, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 183–205 | Cite as

Misunderstanding the Talk(s) of the Divine: Theodicy in the Wittgensteinian Tradition

  • Ondřej BeranEmail author


The paper discusses the unique approach to the problem of evil employed by the Wittgensteinian philosophy of religion and ethics that is primarily represented by D. Z. Phillips. Unlike traditional solutions to the problem, Phillips’ solution consists in questioning its meaningfulness—he attacks the very ideas of God’s omnipotence, of His perfect goodness and of the need to ‘calculate’ God’s goodness against the evil within the world. A possible weakness of Phillips’ approach is his unreflected use of what he calls ‘our religious language’, against which he measures the meaningfulness of theodical conceptions. He apparently underestimates both the heterogeneity of the ‘ours’ and how philosophical ideas pervade and inform the actual practice. On the other hand, Phillips rightly identifies the fact that some theodical conceptions, if understood as general doctrines, commit the sin of insensitivity (cruelty) and do not pay appropriate respect to human suffering. The reason is that they neglect the seriousness and importance of the difference between issuing the theodical accounts in the first person (making sense of one’s own situation) and in the third person. He may, however, thereby accuse theodicies of failing in a task that theodicists never intended to undertake. Possible problems are also involved in Phillips’ use of the Holocaust as the central discussion example.


Theodicy Wittgensteinian philosophy of religion Evil First person account D. Z. Phillips 



Work on this paper has been supported by the Czech Science Foundation, project No. 13-20785S.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyThe Academy of Science of the Czech RepublicPrahaCzech Republic

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