Despite the tendency to think that the justification of revealed truths depends on a verifiable contact with divine reality, this essay argues that the authoritative status of revelations is due to their role in defining a distinctively religious order of judgment. Rather than being immediately apparent to everyone, this kind of authority is local to particular forms of judgment that depend on the principles that frame these ways of thinking. Revelatory claims are logically exempted from the normal demands of justification (...) because of this role they have as definitive judgments, and they share their immunity from ordinary forms of justification with other axiomatic principles. Yet their authority can in certain cases be challenged, and it is a secondary purpose of this essay to bring the various ways of challenging their truth to light. (shrink)
Books reviewed: Rush Rhees, Wittgenstein’s On Certainty: There – Like our Life, D. Z. Phillips (ed.), (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), 195 pp. incl. Index; $29.95; referred to in the text as Rhees. Danièle Moyal‐Sharrock, The Third Wittgenstein: The Post‐Investigations Works (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 225 pp. incl. Index; $99.95; referred to in the text as Third Witt. Danièle Moyal‐Sharrock (ed.), Understanding Wittgenstein’s On Certainty (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004), 250 pp. incl. Index; $75.00; referred to in the text as M‐S. Reviewed by Louisiana (...) State University Baton Rouge Louisiana 70803 USA. (shrink)
As an illustration of what Phillips called the "heterogeneity of sense," this essay concentrates on differences in what is meant by a "reason for belief." Sometimes saying that a belief is reasonable simply commends the belief's unquestioned acceptance as a part of what we understand as a sensible outlook. Here the standard picture of justifying truth claims on evidential grounds breaks down; and it also breaks down in cases of fundamental moral and religious disagreement, where the basic beliefs that we (...) hold affect our conception of what counts as a reliable ground of judgment. Phillips accepts the resultant variations in our conceptions of rational judgment as a part of logic, just as Wittgenstein did. All objective means of determining the truth or falsity of an assertion presume some underlying conceptual agreement about what counts as good judgment. This means that the possibility of objective justification is limited. But no pernicious relativism results from this view, for as Wittgenstein said, "After reason comes persuasion." There is, moreover, a non-objective criterion of sorts in the moral and religious requirement that one be able to live with one's commitments. In such cases, good judgment is still possible, but it differs markedly from the standard model of making rational inferences. (shrink)
Kierkegaard occasionally mentions a type of belief which he calls an “existence communication,” and his discussion of such beliefs parallels his discussion of subjective truths (in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript). Existence communications include religious beliefs. I suggest that it is less misleading to focus on this term than it is to wrestle with the difficult and overworked notion of subjective truths; ultimately, his view of religious beliefs can be seen more clearly.His view does not fully emerge, however, without the assistance (...) of some other concepts. My thesis is that existence communications are comparable in their resistance to objective forms of adjudication to first principles, and comparable in their “self-involving” characteristics to teleological principles about the “raison d’etre of existence.This account not only helps to clarify Kierkegaard’s discussion, but it also offers two important hints about modern problems regarding religious belief. It suggest that religious claims may indeed be truth claims, and it suggests that there is more to the justification than comes out in a consideration of evidence. (shrink)
One persistent element of Wittgenstein’s philosophical work is his insistence on self-honesty as a condition for doing logical or sense-oriented philosophy.This gives his work a spiritual weight that is not often appreciated. Yet the connection between self-honesty and logical insights is unclear, and this paper attemptsto clarify it. The paper includes brief introductions to Wittgenstein’s earlier and later thought, along with some religiously relevant examples.
To see how one can unselfishly pursue his moral obligations for the sake of being happy, we need to distinguish between the universal, unchosen, unfocused desire for happiness and the particular, variable desire for that in which we invest our larger interest in being happy. Only the latter form of the desire for happiness threatens to reduce morality to a menial status.
Remarkable in the range that it covers, The Possibilities of Sense testifies to an equally remarkable philosopher. In essays on ethics and thephilosophy of religion, on literature and education, the contributors displaynot only the breadth of D.Z. Phillips's work but also its power. This powercomes largely from Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose significance as a moral and religious philosopher rivals his reputation as a philosopher of language.
One of the most peculiar features of the belief in God is the accompanying claim that God is an indescribable mystery, an object of faith but never an object of knowledge. In certain contexts – in worship, for example – this claim undoubtedly serves a useful purpose; and so I do not want to dismiss the idea altogether. But when pious remarks about the ineffable nature of God are taken out of context and turned into philosophy, the result is usually (...) an epistemological muddle. The trouble, of course, is that those who insist on God's mysteriousness still manage to say all sorts of things about him; he is an incorporeal spirit, he created the world, he loves his creatures, and so on. To assert these things is to presume some understanding of God, but no understanding is possible if God is completely incomprehensible. So if that is how it is, if the object of religious belief is utterly incomprehensible, then it makes no sense to say – or believe – anything about God. (shrink)