Religion and pseudo-religion: an elusive boundary

Original Paper

Abstract

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

Keywords

Religion Pseudo-religion Superstition Evil Ethics Wittgenstein, L. James, W 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alston, W. (1967). Religion. In J. Edwards (Ed.), Encyclopedia of philosophy, Vol. 7, pp. 140–145. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Bakhurst, D. (1999). Pragmatism and moral knowledge. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, (Suppl 24), 227–252.Google Scholar
  3. Bernstein R. (2002) Radical evil: A philosophical interrogation. Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Cavell S. (1979) The claim of reason. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Conant, J. (2005). Varieties of skepticism. In McManus (Ed.), Wittgenstein and scepticism (pp. 97–136).Google Scholar
  6. Cooper D.E. (2002) The measure of things: Humanism, humility, and mystery. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Cooper D.E. (2006) A philosophy of gardens. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  8. Craig W.L., Sinnott-Armstrong W. (2004) God? A dialogue between a Christian and an Atheist. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Gaita R. (2000) A common humanity: Thinking about love and truth and justice. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Gaita, R. (2004). Good and evil: An absolute conception (rev. ed.) London: Routledge (originally published in 1991).Google Scholar
  11. Hertzberg L. (2000) On the difference that faith makes. In: Lehtonen T., Koistinen T. (eds). Perspectives in contemporary philosophy of religion. Luther-Agricola-Society, Helsinki, pp. 114–135Google Scholar
  12. James, W. (1975). Pragmatism: A new name for some old ways of thinking. (Eds.), F. Burkhardt, F. Bowers, and I.K. Skrupskelis. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press (first published 1907).Google Scholar
  13. James, W. (1977). A pluralistic universe. (Eds.), F. Burkhardt, F. Bowers, and I.K. Skrupskelis. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press (first published 1909).Google Scholar
  14. James, W. (1979). The will to believe and other essays in popular philosophy. (Eds.), F. Burkhardt, F. Bowers, and I.K. Skrupskelis. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press (first published 1897).Google Scholar
  15. James, W. (1985). The varieties of religious experience. (Eds.), F. Burkhardt, F. Bowers, and I.K. Skrupskelis. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press (first published 1902).Google Scholar
  16. Johnston P. (1999) The contradictions of modern moral philosophy. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. Kearney R. (2003) Strangers, Gods, and Monsters: Interpreting otherness. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Koistinen T. (2000) Philosophy of religion or religious philosophy? A study of contemporary Anglo-American approaches. Luther-Agricola Society, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  19. Lear J. (1998) Open minded: Working out the logic of the soul. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  20. Le Poidevin R. (1996) Arguing for atheism. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Malpas, J. (2003). Introduction. In Malpas (Ed.), From Kant to Davidson: Philosophy and the idea of the transcendental. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. McCord Adams, M. (1989). Horrendous evils and the Goodness of God, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (suppl. Vol. 63, pp. 297–310). Reprinted in Stump and Murray (Eds.), The philosophy of religion (pp. 250–257).Google Scholar
  23. McManus, D. (Ed.) (2004). Wittgenstein and scepticism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Mulhall S. (1994) Faith and reason. Duckworth, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Murdoch I. (1997) Existentialists and mystics. Chatto & Windus, LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Nielsen K. (1989) Why be moral?. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NYGoogle Scholar
  27. Neiman, S. (2002). Evil in modern thought: An alternative history of philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (Paperback ed. 2004).Google Scholar
  28. Phillips, D.Z. (1977a). The problem of evil. In Brown (Ed.), Reason and religion (pp. 103–121). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University press.Google Scholar
  29. Phillips, D.Z. (1977b). Postscript. The problem of evil. In Brown (Ed.), Reason and religion. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University press.Google Scholar
  30. Phillips D.Z. (1986) Belief, change and forms of life. Macmillan, BasingstokeGoogle Scholar
  31. Phillips, D. Z. (2005). The holocaust and language. In J. K. Roth (Ed.), Genocide and human rights: A philosophical guide (pp. 46–64). Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  32. Pihlström S. (1998) Pragmatism and philosophical anthropology: Understanding our human life in a human world. Peter Lang, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Pihlström S. (2002a) Pragmatic and transcendental arguments for theism: A critical examination. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 51: 195–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pihlström S. (2002b) On the reality of evil: A Jamesian investigation. Streams of William James 4(2): 12–21Google Scholar
  35. Pihlström S. (2003) Naturalizing the transcendental: A pragmatic view. Prometheus/Humanity Books, Amherst, NYGoogle Scholar
  36. Pihlström S. (2004a) Solipsism: History, critique, and relevance. Tampere University Press, TampereGoogle Scholar
  37. Pihlström S. (2004b) Recent reinterpretations of the transcendental. Inquiry 48: 289–314Google Scholar
  38. Pihlström S. (2005a) A pragmatic critique of three kinds of religious naturalism. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 17: 177–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pihlström S. (2005b) Pragmatic moral realism: A transcendental defense. Rodopi, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  40. Pihlström, S. (2006). Shared language, transcendental listeners, and the problem of limits. In Pihlström (Ed.), Wittgenstein and the method of philosophy. Acta Philosophica Fennica 80. Helsinki: The Philosophical Society of Finland.Google Scholar
  41. Pihlström S. (2007) Transcendental guilt: On an emotional condition of moral experience. Journal of Religious Ethics 35: 87–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Plantinga A. (2000) Warranted Christian belief. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  43. Plantinga, A. (2001). The free will defense. In Rowe (Ed.), God and the problem of evil (pp. 91–120). USA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  44. Quine W.V. (1995) From stimulus to science. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  45. Rowe W. (eds) (2001) God and the problem of evil. Blackwell, Malden, MAGoogle Scholar
  46. Rundle B. (2005) Why there is something rather than nothing. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  47. Stump, E. (1985). The problem of evil. Faith and philosophy, (Vol. 2). Reprinted In E. Stump & M. J. Murray (Eds.), The philosophy of religion: The big questions (pp. 227–240). Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.Google Scholar
  48. Stump E. (2000) Second-person accounts and the problem of evil. In: Lehtonen T., Koistinen T. (eds). Perspectives in contemporary philosophy of religion. Luther-Agricola Society, Helsinki, pp. 88–113Google Scholar
  49. Swinburne R. (1977a) The problem of evil. In: Brown S.C. (eds). Reason and religion. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, pp. 81–102Google Scholar
  50. Swinburne, R. (1979). The existence of God. Oxford: Oxford University Press (also in Rowe 2001).Google Scholar
  51. Swinburne, R. (1996). Some major strands of theodicy. In D. H. Synder (Ed.), The evidential argument from evil (pp. 240–264). Indianapoils: Indiana University press (also in Rowe 2001).Google Scholar
  52. Swinburne, R. (1977a). Postscript. In Brown (Ed.), Reason and religion (pp. 129–133).Google Scholar
  53. Tilghman, B. R. (1994). An introduction to the philosophy of religion. (p. 192). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  54. Tilghman B.R. (2001) Morality, human understanding, and the limits of language. In: McCarthy T., Stidd S.C. (eds). Wittgenstein in America. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 237–249Google Scholar
  55. Wallgren T. (2006) Transformative philosophy: Socrates, Wittgenstein, and the democratic spirit of philosophy. Lexington Books, Lanham, MDGoogle Scholar
  56. Wilcox, J. T. (1992). The bitterness of Job: A philosophical reading. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press (First published 1989).Google Scholar
  57. Winch P. (1972) Ethics and action. Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonGoogle Scholar
  58. Wisdo D. (1993) The life of irony and the ethics of belief. SUNY Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  59. Wittgenstein, L. (1961). Tractatus logico-philosophicus: Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp (first published 1921).Google Scholar
  60. Wittgenstein, L. (1965). A lecture on ethics. Philosophical Review 74, 3-16. Also in: J.C. Klagge & A. Nordman (Eds.), Philosophical occasions 1912–1951 (pp. 37–44). Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993.Google Scholar
  61. Wittgenstein, L. (1966). Lectures and conversations on aesthetics, psychology and religious belief. (Ed.), C. Barrett. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  62. Wittgenstein, L. (1969). On Certainty. (Eds.), G.E.M. Anscombe & G.H. von Wright. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe & D. Paul. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  63. Wittgenstein, L. (1993). In J. C. Klagge & A. Nordmann (Eds.), Philosophical occasions 1912–1951 (pp. 37–44). Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  64. Wittgenstein, L. (1998). Culture and value. (Eds.), G.H. von Wright & H. Nyman, rev. ed. A. Pichler. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  65. Wrathall M.A. (eds) (2003) Religion after metaphysics?. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  66. Zackariasson, U. (2002). Forces by which we live: Religion and religious experience from the perspective of pragmatic philosophical anthropology. Studia Philosophiae Religionis 21. Uppsala: University of Uppsala.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy unit, Department of Mathematics, Statistics and PhilosophyUniversity of TampereHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations