A Wittgensteinian Approach to the Philosophy of Religion

  • Glyn Richards


The Wittgensteinian approach to the philosophy of religion owes much to the influence of Rush Rhees but is best exemplified in the work of D.Z. Phillips, whose writings have given a new direction to the philosophical discussion of religious issues. His work has prompted much opposition and critical comment which in the main has been of two kinds. On the one hand he has been attacked for seeking to provide religion with a haven from the harsh winds of philosophical analysis, which has prompted some to refer to him as the protagonist of what Nielsen calls Wittgensteinian fideism.1 On the other hand he has been referred to by some religious believers as a reductionist who seeks to attenuate the faith of the fathers. I hope to examine both of these criticisms in the course of elucidating Phillips’s position in this essay.


Religious Belief Physical Object External Criterion Religious Believer Rational Ground 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Kai Nielsen, ‘Wittgensteinian Fideism’, Philosophy 42, No. 161 (July, 1967) pp. 191–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    D.Z. Phillips, Faith and Philosophical Enquiry (London, 1970) p. 124.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    D.Z. Phillips, Religion without Explanation (Oxford, 1976) pp. 1–3.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    D.Z. Phillips, The Concept of Prayer (London, 1965) p. 14; Athronyddu am Grefydd (Llandysul, 1974) pp. 9, 44.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    John Hick, Philosophy of Religion (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1973) pp. 95–6.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    See my paper, ‘Paul Tillich and the Historical Jesus’, Studies in Religion, 4, No. 2, (1974–5) pp. 120–27.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    S.R. Sutherland, ‘Religion and Ethics’, Human World, No. 5 (November, 1971) p. 44.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    See Antony Duff, ‘Psychopathy and Moral Understanding’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 14, No. 3, (July, 1977) pp. 194–95.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    D.Z. Phillips, Religion and Understanding (Oxford, 1967) p. 6.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    L. Wittgenstein, Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief (Oxford, 1966) p. 72.Google Scholar
  11. 30.
    Michael Durrant, ‘Is Justification of Religious Belief a Possible Enter-prise?’ Religious Studies 9, No. 4 (December, 1973) pp. 449–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 31.
    D.Z. Phillips, Death and Immortality (London, 1970) pp. 38, 42, 45.Google Scholar
  13. 34.
    John Skorupski, ‘Review of Religion without Explanation’ (Glasgow, 1977).Google Scholar
  14. 36.
    L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford, 1976) sec. 124.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Glyn Richards 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glyn Richards
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Religious StudiesUniversity of StirlingUK

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