Gerhard Schmezer: "Wittgenstein’s Religious Imagination: Biography and Philosophy at the Crossroads"

In this paper, it shall be argued that Wittgenstein’s scattered yet highly consistent writings on the nature of religious belief are best understood in the context of what shall be called his “religious imagination”. Wittgenstein does not attempt to theorize about what an acceptable philosophy of religion should look like. Rather, he searches through his own life experience and that of others, carefully observing what draws people to religion as well as what keeps them there. Many of these ideas are expressed through metaphors related to significant personal experiences or to his “spiritual” reading that provided poignant images and often spectacular examples of people whom he considered authentically religious. The methodological consequences of these claims are considerable: biography is not simply a tool that gives us additional information about Wittgenstein’s religious thought; it is the privileged access to his religious imagination. Insofar as biography helps us to see connections between the spiritual struggles of the man and the intellectual struggles of the philosopher, the publication of Culture and Value, and later, the Nachlass itself, must be seen as defining moments in the understanding of Wittgenstein’s religious thought.

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