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Title: What's ragged should be left ragged : a Wittgensteinian investigation into the 'messiness' of religious beliefs and utterances
Author: Citron, Gabriel
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis aims to highlight the logical and grammatical 'messiness' of religious beliefs and utterances, taking its inspiration from Wittgenstein's later thought. I begin, in Chapter 1, by looking at a neglected strand in Wittgenstein's later thought, in which he lays stress on the messiness of logic and grammar. I show that this messiness can be seen as being comprised of four qualities: variety, indeterminacy, mixed ness, and fluidity - each of which I characterise. Because people's beliefs and utterances can be various, indeterminate, mixed, and fluid, it is hard to describe their logics or grammars without distorting them by forcing them into inappropriately rigid categories. Wittgenstein therefore suggests a novel method for the illumination of beliefs and utterances with messy logics and grammars - namely, the method of putting forward simple examples, to act as centres of variation and objects of comparison. These simple examples are used to throw light on the different aspects of the messy beliefs and utterances under investigation, without trying to definitively pin-down their logics or grammars. I examine these aspects of Wittgenstein's thought in his later writings in general, and in is remarks on religion in particular. The core of my thesis - Chapters 11 and III - applies this method of simple examples in two case studies of religious beliefs and utterances: belief in a good and loving God, and belief in miracles. In each of these cases I apply Wittgenstein's method in order to show that religious beliefs and utterances in both these areas come in both informational and non-informational varieties; and they are often indeterminate, mixed, or fluid, between those two quite different varieties. Thus, while one person may hold a falsifiable belief in a good and loving God, another person may hold an unfalsifiable form of the belief, and yet a third person may hold a form of he belief that is indeterminate or flu id between the two, or a mixture of them. Having shown that religious beliefs and utterances are often logically and grammatically me1sy, in Chapter IV I respond to some possible objections, and then discuss the nature and significance of this messiness. I grant that logical and grammatical messiness can sometimes be epistemic and linguistic vices; but I also show that indeterminacy, mixedness, and fluidity can sometime be epistemic virtues in religious beliefs - for they can be integral to religious growth, the natural dialectic of religious life, and other such key aspects of a deep religiosity. In my conclusion - Chapter V - I locate my contribution within the context of contemporary philosophy of religion, particularly in relation to the opposed writings of Richard Swinburne and DZ Phillips. Finally, 1 explain why an appreciation of their logical and grammatical messiness is integral to the project of understanding religious beliefs and utterances, and therefore also to the project of evaluating them.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available