatist agrees with Ivan Karamazov 's famous revolt against God?against the very idea of the ultimate forgiving of horribly evil deeds?powerfully in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. Cf. also Neiman presented (2002) for the relevance of Dostoevsky in this regard. 1 * For such a picture, and Simone Weil, of evil as an ethical chal inspired by Wittgenstein, Dostoevsky, see Wisdo (1993). Wisdo's lenge rendering religious faith vulnerable, critique is primarily directed against

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Not stein unlike (and moral

Int J Philos Relig

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James,

philosophers

to some

extent rather of

an ethical

scrutiny intellectualization be

by Kierkegaard) than a purely

and philosophers of religion that the problem argued one. These intellectual thinkers have issue. had good As one author

inspired by Wittgen of evil should receive also resist the abstract

tions would a child, for

this metaphysico-religious even more evil than we deeply as a part of his allegedly

realized overall

if we

motiva it, God's puts were to see the starving of

instance,

to the Wittgensteinian-Kierkegaardian and therefore phemous pseudo-religious in favor of God's plan, as theodicists criteria to try to set objective ethical it is conceptually impossible see the problem of evil end as an to Stephen Mulhall, of the ways of God intellectualist

perspective, according to try to bring God do. It is simply wrong, which God,

Thus we are introduced plan.12 to which it is, in a word, blas or to offer to justice both ethically and an apology

to do any intellectual

religiously, to obey. Moreover, like anyone else, ought such thing; the very attempt is without If we sense.13 a to we be solved, will, problem, puzzle according

a picture as an "evil demon". a justification of God "Such up with to man amounts to little less than blasphemy", he concludes.14 Instead of one avoiding and superstition or justify to explain all attempts about the "conceptual oddness"

the truly religious believer?the puzzle-solving, and all for attempts blasphemy?abandons theodicy thereby evil and suffering.15 Another thinker speaks Wittgensteinian of the theodicist's of evil

problem in a world and faith

to man".16 to "justify that the real of God One may the ways argue attempt life "is not theoretical, but is the practical of how one lives a religious problem a life that includes, other of evil and misfortune, prayer, among things, worship, rather than is a form of superstition in God".17 For all these theodicism thinkers, to the theodicist's, however. When hostile is not entirely position a a creator uni should make half-finished that "it is a good thing are humanly to inhabit who free agents, immature creatures, it",18 he does within and individual the central values of freedom responsibility affirming But upon closer scrutiny it turns out that Swinburne here employs

genuine

religion. James's Apparently, states Swinburne that verse sound and create

like James,

the created

universe.19

11 continued Footnote "free will defense" (see, e.g., Plantinga, 2001); it is inmany ways parallel to Phillips's Plantinga's well-known attack on Swinburne's theodicy, to be referred to shortly. 12 Mulhall (1994), p. 18. 13 Can to say that something that also be morally wrong? Isn't itmeaningless something which is nonsensical makes no sense ismorally prohibited? These notions are, however, connected more intimately than we might of the relation between religion and of a philosophical discussion initially think, and part of the significance to bring this fact to the fore. is precisely superstition 14 Mulhall (1994), p. 19. 15Mulhall (1994), pp. 67-68. Cf. Le Poidevin (1996), p. 102: "If it turned out that, from God's perspective, tomake. We simply that would be a horrible discovery any amount of human suffering is perfectly acceptable, at least as we conceive of benevolence." The could not go on believing that God was genuinely benevolent, that the latter and his kin seem to difference between the accounts of Le Poidevin and Mulhall is, however, resist the metaphysician's tendency to imagine what itwould be like if something turned out to be true "from God's perspective". Suffering and evil are, if genuinely religious problems, problems arising from a human perspective. This, as already noted, was also James's position. 16 192. Tilghman(1994),p. 17 194. Tilghman(1994),p. 8 Swinburne and hence moral (1977a), here p. 99. Cf. also John Hick's statement that "moral responsibility there are genuine contingencies" (Hick, 2001, p. 126). For more detailed growth require a world in which see both Swinburne to Rowe (ed.), God and the Problem formulations, (1996) and Hick (2001) contributions of Evil. 19 This picture emerges from many of James's key writings, including James (1975), especially Ch. 8, and James (1977).

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the notion prior to and understandable scheme. of

of moral

to something's in a problematic sense, goodness referring it seems, is bound of God's will. God, by objective independently in Swinburne's other moral rules and standards, (and many thinks that all whose is well world in God's is only this plan be made. the world free plan, "half-finished". at least overall which includes

being yet

good

humanly

theodicists') the creation he can seems to that

Swinburne

"humanly think that human it is good, Hence,

despite if the unfinished is in itself differences

agents" can understand beings the sacrifices that must character of

Furthermore, to the extent that we

realize

all plan that and James's Phillips's of genuine justifying we should there among

entirely become

a vulgarized Rather than responsibility, "pseudoresponsibility".20 to men us as free and responsible, to his having created by referring reasons God might that any purportedly admit have for tolerating the evil "higher" is in the human world, the "reasonable" of moral including preservation responsibility God's ways

counter-argument freedom and

of an over is taken to be just an element then Swinburne's and rationally understandable, completed more to theodicy visible. Our main alternative is clearly to the effect that the Swinburnean theodicist offers us, instead

are unavailable to us; as Phillips form of humans, it, if there is such a "'higher' puts God and his angels", then "so much the worse for God and his angels".21 among reasoning Much like James's the Phillipsian is someone "sick believer who finds her/himself soul",22 can or in "a world where disasters of natural and moral kinds strike without living rhyme to join the theodicist's unable vision of "order, optimism and progress".23 It is for reason", the sick soul only that the problem a person from being hardly profits in the end. In brief, there is a crude makes The by no them of evil told moral that is a genuine, ethically significant there is a hidden order in God's problem; absolute such mind

pseudo-religious, superstitious, between the theodicist and dispute to moral has the issue been sensitivities offered for turned not about and the

an appeal argument

an insensitivity in theodicies,24 that insensitivity or even blasphemous. the anti-theodicist is not, of course, settled simply to Phillips insensitivities. Swinburne that responds of rational order one,26 (and, of behind whereas in a sense, evil.25 Phillips's existential) Through such a

lack

response, ian point with

is that we

is again should

into an epistemic the ethical conflate the pros and cons

Wittgenstein issue of evil

an epistemic these separating that theodicies The

problem thinkers'

ment

The wide hypothesis. gulf state is demonstrated "philosophical temperaments" by Phillips's are part of the "rationalism" our understanding that "clouds of religious to offer an argument, or even the question of whether there could

the theistic

belief".27

very

attempt

and Phillips's rela (1977a), p. 110. It should be noted that I am only referring to Swinburne's Phillips on most topics in of their positions. Both have, for decades, written voluminously tively early formulations the philosophy of religion, including the problem of evil. Since this essay is not a study on the development of their views, it will be sufficient for me to cite their early confrontation in the 1970s. It seems to me that no major changes have taken place in their positions?or in the basic opposition between theodicies and anti-theodicies?since then. 21 Phillips (1977a), p. 116. 22 Cf. James (1985). 23 Phillips (1977a), p. 119. 24 Phillips (1977a), p. 118. 25 See Swinburne (1977b). 26 It is clear in, e.g., Rowe (2001), God and the Problem of Evil, as well as in Craig's and Sinnott-Armstrong's of religion view the problem of evil as an essentially (2004), that most contemporary dialogue philosophers at least like Phillips?and (evidential) one. This is entirely misguided epistemic according toWittgensteinians like James. partly misguided according to pragmatists 27 see James (1975), Ch. 1. temperament, Phillips (1977b), p. 139. For the notion of a philosophical

20

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be an argument to a rational in Phillips's order, pointing to be judged is even blasphemous. not be over-intellectualized belief, then, should Religious such or as we can hardly intelligibly either demand justice be seen from

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

view,

leads

the religious to justify it to him;

thinker

astray,

will, of

by attempting or owe God

God's instead

belief should such intellectualization, religious concerned by no means by all?ethically some?though insecure in their often lematic situations they encounter some people, for some reasons (and not just for intellectual

as a natural human and beings

response by pragmatic to the various prob

value If it is, then its religious adequate.28 uses as "justification" in the language-games their legitimate and "evil" beyond or ubiquity? in. Nor should evil?its existence, engage magnitude, naturally religious people sense of natural-scientific in the be "explained", e.g., explanation, except respectable perfectly or a major was we explain evil for its victims, of an earthquake which the occurrence when pragmatically such words when morally attempts are bad we explain socio-psychologically others. evil actions against to explain The

For environment. challenging is the reasons), response religious should not be banalized by stretching

explanations is to misunderstand Here

to engage in led some people which the conditions theodicist with Wittgenstein, problem, paraphrasing evil is not that they all apparently unnecessary why God does not remove to explain To even attempt in this context but that they are explanations. and their role in religious life.29 concepts religious or confu in religious of what of religious as s/he is an atheist

sions

we may, between of clarification, misunderstandings distinguish by way one on involved and confusions the in analyzing side, concepts, (religious) are misunderstandings latter kind of confusions itself. The life and understanding or even corrupt forms and they lead to distorted it is to be a religious believer, pseudo-religion, simply mistaken this form in short. The the meaning about of misunderstanding. toWittgensteinians is, according to "from and within". This non-believers a confusion if the believer in which

life and practice?to a believer, is not theodicist as what can

insofar for example, theodicist, of God; also of the concept The theodicist who views

commit

her/himself

life living religious that life amounts Both believers

only

standing. for

like Phillips, a confusion is ultimately about be confused may life

about deeply mistaken in her/his ^//-under

the former For

is such

system theological to have fully grasped life?the of religious the nature as "God", to lead. s/he is attempting worth alternative Another up here, taking briefly interesting is Eleonore stream of than ideas, Phillips's religion philosophy said human being's that suffering argues Stump illuminating example.30 to God of as another in a relation conceived person, ingful explained is something be or justified that might in abstracto, be appealing from relation to God as a relation to a "second

religiously. coherent

example,

or misunderstanding thinks that religious the problem of evil

but concepts, religious a confusion to live about how requires solved, religious drawn as a its support cannot be such

is finally life with

s/he

concepts, from more

main

of a Stump's of Job as an with the Book person", mean can be explained and rendered discussion even if it can like a loving parent, of view. "third person" point of religion who?like, again,

never This

an objective,

to a philosopher

28 For a of religion may retain "the goods of discussion of how a pragmatist conception thoroughgoing (2002). religion" in human life, see Zackariasson I am here greatly indebted to Tommi Uschanov's (in Finnish) on D. Z. Phillips unpublished manuscript of religion. andWittgensteinian philosophy 30 relevance of the Book of Job, with special emphasis on the idea See Stump (2000). For the philosophical or justice, see Wilcox of an "amoral" universe beyond human beings' moral demands of goodness (1992). view according to the anti-theodicists' Wilcox's (e.g., Wittgensteinians') argument bears some resemblance to try to bring God to justice. Indeed, Wilcox to which it is blasphemous points out that Job is (initially) guilty of blasphemy.

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to live in a universe in which intimate and personal relations James?yearns one can have a personal some which communion with "Thou". superhuman the Wittgensteinian-Kierkegaardian of view, anti-theodicists' point Stump in her repudiation of the traditional task of justification. enough third-person fairly strongly although and explanation is different of evil from, say, Swinburne's. as a "second as a "you", faces God he does, really person", according an or an answer to of why the he must justification explanation, question It is a merit of this view that the justification and received required tion than abstract and still rooted in the theodicist tradition,

are possible, However, does Her not

in from

go

far is

its conception of as Job, for Insofar to Stump, suffer.

position the justifica instance, receive

is "personal" rather are still dealing it is a problem that we with yet, objective; justification the religious believer above all be concerned with here.31 Moreover, others' might suffering own. For such a person, of her/his instead offers little Stump's "second-personal" approach a justification own per If one receives comfort. for another human in one's being's suffering sonal contact with the God one believes plan one in, then one will than in the guilt one's again, best, has Stump's to suffer. in an evil attitude view demon's to the evil rather end up with like a companion acting a compassionate once fellow-sufferer. Then, in the world be At its may pseudo-religious. s/he her/himself news starve. the evening children

in television, Where believers of their

perceives thus comfort the suffering believer who asks why may encounters This does not help the one who evil mainly through for instance, God lets millions of innocent African asking why, strike in a similar

does Stump need not deal own

the right key is in her final conclusion that believers and non manner with the problem of evil as it emerges in the context

must be taken into account in lives.32 The suffering person's personal history or the of The her/his absence of faith in presence discussing justifiability suffering. religious that history is obviously It makes all the difference relevant. in the world whether the highly a "healthy-minded" or a "sick sufferer believer soul". Neither terms, is, in James's Stump nor James, the problem than Phillips, any more of evil as an atheological and universally objectively the one an who intellectual would thus with sympathize whose intellectual thinkers. standard structure of presentations same the poses

challenge ethical problem?for it is not importantly, point human of view relevance

argument to all rational is already exercise life.

committed that an atheist

religious into pieces. to a religious internal to fragment approach life's agonizing it may lead to an emergence of true (pragmatic) questions, significance?or to a total collapse. a genuine An engagement with the problem thus includes risk. Any attitude we adopt to evil is adopted at our personal the fact that believ risk.33 Presumably, however, ers and non-believers total may react As relativism.34 differently even Phillips to the reality of evil out, we should should not not claim be construed as that faith cannot

lying will

outside

If the problem As a problem

This problem is a problem?an to a religious view of life. Most can from a present successfully is put to such a use, much of its

entailing

points

extent to which Stump's position is a version of the free will theodicy can be seen from an earlier of religion have argued that a paper by her: see Stump (1985). Both Stump and other recent philosophers successful instead of purely strategy in dealing with the reality of evil requires specifically Christian premises theistic ones; see also, e.g., McCord Adams intimate personal (1989). A Christian believer's metaphysical even when that life is threatened by "horrendous union with God may give her/his life a profound significance evils". This approach is inescapably troubled by the threat of relativism: why should a successful theodicy be (Cf. Sect. 5 below.) only available to Christians? 32 Stump (2000), pp. 112-113. 33 to the risk involved in our adoption of the "religious hypothesis", as analyzed in James's Analogously in James (1979), Ch. 1. famous essay, "The Will to Believe", 34 For the in recent philosophy of religion, and problem of relativism including reformed epistemology "Christian philosophy", see, e.g., Koistinen (2000). See also Sect. 6 below.

31 The

4y

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or overthrown be "challenged by nonreligious one of atheological overthrow is not the simple "logic" Do these of a religious?and reflections or also thereby on what makes factors".35

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

But the logic of such challenging a genuinely It is, instead, arguments. religious with evil. sincere?encounter ethically a response to evil in the conflict genuinely between religious someone instead

or

of

pseudo-religious and someone

superstitious, epitomized an essence of religion? like Swinburne, lead us to postulate a "response") to be religious of thinking, that it does not strive after the (a way something the essential for instance? Are all theodicists odicies, violating necessarily pseudo-religious, no to The that define There is immediate these criteria response purpose questions. religion? now need to be approached to motivate, not solve, of the present has been them. They section from other, supplementary viewpoints.

like Phillips Is it essential for

4 The limits of religious


As we are now

language

considerations with Phillips's theodicism, against Wittgensteinian equipped the in more transcendental be possible for us to argue terms36 against explicitly either to employ the problem of evil as an atheological very attempt argument, logical or evi of evil?like, start from that the problem the observation dential. We may any presumably, a situation no world never in which in formulated be argument?can neutrally philosophical are at work. On or non-religious or "weltanschaulich" commitments views ones) (religious it should the contrary, its very transcendental inspired the problem used. Now, if we formulation presupposes us all kinds to view of the things, situation and here aWittgenstein simply, Very that is actually

of evil must follow

may analysis be presented

help in language, line the Wittgensteinian

moreover of

accurately. in a language

to which without there can be no meaning according of within human ways acting, language-games, public "evil" and of our linguistic expressions, including in language-games believer who genuine speaks of any conceivable background their of any against use and thus in our about God

(transcendentally interpreted) thought use of expressions habitual there being we admit should that the meanings are inextricably with "God", entangled

of life).37 Arguably, for a (or forms practices in the existence is God's in a religious belief way, of the premises treatment discursive of evil. The plausibility be evaluated of evil, will the supposedly argument, atheological problem including or alter then be denied, of the argument this background. One of the premises might contest and human to argumentatively beings' ability a great remain after all, must for inevitable and conceptually evaluate mystery someone

the religious person might natively and reason about God's volitions for humans. playing above, This attitude may

actions,

which,

be both

a religious language-game. for that it is nonsensical

a human

them. God is, simply, argue about creatures. We cannot unimportant is just or unjust. God is sovereignly

out, as was already suggested point or to to works God's try to evaluate being are in comparison we humans tiny, thoroughly sovereign; or the world-order s/he has created will ask whether God's may even beyond human understanding and standards of justice.

religiously The believer

see Phillips (1986); and Wisdo (1993). Phillips (1977b), p. 138. For further elaboration, in its (post-)Kantian I am using the expression "transcendental" sense, denoting the necessary conditions for the possibility of something (e.g., experience of objects, meaningful language) taken to be actual. If understood as a search for such conditions and/or pragmatist philosophy (of religious language or faith), Wittgensteinian I hope to be able to defend of religion can, inmy view, be considered a species of transcendental philosophy. in the remainder of this essay. See also Pihlstr?m this suggestion 37 Cf. Pihlstr?m (2004b). (2003), Ch. 2; and Pihlstr?m (2002a).

35

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in all this is the question about the limits of language and thought. What point one comes is that to close the limits of in discourse suggesting breaking meaningful or in the problem of evil atheologically, to respond to the atheological examining attempting manner. in a theodicist I am certainly not claiming that this was challenge explicitly argued I am by be James crucially or by Wittgenstein can and his followers, but I do think that this line of argument we have seen such anti-theodicists to inspired by the kind of attitude adopting of evil. From the point of view of the religious immersed in her/his faith person language-game(s), in a way relevant

The

crucial

the problem practice(s)

the atheological fails to use the word "God" arguer simply to the evaluation of the atheolo faith; religiously, pragmatic religious an abstract or that breaks the rules of the religious argument gian presents language-game, to an entirely are only of limited different statements whose rele belongs language-game vance to religious life. So does the theodicist who takes seriously the atheological challenge, or we maintain into pseudo-religious that If, following thereby lapsing thinking. Wittgenstein, the meaning of our linguistic in their use in language-games, is grounded and if expressions we are in a good pragmatist we are forced to act on this belief, to admit that the style willing as of words such "God" and "evil"?like the other of relevant meanings meanings religiously to another. and "sin")?may In (such as "mercy" vary from one language-game expressions terms may the meanings of these to from religious discourse vary as one moves particular, or vice versa, secular from a certain kind of habitual of con discourse, (atheist) employment to another. A failure to follow one the rules of the language-games is cepts and/or symbols apparently of sense. If this argument, the believer of playing may lead to pseudo-religious then misuse of language that has only the illusion

or

analysis because whose

is correct,

the one who view can

as an atheological the problem of evil cannot function uses the from presents argument language quite differently a limit is the object of the argument. It is right here that we encounter and be meaningfully said in a language-game. Conversely, a theodicy the problem of evil through equally seriously the Wittgensteinian considerations offered here language. What cannot of the theist's Both such conception the atheological are, from charges of God but also of God's charge the point of view

of what language, a believer who tries the limits to refute, traditional

to overcome

breaks seek the

and injustice trust in God, of a genuinely religious equally It is interesting to note, and it is intimately and pseudo-religion, religion genuine the transcendent, ble (i.e., transcending can be meaningfully said in religious as lying functions beyond here human rational as a transcendental

criticism atheological to provide a theodicy. attempt the theodicist's defense of God against then, theist's

of religious is not only

and conceptually muddled.38 blasphemous to the problem related of demarcating between that what the religious takes to be ineffa language-user the bounds language. (and That of sense) here partly is viewed determines as what

capacities

precondition

something theodicist thereby beyond of the meaningfulness of

transcendent, used

rationalizations), expressions

3y On the other hand, we cannot say, of course, that the argumentation in any way presented here would harm atheism as such, because the atheist can refuse to "play" religious One simply need language-games. not engage in religious language-use at all, and one may invoke pragmatic considerations to support such a one may be able to "play the game" of religious withdrawal from religious ways of using language. Moreover, if one has once been. language-use correctly, even though one is not, or is no longer, a believer, especially Such a person may present philosophical remarks about proper and improper ways of using religious language, and such remarks may be indistinguishable from those presented by a true believer. What theWittgensteinian transcendental argumentation focusing on the limits of religious language may be said to refute, or at least is theodicism, whether theist or atheist, i.e., the view that a theodicy is required as seriously problematize, a response to the problem of evil and that if the theist fails to provide one, then her/his position will have can be criticized by both believers and non-believers, In principle, been defeated. theodicist pseudo-religion provided that they are in command of the normative "grammar" of religious language.

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within

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himself life. As Jeff Malpas "seems notes, Kant occasionally religious insightfully as even to designate it involves the of something 'transcendental', though positing something of in virtue of the fact that the positing is itself a requirement of the structure 'transcendent', A conception the possibility of knowledge".40 lies beyond the expressive of a of what power as codified the limits, in the i.e., what (possibly can be rules of the game, affects crucially changing) in the language-game. In the case said and done as something be intelli that cannot sovereignty

language(-game), what lies within we have

gibly

a conception of God's examined, of mystical in language but is only possible, admiration, say, as an object expressed or even unconceptualiz of with the the mysterious along corresponding acknowledgment can be said about able reality of extreme what evil influence evil, may (or, say, decisively cannot and the practices We in, or by means of, religious step outside justice) language. our lives are most in which language-games Jamesian and the Wittgensteinian pragmatism I have utilized here. But we can, language as the believer stares at the transcendence which evil based?this deeply transcendental "from s/he can within", believes never be stare to exist eliminated. is a fundamental examination at the bounds while The of idea the of in both limits of

sense,

her/his

existence, earthly a religious use of language, from within that there are (theodicist) not even limits of ethically human responsible contemplate",41 is firmly rooted in a this-worldly, of experiencing human, way somewhat other-worldly of ethically acceptable There is, of course, conception language-use the possible of transcendence s/he draws that

from

remaining one who

just to bound

"speculation^] and thought the world, her/him but

observes, we should

language-use, it is her/his the limits

that enables

to draw

life and faith. her/his through to Hegel's of Kant? famous critique reply?analogous a to draw a limit one will to go beyond to "on the that in order have it, occupy already place other of reflection articulated here is side". But the pragmatic transcendental reinterpretation on the possibility to meet of examining the transcendental this challenge designed by insisting both "from within", of experience, and other human "givens" resolutely meaningfulness, case of religion of "staring in the special and more the metaphor at" Hence generally. some definite to the one of drawing the limits, as contrasted limits which could only be drawn from a point of view them. A pragmatically oriented transcendental philosophy lying beyond of setting but remain fallible admits that human ways limits are never permanent (of religion) limits can issue?and The This be contested. always thus also to the task of problem framework of evil applies setting offers a limit to the problem between of evil as much as to any other and pseudo-religion. religion to illuminate material the ways

and

in which interesting the meanings of our concepts become if we fail to recognize the specific features deformed, ones or language-games we or of the practices in scientific and engage religious employ, state In this case, included. there is a great difference between God's existence the (or taking case the to be an hypothesis to be tested in the light of evidence "God exists") ment, (in which amount to counter-evidence) it to of evil would undeniable existence and taking empirically be a genuinely religious as evidence against God's an hypothesis. Religious simply play crucially statement. existence. Arguably, For such can count for a truly religious person, nothing a person, not a matter of testing faith is simply one formulates statements them by employing of the genuine believer and the theodicist.

and the concepts in the lives different roles

in some more detail in This feature of the Wittgensteinian response to the problem of evil is discussed Sami Pihlstr?m, in Semi?tica "The Transcendental and the Transcendent", issue on forthcoming (special ed. by Eero Tarasti). "transcendence", 40 (2003), p. 2. Malpas 41 Phillips (1977a), p. 115. See here also, in relation to the issue of the "limits of language" Phillips (2005).

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Insofar concepts

as we and

tie meanings statements

to our are widely

practices different

of using expressions, two cases. in these

the meanings of sense,

of

religious limits does of or

one's (transcendentally) Accordingly, acknowledging can orientate in a particular one's participation language, can do within the bounds of sense defining that particular way. In this sense, viewing something can, at a transcendental be said and itself as transcendent level, done {qua is, within function

the bounds

the one

language-game?what language-game?in the point of view

from

a significant of a particular the meaningful the boundaries

language-game ness of what that the

is or can

the game, that

as a precondition of thus constituting

transcendent

feature

transcendent) then,

of human peculiarities use its of meaningful

language-use

of concepts is, in some at issue. language-use we have dealt with The particular is both religious transgression vs. superstition now be obvious. vance to the issue of religion should as a limit beyond to evil functions which there attitudes religious set in advance and confusion, but this limit is never of ethico-religious

inevitably the possibility cases at least, built

One of the transgresses. of transgressing the lim into the very practice of and Its rele conceptual. limit of genuinely only be superstition to life.

The can

responses

5 Religion
An

and ethics: the problem of limits again


with the problem now be discussed. "limits" It will of morality,

or the true, genuine of the meaning such limits is possible that drawing argued only on a prior to the seriousness commitment of from a perspective them, based lying within can an analogical case be in of the ethical; constructed the (as opposed argument religion as seen from within to pseudo-religion). of the ethical, the seriousness its limits, Indeed, ethical, analogous should be is, because of have to draw tradition its "depth", attention in moral to the readily comparable toWittgensteinian not only established philosophy partly seriousness the religious. Here we of to the but also philosophy religion same the of thinkers.42 group by as was al tradition transcendentally, of between and what our can be concern said, with the

will

related If we ready semantic

are prepared to interpret the Wittgensteinian we can draw in the previous done section, limits of what is meaningful (or what makes the ethical is right

a parallel sense limits

or otherwise), on the one hand, and with on the other. In both cases, what able, me ox for or makes us is, from my (or our)

of what

actual

sense, and

is ethically imaginable conceptual in the practices within and/or conceivable get their meanings. concepts the human condition From my then, the limits characterizing ("tran (or our) point of view, are the (given) limits of that condition) limits that can only be seen from within scendental" because or ethical; can constantly remind ourselves, yet, we again are for us the limits), to repeat, not be permanent that they may after all. For example, there is no significance?from but may historical my change, undergo or relativist's or our practice-internal claim view?in the that what of moral skeptic's point intelligibility, from within whether semantic our limits (which, of similar issues in Pihlstr?m discussion This section is to some extent indebted to a more comprehensive (2005b), Ch. 3. 43 For see Jonathan Lear's discussion in Lear of the notion of a form of life inWittgenstein comparison, (2003), Ch. 2; and Pihlstr?m (2006). Just as Lear, I am, when inquiring into what (1998). Cf. also Pihlstr?m or meaningless, "us" as a whether "we" find meaningful ethically, or religiously, addressing conceptually, "transcendental we". ("disappearing")

Indeed, period.43 thus semantic ones,

or meaningful of view, exactly point or "limits this kind of ethical limits, they are limits our ethical which of what

religiously right or accept or what "makes sense" for or meaningful what is right is morally of the ethical", are

?Spi

ringer

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is morally nevertheless tingent drawing activities you for will

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or forbidden sense to me for me does not make (us), might (us), or what are not, thus, speaking con about merely be right or meaningful. We "really" we are sense of, semantically or ethically; of what we can defacto limitations make as always, can only be drawn our limited transcendental from within limits?which, wrong and ethical) themselves. Transform this to the religious case, and (both linguistic a a religious have of how views fundamental issues such as evil, person picture and morality, from within the limits her/his form of life establishes contingently, but for her/him unavoidably. mate takes up the notion of limits when he argues reductive against of our ethical task of understanding other human "At the edge beings: we to venture reach one limit of language. Were that edge our beyond

freedom, sure,

Tilghman explicitly on the grounds rialism of materialism lives would be we

ment:

as a transcendental I propose to read this, again, argu unrecognizable."44 our a thoroughgoing neuroscientific of human would make redescription cognition of and interaction with other human there are, thus, limits understanding beings impossible; to how do, A ethical (scientific) at least insofar language we take can be meaningfully the possibility, and relevant in works used indeed in discussions actuality, limits Gaita of of what such humans are and and

understanding

interaction

for granted. different but equally concerns

can be found

with the engagement Raimond Gaita.45 by

lead to what is ethically can, or should, argument philosophical or (pace some arguments toleration of eating dead people of killing three Singer) by Peter are defined to Gaita, week-old and distinguished is babies.46 Cultures, according by what a framework unthinkable in them; a discussion of such unthinkabilities in which from within that such a discussion is, slightly (to the extent they are unthinkable paradoxically, possible a transcendental at all) is, in my terms though not in Gaita's, the dis discussion paralleling cussion of what from the point of view of some actual practice is meaningless of meaningful It is part of this approach to inquire that into the limits and unthinkabilities human situated, ethical, condition?semantic, culturally historically changing an inquiry, and religious alike. Such both pragmatic and transcendental, is concerned with or as us crea what is ethically what makes for kind the of oriented sense, possible, ethically or tures we find ourselves a will be concerned analogy being. Again, religious theological language-use. our constitute with even the "religiously as contrasted or to what is unthinkable, possible", pseudo-religious, or culture. from the perspective of genuinely religious thought, language, are and other Wittgensteinians' is unthinkable discussions of what Gaita's, we may the religious (and, analogously, point of view point of of such a viewpoint in any serious discussion of per serious Someone (or personally commitment). duty religious might a moral to life and to the world to be adopted of view in the point ought the inevitability call the moral

to in relation language no that for instance, says, such as the "unthinkable", of

blasphemous,

Tilghman's, to what internal view), sonally ask, first

demonstrating moral binding why "Why

however, place.

is, however, leading already answered, question 44

a question be moral?", asked even by serious occasionally philosophers,47 the wrong if we are already "within" in and truly interested precisely question, a moral it is misguided to ask, "Why be religious?", life. Similarly, if religious life is It is only terms that such a question for the person. in religious could be motivating and would, then the question would already if answered (as it only could have lost its sense, be answered) just as the "Why in irreducibly ethical be moral?" terms.

(2001), p. 249. Tilghman 45 See Gaita (2004), as well as Gaita 46 Gaita (2000), pp. xxviii, 181-183. 47 See, e.g., Nielsen (1989).

(2000).

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The acts

standard

reference because

here they are

is Plato's loved

are pious because they

by

Euthyphro, the gods

in which or whether

Socrates

asks whether loved that

certain

misunderstanding of certain riness) in God. as The if it were

are pious. Wittgensteinian of moral seriousness actions could

mysterious commanded

absoluteness by God. on God's

as obligations dependent moral be described duty may by the "higher perspective" concerns. This ogously, elaboration steinians to conduct", to our right up position, within

that one views one's duty goodness requires to say that one would to view have all one's to attitude will; rather, a religious Christian) (especially concerns as a way of placing one's into a context ethical opened This is not provides, a context somehow "above" of one's ordinary

be prior of ethical

philosophers typically to claim that the piousness to God's will?whether

they are maintain

by the gods be a it would

or obligato (or goodness, or not one believes literally

religion

we must to which remain within (or, again anal morality according simply a beautiful our lives to interpret in terms of it, receives in order religion) in some of Peter Winch's which have affected later Wittgen crucially writings, we see morality as a "guide to Winch, cannot like Phillips and Gaita. According since for instance, which asking, contingent take us outside Moreover, morality. would advantages bring morality not be anything there may like the to give and thus we may have situation, that is, within itself.48 This has morality

lives would

when

even is absolute which 'ought'", to kill someone. us to do something Such that is itself evil, for example, it obligates to Winch, "the absolute connected with absoluteness is, according impossibility intimately to amounts a good man". of the moral demand "the absolute of harming 'ought'" Accepting and of with the instance), (for that, honourably justly acting importance "compared thinking that life brings "this is to bear the afflictions else matters"; moreover, patiently?i.e., nothing not has to be deflected such an attitude him?not from decently acting to life sees that as to what he even long under the pressure do not of misfortune. thus deflect A man him, who do as afflictions

to do in a given thing ethically problematic ideal of moral reasons, for moral perfection to do with of the moral demand "the absolute something the

they

not harm Winch could of what As

in relation

what he takes to be is describing as well be used as a characterization be may a converse

as really important regards a genuinely ethical attitude of what a genuinely an attitude.

in his

life."49 his

Although description is like, and

to life,

religious

attitude

wrongness"

conception ble experiences of feeling to describe in his "Lecture that our moral attempts

in such admirable ethically remorse the "is a way of seeing to the acceptance of moral feeling duty, or sanction to morality. Gaita's external it is not a punishment of one's actions;50 to the ineffa It is in this sense, related is essentially of remorse similar.51 closely or absolutely safe which Wittgenstein attempts absolutely guilty on Ethics",52 of the idea the significance understand that we may terms. Winch non-ethical in any extra-moral, be justified of view cannot for truly who the view that, as seen one. What from within the moral he actually says share this position. this perspective, can hardly constitute of It is an expression that of point

to find

perspective an argument

important someone does not already against a from an imagined that can only be rejected very existence point of view whose position a it is to be declares misunderstanding profound Similarly, impossible. humanly position from an external on life to seek to justify that perspective the "religious perspective" 48 49 Winch Winch (1972), (1972), pp. 175-176, 187.

point an expression itself is the only

pp. 206-207.

50 Winch

(1972), p. 225. 51 It is in detail in Gaita (2004). See also Pihlstr?m developed 52 This 1929 lecture is (1965). published as Wittgenstein

(2007).

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18
of view.

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(2007)

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The if it is to be genuinely of a religious instead importance perspective, religious can only be described of pseudo-religious, terms. To put the matter in religious in Jamesian the "fruits" of religion in an individual's to any life cannot be reduced pragmatist vocabulary, other, Let issues still further, in mind their reli (meta-)ethical constantly keeping or at least we have a vague Genuine have answers, idea of what gious analogies. questions an answer to a genuine would look like. But insofar the moral of view we question point to be committed to is a genuinely take ourselves moral the be one, moral?", question, "why has for us no significance since the very asking is immoral. of the question whatsoever, By a person this question that there is, or could be, something to non-ethical presupposes as a motivation, or reason But the point for morality. in morality itself, or the ground, to our self-understanding as moral internal is precisely that there is nothing like agents, point that there is no "point" for us to occupy outside It is on these grounds that, indeed, morality. to be the most that we might claim morality and thus the most important, "pointless", thing posing function in our defend the moral lives.53 One the personal consequence absoluteness of this importance, of ethical decisions treats further ethical already cannot noted, is that someone argue her/his culturally parties to willing case against contextual to the debate non-religious us pursue "fruits". these

preferences. would accept. Wittgensteinian morally Do and

or relativist who skeptic is no room There for The skeptic moralist would insists

choices

require that there

argument a non-ethical can be no that.

really as contingent, in terms that both

for morality, whereas the justification such justification and that it is already must at the meta-level win inevitably amatter is after all of arbi morality we have What challenge. imagined a standpoint to morality internal is of someone within, but, as this an on we it is

even to require suspicious anything these remarks that the skeptical imply the impossibility of conclusive that, given This since and ethical is a serious choosing not

like

relativist

trary personal preferences? is a moral disagreement, itself an ethical one. choice Serious immoral

arguments, but not fatal within

to remain to is, from

choosing

thinking disagreements sense of their seriousness, the contrary, seek to make of the fact that in our deliberations strive after the correct to our meta-level as directly solution. This applies disagreement our to "first-order" moral The relativist's applies (and disagreements. challenge ought

can never

eliminate

the point of view such moral

an ethical to be faced by means concern of a serious ethical to live and think, of how "ought") not by means of any imagined (neutral, abstract, non-ethical, non-cornrnitted) philosophical maneuver. the issues of moral about is part of this concern, Thinking objectivity part of our

(philosophical)
Such a concern

lives.
will to. Morality, the challenge it responds not, of course, then, destroy is utterly fragile.54 life might Our turns that our moral take such unhappy we would torn into pieces?that be led to give up moral life altogether and nihilism instead. Full of the of cynicism recognition impossibility on non-ethical that we acknowledge this fragility that grounds requires condition.55 Both to them?outrun something inquiry. morality mere more and the changes that may religion?and or The of argument reasoning. fragility than the corrigibility total, more holistic,

like religious faith, would be identity and to adopt total

justifying belongs take place ethics of

morality to our human in our

relations

and religion is, then, the results of a scientific

much

the "pointlessness" of ethics, see the intriguing essays by Iris Murdoch in her collection, Murdoch (1997). 54 Cf. Wisdo(1993), Ch. 6. 55 Because of the holistic sense inwhich moral concerns, like religious ones, are intertwined in the totality of a person's life, the term "fragility" is, asWisdo (or "falsifiability"). Wisdo suggests, better than "corrigibility" (1993), p. 51.

53 On

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Acknowledging foundationalism. risk by evil and continuous

moral Our

and

identities,

A situation in which lives we cannot take for granted.57 morality to be significant for us (assuming that it now had ceased would, (or religion) is) undoubtedly, not be easy for us, in the personal, redefine "us" in such a radical way that it would cultural, we now contingently find ourselves and historical situation ourselves in, to recognize (or our presence future possible as our religious selves) in those our pursuit circumstances. of moral Still, life, just changed be eroded external Our factors.58 may gradually by unexpected as rational, reflective So may may self-legislators fragm?ntate. as religious even be believers. this possibility may Recognizing of moral seen (cf.

suffering;56 in our

a resolute is to take seriously religious fragility or whatever can to at any is most us, precious both morality and religious faith are "vulnerable

form time

of anti

be put at gifts" whose

sensibilities,

of ourselves very conception our conception of ourselves as opposed to superstitious, for a genuine, necessary religiosity. The notorious of evil underlying the possibility of the fragmentation problem as we have to abstract surrender identities does not easily analysis, philosophical believers lose their faith because of having Sect. 3 above). Few religious actually

become

or evidentially that theism is incompatible convinced with, argument by the philosophical can evil one of evil. But lead one remain to, or make at, a challenged by, the existence It would be an interesting (or religion)? morality topic of further investigation point outside to examine and in what evil figures such as lago, sense, whether, (Mil paradigmatically ton's) morality. Satan, This de Sade, issue or (Arendt's) can really Eichmann outside remain, step, or consistently cannot all theodicies and to call for an ethical be settled here. To oppose on the other human in the sense in Sect. inflicted sketched 3, is being, the fragility ethical and

in our that may destroy the status ethics and religion enjoy notion if anything is. The fact that we cannot religious fully or understand our moral lives (and the further fact that we cannot describe fully acknowledge our lives) without to lead our profound to fully understand this concept appears inability to to with of need and the issue Our evil, cope conceptually practically, directly fragility. condition life that may, is again part of our human part of the moral religiously, perhaps but should not, lead to its own fragmentation. I have is that morality the Wittgensteinians learn from then, cited, (like may are cases?and we our lose in it because there is faith and may partly religiosity) fragile us to do what we consider to do. wrong morally morality requires they are not rare?where to kill another Imay under For instance, that it is wrong, be convinced any circumstances, What a duty to kill someone at a situation in which I have arrive but I may who, being, an innocent to kill does not remove the life. The duty human for example, threatens being's I to the principle "thou shalt not kill"; if I am genuinely committed of the killing, wrongness even remorse I I have done feel and cannot, can, afterwards, should, may my duty.59 though more even someone if it saved many lives. Cases to kill it is "right" think and must not, human where unusual are not alternatives wrong morally thing to do but only, tragically, some of those cases are of course more than others. significant although it seriousness and religious does admit seriousness does, too.) Once again, (Moral stages, to our in our lives that leads us to these confusing of morality is the importance situations, a morally a duty to perform action. of having the possibility about wrong being puzzled there is no right in our lives, we

to the evil response also to acknowledge is a "thick" lives. Evil

Wisdo(1993), p. 8. 57 See Wisdo (1993), p. 101. 58 Cf. Phillips (1986), pp. 89 ff. 59 Cf. here again Gaita's and Winch's

56

above-cited

discussions

of remorse.

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The wrong David interest religious lives; of experiencing something is one of the conditions someone such

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

possibility thing It is hard Bakhurst

terrible,

to do,

that characterize

to criticize

puts in the moral people may

who gives up morality loses her/his but not incoherent be pathological that someone or an an indifferent even life and becomes evil one.60 person Similarly, it, itmay and

as killing, as an obligation, yet as a our reflective moral experience. as a result of such experiences. As

indeed,

the decline

well

to take place hand as the religious a key outcome of any given is inherently of vulnerable; person identity our inquiry to superstitious) is the suggestion that a genuine believer (as opposed religious to be able to acknowledge this basic ethically ought vulnerability, just as the one genuinely own to to committed be able her/his moral weakness and guilt. perceive ought potential We similar tion of may, then, in the case the evil re-emphasize of morality, that on the reasons hand, for and one's religion, the one losing on one's faith may the full be the other: quite realiza

in the course of their do lose their religious beliefs occasionally are often of religion and the fragmentation of ethical values thought as in hand. The central idea here that the moral is, as already remarked,

there is in the world, all the apparently that cannot be unnecessary suffering as case creatures. In and the unavoidable condition of all neither prevented, mortality living does the loss of faith normally result from one's convinced becoming by some particular to the effect the moral that objective values argument philosophical argument?by skeptic's are queer and cannot in the natural world, in the ethical exist case, or by the atheist's argu ment renders issue to the effect theism that there are no good reasons or that the problem to believe in God of evil case. in the religious Instead of theoretical what is at arguments, in the person's life and in her/his of that life and understanding

incoherent,

change or intellectual and possibilities. considerations arguments, Philosophical in general, in some cases be one factor in the emergence of such a change, but usually may to be relatively or their role appears a moral of course limited. And there are cases in which enthusiast does not lose her/his are cases There in which faith, whatever religious happens. its basic meanings people in desperate without virtuously, circumstances?say, for rewards, In such s/he may in a concentration without any it. The

is a profound

any hope

lessly, yet justly maintain her/his lives and

and honorably. faith, we though should

circumstances, also lose

their deaths?act camp, awaiting or external hence purpose, goal point the religious believer may be able to

is something circumstances

opposed religion This

of our ethical and religious fragility to. Tragic and and evil events pay respect simply acknowledge our lives in unexpected affect It is part of a religious may life, as ways. to a pseudo-religious or superstitious to take seriously this personal of one, aspect and its vulnerability.61 to be deeply for a thinker unsatisfactory in the philosophy system theory or a coherent our situation, or if we are religiously ethically could be farther from my aims than unsatisfactory. Nothing of moral and religious life; on tidy?unproblematic?picture concerns of ethical place it is ethically whenever in our and lives that life is so an seem

we are in may of the situation picture to be able to construct a coherent moral hoping of religion. But that is precisely Imean: what serious, the attempt the contrary, difficult, is in many ways deeply to paint a neat and it is because and of even

the central tragic,

problematic,

religiously

serious,

60 61

Bakhurst(1999),p.

242.

if one, having however, evil and suffering may also lead a person to religious life. For example, Conversely, evil either in one's own life or in the lives of others, fully realizes the futility of theodicies, one experienced may be more tempted than before to adopt a religious belief, the adoption of which may have been prevented by one's lack of clarity about this futility.

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and pointless most important

or again analogously being religion, for us?even if it is at the moment the important if morality does not remain for us, thing in our lives.63 Moreover, important we would no longer in moral that happen, then our lives should be judged terms, but should as our terms for lives. But those relevant this accept judging again, impossi paradoxical "examined life".62 There that morality, self-contained, and simultaneous necessity diminishing, an immoral of morally life amoral) (or allegedly judging can move the importance of morality for us. A person or becoming an /mmoral There is no logical person. space

is no guarantee remain will

bility

instead of highlights, outside morality only for a neutral ^morality. life is a distinction the moral the possibility outside poses The

by being From this perspective, the distinction between amoral and /mmoral to be possible if one steps without difference. Amoralism appears only is immoral?and framework but that step itself thus presup altogether, to entirely after all. of moral evaluation, step outside failing morality, to occupy that all attempts argue similarly are already non- or even anti-religious, take a step "beyond like Wisdo have does this. and a religiously neutral and thus practically as both

position,

person might religious such as agnosticism, to atheism. equivalent In sum, tists some a human like Bakhurst sense

can surely being and Wittgensteinians or abnormal pathological who ethical

good

evil",

if s/he hold

but acknowledged, Some Wittgensteinians theories abnormal

pragma a person is in may go as doubt

far as claiming that philosophers of absolute the ing possibility and deserve ethical rather (not than not not for just

antirealist are

or relativist in a way

judgments,

philosophical)

critique.64

normatively

morality?though is that there may Wittgensteinian have suggested, ethical amount

viewed, purely descriptively the sake of any non-moral the obvious However, purpose. problem room for a normative evaluation life within be enough of human the

beings, It is part of the "human condition", to be interested to in and committed

of ethics, as human

as a description of actual of philosophy conception we see our meta-level to the seriousness commitment a commitment we should make in our lives,

commitment,

If, as I language-use. as itself an of morality it would because rejecting

concern a serious to a step beyond it appears that we cannot remain with morality, at the level of mere but need normative, ethical intervention. the Thus, genuinely description our actual use of ethical cannot thinker who only describes language purely Wittgensteinian sense. Even in a fully normative if what moral is described in the end embrace objectivity by nity, such a thinker is the normative falls her/his still description a certain of what holds commu involved in a particular rule-following linguistic short of normative it is in the end a mere commitment; or not. Mere again, lies our they we of

description same The description

problem. must be made assume which yet that would personal,

obviously is not enough; normative View There is no God's-Eye "from there within" is an essence

like. looks language-game for the philosophy of religion, commitments available are to us

Wittgensteinian essential. And here, such or

immediately character of moral

a practice defined by of religion (or, analogously, our normative Has claims. justify problems and obligations

for making them?ethical

commitments; religious?unless the knowledge of assumed such

morality) the treatment in this

the "absolute", an

section

62 Note that I do not life to be religious. A religiously serious" (and thus "examined") require a "religiously serious person may end up being an atheist. The important thing is to take seriously the kind of problems that may lead people to embrace religious ideas, and not to reduce them to everyday or scientific problems. 63 Note also that I do not mean to in the sense of failing say that either morality or religion is "self-contained" refers to such as science. The use of this expression to have any connections with other human institutions, the idea that these activities do not have any ultimate goal external to themselves. Cf. again Murdoch (1997), in Pihlstr?m also discussed (2005b), Ch. 2. 64 See Johnston (1999). Cf. Pihlstr?m (2005b), Ch. 3.

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22
essence?

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

to any Is it an essential of the ethical that it cannot be reduced feature perspective more an in terms of anything fundamental? Is it, similarly, thing else, or justified allegedly to anything essential feature of religion that it cannot be reduced (or religiously non-religious either? Just as in the case of the problem encountered of evil, we have neutral), questions to lead us to a desperate the possibility of distinguishing ones seems and pseudo-religious time we abstracted seem from to arrive all actual ethical that seem choice genuinely to commit between ethical us essentialism and and relativism. from Maintaining views religious to a form of essentialism, of traditions, such

pseudo-ethical at the same while when

at relativism, and

realizing religious

the hopelessness frameworks,

distinctions, or backgrounds.

6 "From

within":

the problem

of relativism

Having between

two examples, the problem of evil and the analogy length gone through my to note and moral it is important that I am not assuming the commitment, religious vs. correctness of any particular of the (or any other) way "Wittgensteinian" drawing religion tradition in the philosophy distinction. Yet, I do think that theWittgensteinian pseudo-religion us with of religion often usefully provides insights we cannot neglect?insights comparable to pragmatist must religion critical, are ones. take Moreover, up committed the issue we may conclude, some at the meta-level, accounts of that of whether either the philosophy favorable of or

at some

religion, or superstition. to pseudo-religion to deal with It is not enough a critical of their the purely intellectual of various views of religion; examination adequacy But of reli is also constantly needed. if this is true, then the philosophy religious adequacy cannot must maintain its meta-level It become engaged, religiously gion simply perspective. or theology. at the very to not reducible to religion of course It must, least, be open though in fact the kind My religious language-use other) from way W. only (or, mutatis of religious possibilities discussion thus far suggests and in their own its practitioners lives. perceive to draw that it is possible the, or any, boundary or thought between (or, analogously, language-use between ethical on as religious demarcated in a by the first the

pseudo-religious or thought, on the one side, and its pseudo-ethical mischaracterizations, a form of life or world-view that is already understood from within as a of mutandis, is, way concerned)?that already thinking ethically that are not thinking the position known and his many conceived as as naturalism The of

of ways resembles

This conclusion (genuinely) religious. in the philosophy of science, inspired says itself, that instead it is only from within of any autonomous between

V. Quine

followers.65

naturalist science to science,

evolving

world-picture perspective

and methodology supposedly Nor

philosophical and non-science solve way

(or pseudo-science) the "demarcation problem". the analogous

prior can be made. is there,

that the demarcation

science

to solve

demarcation thought obviously

appeal". Genuinely a religious form of is demarcated views from it considers only the moral

religious life, which

to There is no purely way philosophical in the religious case, any purely philosophical case is there any "higher court of In neither problem. is demarcated from pseudo-religion only from within views from deserve which of itself within as genuinely religious, just as science science which the itself, explains why that label, and morality is acknowledged judges religious as unethical life, certain ideas all attempts about to step religion

pseudo-science

as essential outside

pseudo-scientific from an ethical sphere. From

only do

standpoint, the perspective

65

See, among Quine's many works, his last book, Quine see Pihlstr?m issues in "religious naturalism", (2005a).

(1995);

on analogous

(though

largely neglected)

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will our

then case Indeed,

seem studies.

not

only

conceptually or perhaps as an

confused

but

blasphemous,

as we

have

seen

through of reli

it is usually, superstition is a sin instead to which I am

gion

vs.

arises

superstition of religion" according

according of irreligion; the one in here

within religious exclusively, issue for a religious believer to the Catholic Encyclopedia, specifically, true God ought are not, however,

contexts in the first

that the

issue For

place. example, a sin arising from an "excess it is a sin offending the First Commandment, to be worshipped.66 The of pseudo but typi practices kinds

religion superstitious religious or scientific intellectualized (or, for that matter, cally overly philosophical pseudo-scientific) a genuinely accounts to understand of religion of religion that a philosopher seeking religious as a Christian to resist as firmly to resist form of life ought the sin of superstitious ought practices. Now, embodying perspective religion, ated, right able the problem profound fundamental, of relativism, in a nutshell,

only interested

perspectives basic,

or practices, is this. Religious institutions the meaningfulness of human their own life, are from and irreducible. For someone outside autonomous, standing on

views and practices and should be intellectually and ethically evalu may religious of thinking For the true believer, and acting.67 the morally just as all other human ways or good, will and becomes inconceiv on, or is determined however, depends by, God's in any other way. for absoluteness practices.68 it cannot say, a transcendental ideal of meaningful overarching or watered-down relativized in order condition for is, we might condition life for the

This

if conceptualized kind of craving of such religious an ideal, valuable

possibility sense as other qua For

If this be

is to make

to accommodate religion no neu of it.

equally religion

tral ground an ethically such

perspectives. inescapable is the absolute of the religious superiority point for making the choice between and some religion concerned ("bedrock") choices critic of religion, or perspectives for instance, on

An

the possibility of of view. There is, then, other framework

critical

even

the choice be made

between on ethical reasons, for

ultimate grounds; would be more

foundational making immoral,

because

practices in any other way, amount that would from the ethical

life must

for allegedly to subordinating of view

non-ethical primary reasons ethical can be more

fundamental?and again Sect. 5 above). our ability demanded

But

including moral reflection

point the religious person to engage in any morally for Either or not,

according of us by God. something as any framework, insofar religious as ultimate. to employ choose Because is, because either

is also,

(see nothing God's is the ground of all our being, grace at all. Our motivated actions for capacity a gift from God?if to the believer, also, paradoxically, way, can the choice present must itself already as one we have could been made,

something fundamental

legitimately

damental, in any

no neutral, rational" choice is possible in this dialectical that situation, "purely a (secular) or a religious ethical considered absolute and fun perspective, seems to be always in any choice we make, already presupposed transcendentally framework Should we we find just ourselves declare in, are we religious and on our way non-religious to a kind of per or relativism?69

lebensanschaulich

spectivism

perspectives

66 See the in the Catholic online: entry, "Superstition", Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/ca then/14339a.htm. 67 of religion only through the demands of Think, for instance, of Kant's way of arriving at the justification (1998). morality. Or think of the ethical concerns at work in James's reflections on religion: cf. Pihlstr?m 68 this to the way in which the idea of there being transcendental conditions of religious language Compare was invoked in Sect. 4 above. 69 For a discussion of relativism as a problem in post-Kantian see transcendental philosophy more generally, Pihlstr?m (2003), Ch. 1.

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24
or frameworks But subscribing

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

non-religious to view both satisfy works Thus tension without framework settle

each from their own perspective? correct, valid, non-absolutely only relatively to a resolution to this compromise amount of the meta-level issue in would or decide now ourselves as we would choose insofar terms, rationally simply move would is more, such a relativizing valid "in their own terms". What hardly of the religious represent to occupy ideals, because themselves a neutral not only but also other frame religious as primarily and fundamental. important either. A of this maneuver, by means ground can, other can that

the demands

secular ethics) (e.g., we would not be able remains, begging more issue if not

an outright

paradox.

the question, fundamental, on a neutral

legitimate and no

No framework (or non-religious) religious some status to those who consider its ultimate philosophical is only problem analysis, or relativization,

external

by deepened ground. with each other. "frameworks" that are incompatible of rival religious is a great number use of language, a religious form of life, or a religious If one cannot describe adequately to be a condition for the thus seems in non-religious terms, and if a shared religious practice of the of certain of the very possibility criticizing expressions, meaningfulness possibility of stating the relativism is one way beliefs will become This, again, problematic. religious use of religious to claim that a particular for a non-religious issue. Is there any way person there concerns This rather than genuinely is superstitious (tran question religious?70 the would am non-believer to from I "the which position say) tempted scendentally, again on a religious a critical comment utterance.71 when s/he tries to make be speaking" person's in a Wittgensteinian end up of religious A grammatical style may language investigation sense only on the makes with the conclusion that, for instance, (or blasphemy) superstition language basis God".72 of of believers' Such sharing certain may about what presuppositions be parts of the background does is involved that make in "reverence those people's to use

the

The

the observation

presuppositions

language intelligible. Lars Hertzberg, from whom one, but it can non-believers can

transcendental of how not

I am drawing these be certainly interpreted

ideas,

not a way.

say

in such

Faced

is a that his question with the problem

share

we might ers and non-believers

the background turn the problem

about (if they do say anything religious language-use meaningful that that makes suggests Hertzberg meaningful), language religious between believ the than distinction "Rather down: taking upside

attitudes of certain the expression and regarding for granted religious as given and instead as a problem, we take the expressions should perhaps by non-believers Then we may be led to "take a larger look" at itself as problematic." the distinction regard their life.73 in which words the context the non-believer's i.e., that person's meaning, acquire with our own and to suggest normative that it is our on-going engagement to be taken as something that ought (transcendental?) given. The language-use of the normative is the vagueness of our life possible this given actuality that makes condition to see that describing vs. descriptive and clarifying It is by coming distinction. language-use sense of the fact that norms, a normative that we can make contains dimension rules, already Iwant and limits use of words. The in our factual inevitably grounded as problematic be considered the descriptive should and the non-believer. between the believer are and now begins to look like an entirely natural?and yet our human should life with language. We acknowledge pp. 121 ff. distinction and between the as context-sensitive

Analogously, other people's

normative the one

Normativity "fact" about

somehow the

miraculous? need for

inescapable

70 See (2000), especially Hertzberg 71 (2000), pp. 127-128. Hertzberg 72 Cf. (2000), p. 129. Hertzberg 73 (2000), p. 131. Hertzberg

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normative the

language-use,

such

as the distinction of

language-games

that philosophers

phenomena) into believers

entirely naturally and non-believers. persons or

engage It is more but also

and pseudo-religion within between religion in religious scholars interested (and other religion to separate in. This need overcomes the need thinkers

gious as pseudo-religious, people, The there draw Here, tism ourselves

or non-religious

included, issue

superstitious, as believers have located

as reli for us to be able to, not only important as scholars or thinkers, to judge certain phenomena and unambiguously than to be able to neatly classify or non-believers.

as the following can is, then, expressible question: to of drawing the limit, if all attempts of any particular discussion way any critical a specific or non-religious) it are inevitably made from within (religious perspective? a healthy I suggest, dose of (Jamesian) pragma pragmatism might help us. Because our own we us to view in?with very engage urges language-games practices?the relativism we be

to learn from our mistakes, self-critical eyes, being experimentally prepared to be genuinely of taking the mistake (or including something pseudo-religious religious not entirely to the relativist vice versa), is less vulnerable, invulnerable, though pragmatism seem to be.74 in the philosophy views of religion than some standard Wittgensteinian charge on a problematic to which all dis hence, Relativism, prior assumption, according depends open-minded, must be objectively agreements to the dispute. may Pragmatists cussion that fall short of full or arbitrary. A Wittgensteinian boundary, language, resolvable allow in terms of rational that there rigor are methods but are not common to all parties grounds and standards of reasonable dis for this reason simply irrational

argumentative

God's-Eye tialism. Could to draw tive the

insist that when like Phillips might drawing the Wittgensteinian thinker this boundary only draws or practice, or not absolutely, "from culture, above", in View. of course, the relativism issue returns Here, we, limit within between our culture, be mistaken and the we superstition? limit, take (or perhaps Could

vs. superstition the religion as it is articulated in our

from an allegedly neutral essen to avoid the attempt even superstitious) about how from within the possibility our perspec that we might after all be might we again arrive at

defined

be mistaken, superstitious essentialism

by the way the possibility in some instead

religion we do draw that what

we,

acknowledge to be genuinely sense?

objective, practice-transcending of relativism?

religious If so, would

7 "The

religious once

person

uses

a picture" rather between than

We

have

demonstrating

ended up with questions again course to steer a middle the need

answers?especially relativism and essentialism.

questions Before

to propose I want that relevant criteria for this investigation, (if not the criteria) concluding in Wittgenstein's that the religious contentions be found person might genuine religiosity a picture", the believer and the non-believer result from "uses that the "gap" between may a the of of that and that "whole the "different them, way weight" religious guide pictures" life may gious ways lie in its pictures.75 of using (e.g., pictures scientific) or reli to realize Here that religious it is important pictures, at them, etc.) are very different from and looking (viz., making or ways To fail to realize of using this is to pictures. pictures

non-religious

On the other hand, I would be prepared sense. 75 (1966), pp. 53, 56, 72. Wittgenstein

74

to call the Wittgensteinian

orientation

"pragmatist"

in a broad

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26
be in the grip of a false, are like.76 how

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

misleading?perhaps

pseudo-religious?picture

of what

religious to be that Islamic

pictures But able

contexts. However, appro seems so the problem to haunt of relativism is itself a form-of-life-bound concept; priateness us once again. We have to take a look at some particular in order to find out, religious pictures as case by case, whether of attitudes. Or function genuinely religious they might expressions we may and religious life that philosophers of religious look at the "pictures" language-use have drawn in their writings. of religion For work must theism of religion that emerges the picture of the following 3 above) is, roughly, from the pseudo-religious ideas be distinguished (cf. example, Sect. defended from kind. Phillips's Wittgenstein-inspired religious the kind of practices traditional

can we distinguish and superstitious between religious or that a picture be may "inappropriate" "appropriate" severe some pictures, caricatures that caused e.g., the Muhammad are clearly at least in some crucial in 2006, countries inappropriate to say

We need pictures? in its context?and turmoil in several

Genuinely connected with

as standardly or criticized of religion. Theism, philosophers by mainstream on a false and unnecessary based form of religion, is a corrupt and superstitious a state of rivalry between other and religion science of there being (and possibly conception or perspectives). not just philosophically to Phillips, mis It is, according human practices even to has that God for and but instance, claim, corrupt blasphemous leading religiously articulated, reasons that God theology to allow exists as a necessary the evil there is in the world part of his overall plan, or even cannot in as an entity be grounded of some kind.77 Furthermore, religion in or dogmas Even be grounded less can religion but lives in people's practices.78 In the rationalizations. and often of superstitious religion superficial philosophers' in particular, it is blasphemous as we have seen. Theodicism cannot solve and ethically unacceptable to offer pictures justifications of religion.

(analytic) case of evil, on God's

behalf,

an eternal the problem promise a to a strive for false of of form salvation, corrupt religion, picture again own "place to deny the full reality of death or mortality. in Heaven" and/or one's in very gen described here only of Phillips's of genuine These aspects religion, picture a to take life that eral terms, yield normative person religious ought pursuing requirements are norms once and whether those the The more, is, aspects they ground seriously. problem assume on a conception Does that the of the essence of religion. based Phillips ultimately Just as religion life; it would be requirements of what he forms of life, takes for genuine he describes religion to be a (family of) religious criteria essential that any activity in his works uses of though based on a description or human within practices language as religious must meet? Or could, classifiable are,

pseudo-religious produces of evil, it cannot (when genuine)

or survival an outlook be genuinely which the idea of immortality incorporated some of the other criteria Phillips admit lists? A charitable if itmet reading would religious, one to maintain a "gradualist" with of religiosity, that the Phillipsian enables picture picture no sharp demarcation But is also of this it and between part picture religion pseudo-religion. for example, 76 both genuinely Moreover, belong to the Welt "pictures" can presumably religious and pseudo-religious I use for distinguishing between truth and that is the "inherited background" bild (world-picture, worldview) 162, 167). falsehood, as Wittgenstein (1969) explains: see ? 94 (cf. also ?? 95-99, 77 In to the existence of God, Phillips the traditional theist's conception of theism as a commitment criticizing and Simone Weil's relies not only on Wittgenstein's but also on Kierkegaard's thought. Here, again, I am indebted to Tommi Uschanov's paper on Phillips. unpublished 78 itmight be argued that in a "high" religion such as Christianity, Islam, or Judaism, the content of However, religious practices is inseparable from theology. Thus, theology would not be an external addition to people's in religious practices but an integral part of those practices' being genuinely religious genuine engagement ones. I leave this matter aside here, however.

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that

in some

cases

the demarcation

must

be

comes to tell you preacher own about one's religiosity, however and superstitious, Phillips's admirable, and account though

that homosexuals not to find

sharp. will go

For to Hell,

instance,

when

the

fundamentalist if one is serious

her/his

admirable us with

her/his only

pronouncement other views might my view

it is impossible, as deeply be,

pseudo-religious or ethically. religiously in many religious commitments, takes Phillips of the "essence" ways life

provides not for that reason

one?in

amount thinking might if one endorses this picture. call for unification. up might religion What, steinian such in a more in a word, unified might

unproblematic?picture to. In any case, there is no way the various features Moreover, Could we find a more general

and interesting of what genuinely normative religion capture if seen

to avoid of genuine picture,

outlook? be the picture accusations of genuine life, religious I propose of essentialism, be found in what Wittgenstein, from a Wittgen for candidate "Lecture on

perspective? Risking a central, unifying picture as the wonder described Ethics", of course, e.g., some extend far beyond explanatory,

that one in the

might at the existence

theodicist, be

religious evidentialist

This powerful of the world?9 picture may, forms of life. But religious lives not informed by it? views of faith?may, if the foregoing is discussion

to (a religious A religious be to person ought judged pseudo-religious. "ought") be held captive in the "grip" of this picture, another familiar by it (to borrow a person in the grip of the picture simile from Wittgenstein). When is religiously of existence, or the world, as something to explain that can only be wondered at, s/he is not attempting correct, extent or to solve this mystery, the puzzle of existence.80 Perhaps or in terms of the idea of the world, describe this wonder genstein, are "one"),81 rival s/he may life (which, find to it appropriate to Witt according in a way that her/his

pseudo-religious misunderstood The ticism,

as a thus acknowledges S/he mystery "gift".82 to do, while to "dissolve" is unable the puzzle if it is perhaps wishing as an ordinary for rational question calling explanation. even have to do with invoked here might the topic of skep "mystery" something often taken up in Wittgensteinian it have contexts.83 Specifically, might something the "Kantian" Conant, to.84 While factual one as contrasted of skepticism, with the "Cartesian" variety variety, our recent of Wittgenstein, the most draws perceptive interpreters a even the Cartesian doubts the truth of (or skeptic particular highly of or belief, such as the statement that there is an external The world, Kantian to the point and of wonder and mystery.

to do with that James attention general) the Kantian

statement

skeptic's it is possible as genuinely

questions that our

go deeper,

thinker (though not really Kant himself) may ask how it is possible
all, or how is. Insofar thought are "answerable"

that there is a world at

to the way the world language to to the is of the the open religious thinking possibility mysterious, or of anything at all, may that the very existence of the world, be wonder elicit in us, itmust sense of these terms). For "Kantian" rather than "Cartesian" anachronistic (in this somewhat the religious 79 person, it is a mystery that there is a world, and it is a mystery of equal magnitude

This picture, which (like the others thatWittgenstein in the See Wittgenstein discusses (1965), pp. A\-\l. same context) is amere "simile" because it is a desperate attempt to run against the limits of language, involves a humanly thus also impossible but (therefore) fascinating attempt to view the world sub specie aeternitatis, famous early work, Wittgenstein (1961). touching the themes of the final pages of Wittgenstein's 80 in Rundle (2005). For a related Thus, her/his attitude will be very different from, say, the one manifested see Pihlstr?m discussion, (2005b), Ch. 6. 81 in the "solipsistic" This theme is developed 1961). paragraphs (?? 5.6 ff.) of the Tractatus (Wittgenstein, See also Pihlstr?m (2004a), Ch. 3. 82 Cf. fond of the "gift" vocabulary. here also Cooper (2002) and Cooper (2006). Cooper is obviously 83 See Cavell inMcManus (2004). (1979), and several essays collected 84 Conant (2005).

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28
that God traditional to an entity challengeable) Therefore, tion between existential atheistic) captive" between ent of forms exists as its creator diminishes others (if indeed or even He

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

does).

theism, among

whose

totally is postulated existence

Again, annihilates

a pseudo-religious such as account, this sense of mystery, God reducing in an evidentially (and supportable

hypothesis. the religion those forms wonder, and

pseudo-religion of God-thought those that do not. are

vs.

distinction and The -talk

as a distinc be reformulated might our sense of mystery, our that preserve theistic latter, traditionally (or metaphysical

pictures whenever these of

of divinity, we lapse two kinds of

the "pictures that hold us (to paraphrase Wittgenstein again) or other pseudo-religious into theodicies The distinction traps. a distinction between differ is, fundamentally, religious picture of

life

skepticism85

or practices to our specific

aWittgensteinian account that a religious religious, issue, not as a "Cartesian" context takes of evil and a Kierkegaardian

Conant's discussion (and speaking). living Transforming even be suggested, as a rearticulation it might of purposes, to be genuinely to superstitiously) of what it means (as opposed as a "Kantian" of God's the problem existence person approaches one. That is, the truly how it is possible religious that there person wonders, at all?and is a God especially in the

suffering, leap

the problem of theism ally is a supreme being we evidence possess.86 Another compelling tion of religion

to the mysteries faith?while an epistemological as, primarily, whose existence could be

then, perhaps, the pseudo-religious person regards issue of whether there actu skeptical accounted for in terms of the

adequately

can if genuine, inWittgenstein's remarks in Culture and Value?1 Prayer, Human lies at the root of this for such a response. mortality, arguably, because it also lies at the root of the previously discussed one, as only mortals picture?and at the existence wonder of the world in which find and from themselves they contingently be seen as a search which one and the same these not be ultimately they realize they will one day be gone, might be one and the same picture it because Moreover, picture? they might ultimately precisely is the skeptical in the Kantian that rather than the Cartesian sense) (understood problematic unifies "live our skepticism" in and through them. We have to, in Cavell's words,88 deeply our wonder acknowledge in pain and at existence, even agony. to acknowledging when it comes especially are very different those who from ourselves,89 otherness?our particularly need to are those who

greatest despair lost, as articulated

be the concep for a profoundly suggestion religious picture might as a response to an individual "infinite the human (Not), despair" being's an individual to be of all, which when feels her-/himself emerges person

85 See Conant (2005). 86 Given our itmight be further suggested that religious thinking based on considerations, Wittgensteinian existential wonder may have to be non- or post-metaphysical, instead of relying on the kind of metaphysical frameworks that give rise to traditional theism and its alternatives. See, e.g., the essays in Wrathall (2003). Cf. also the discussion of wonder, existence, and otherness inKearney (2003). The implications of these criticisms of traditional (theistic and atheistic) metaphysical for our present concerns cannot be taken presuppositions up here. 87 (1998). These specific remarks were written ca. 1944. Wittgenstein 88 Cavell (1979). 89 in Kearney of otherness See, again, the discussion (2003), as well as Gaita (2000).

inger Spri

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8 Concluding We as should it may,

remarks

conclude according

that

it is as difficult be

to draw to draw

(cf. than drawing the latter. We here. But should we then,

non-believer

to Hertzberg, Sect. 6 above), should perhaps,

although be satisfied simply

vs. pseudo-religion the religion the boundary between the believer the former be far more may drawing with resort "soft", family-resemblance-like to the view that a substantial

boundary and the important concepts number of

and will be sufficient, (from a relatively long list) will be needed, religious-making properties us an activity a or to make to essentialism, This would lead back I am religious, religion?90 which would have of essentialism learned the basic afraid, only a more sophisticated variety treatment lesson of Wittgenstein's of family resemblance. We might at all, but then we would?wouldn't of religion the essence ing to seek some as more sets of features to holding be committed essential a religion or religious. something's being I do making theistic whom not believe that the essence all can of religion could standard be captured on occurring be do better by just we??nonetheless some other refus

than

sets

to

for like Phillips, by, say, a Wittgensteinian are in fact theistic traditional religious thought characterizing or "corrupt". The Wittgensteinian of religion is also interested pseudo-religious philosopher one on a is from in the limits of religion, but her/his different the very approach relying essence.91 pre-defined limits. As The "limits" of religion I have been here are "transcendental" any exploring itself, questioned most of the features "from within". We must bear in mind in the end only be drawn a serve not of do life, any allegedly parts genuinely religious 5 above). them (see also Sect. purpose They just express to mark to a life that does not have a religious the contrast quality they serve are not appropriately terms. In this way, in religious and purposes described limits to essentialism, contrary It is up to us to draw and redraw them, of religion, in the case of the philosophy If the transcendental construal philosophy.93 say that one an external could, as it were, "first" and only limit field for us. However, those "from limits within" may them. have to

properties. commitment

Virtually

properties

by any list of religion such "lists", such as the

transcendental limits, they can that religious when "pictures", more fundamental non-religious selves.92 or whose pictures be redrawn This tize" Thus, values do draw

at any time. itmeans, is what

to "naturalize" of these issues

transcendental it is, we

and "pragma is plausible, religion to whether inside, dit

as I think

cannot

draw

the limit between decide

and pseudo-religion step in the territory least are in a provisional self-reflectively (1967).

(from defined way, drawn

by those to be able in order from within

perspective), limits or not. to draw

afterwards one must

Instead, any

be already at all. Transcendental

limits etc.)

the experiential

(of meaning,

cognition,

90 Cf. Alston

to be drawn between the ways in which the contrast between genuine and There is a further distinction within a particular is manifested confused ways of understanding religion (and thus the "limits of religion") level we have examined the and more generally (say, at the kind of philosophical religion (e.g., Christianity) not to be discussed here?whether of religion can ultimately remain matter). It is a problem?one philosophy are needed instead of, at the abstract philosophical if it urges that normative commitments level, especially or in addition to, mere descriptions of religious practices. It is clear that for scholars within religious studies, for instance, it is important to describe and explain different forms of religious behavior without relying on of religion con any prior normative understanding specific to any particular religion, but for a philosopher attention to specific Christian issues this may not be enough. Philosophical stantly concerned with normative for example, may be required; however, this is obviously commitments, something quite different from recent in one's argumentation. habit of relying on Christian premises "Christian philosophers'" 92 Cf. Wittgenstein (1966), p. 71. 93 See the more treatment of this matter in Pihlstr?m (2003). comprehensive

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condition and one's that one life. But life, constrain. own At least one must to assess committed that one of seeing be able to view

Int J Philos Relig

(2007) 62:3-32

they

certain qua

pictures?as require human religious

in order

them

normatively

is dogmatically it is to require or to the possibility

is not

to a particular religious to the possibility blind entirely is depicted what in some religious

religious options?or This is not to religious. view of the world and of leading a

"pictures".

I am above all grateful to Peter H. Hare, whose comments on another recent piece of Acknowledgements mine inspired me to write this paper. Others who have influenced my ways of thinking about these matters include Ville Aarnio, Hanne Ahonen, Leila Haaparanta, Eberhard Herrman, Lars Hertzberg, Heikki Kannisto, Heikki Kirjavainen, Heikki J. Koskinen, Heikki Kovalainen, Simo Knuuttila, Timo Koistinen, Oskari Kuus Ilkka Pyysi?inen, Henrik Rydenfelt, Tommi Uschanov, Thomas ela, Olli Lagerspetz, Maria Lasonen-Aarnio, and several students of my "Science and Religion" of Tampere, Spring 2006. class at the University Wallgren, I also gratefully acknowledge the very useful comments on an earlier draft by an anonymous referee.

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