Wittgenstein’s Religious Philosophy (in light of Pseudo-Denys)

IMG_4505This was one of my term papers for Spring Semester of Yale Divinity School. It’s not the kind of thing I would usually post, but the subject is close to my heart and I was really happy with the paper. So, here it is. 

The purpose of this paper is to argue that Ludwig Wittgenstein can be read as continuing and correcting Pseudo-Denys’ project in The Divine Names. I am first going to argue for an interpretation of The Divine Names as Pseudo-Denys’ attempt to facilitate our yearning for union with God by relativizing human concepts in order to render our thought transparent to divine revelation. I will argue that he fails in this, however, because the concept of ‘unity’ is not itself relativized. I will then argue that Wittgenstein can be read as continuing and correcting this attempt on the basis that he does relativize unity in a similar way and for similar religious reasons to Pseudo-Denys. I will conclude by reflecting on how this can connect with some of Sarah Coakley’s recent work on asceticism.

In order to understand how Pseudo-Denys’ explication of the divine names works, we must explore his cosmology. First, he states that “the existence of everything as beings” derives from “the One, the Good, the Beautiful,”1 which is the divine/God. Anything predicated of divinity, moreover, is predicated of it in entirety, for “in Scripture all the names appropriate to God are praised regarding the whole … divinity rather than any part of it.”2‘The Good’ and ‘the Beautiful’ are as such one—and not just any one, but the One. Because “all being derives from, exists in, and is returned towards the Beautiful and the Good,”3 moreover, so too “all things must yearn for … the Beautiful and the Good.”4 Creaturely existence is therefore structured according to desire for union with the One—for “what is signified [by both ‘love’ and ‘yearning’] is a capacity to effect a unity … a particular commingling in the Beautiful and the Good.”5

Pseudo-Denys’ intention in his explication is thus to assist souls seeking union with God.6 We cannot, however, attain this unity by our own power, for the One is utterly transcendent: as beings, we are “surpassed by the infinity beyond being.”7 Because of this transcendence, when we presume to speak of the One we must not “resort to words or conceptions concerning that hidden divinity that transcends being, apart from what the sacred scriptures have divinely revealed.”8 We can use this revelation positively—not because Scriptural terms possess intrinsic superiority, but because their authors wrote through “‘the power granted by the Spirit,’ a power by which … we reach a union superior”9 to any we are capable of effecting. This is the power of the Good granting “enlightenments proportionate to each being,” drawing “sacred minds upwards to its permitted contemplation.”10 But since “all human thinking is a sort of error when compared with … divine thoughts,”11 we cannot take Scriptural terms and apply them to God as to material things. For:

we have a habit of seizing upon what is actually beyond us, clinging to the familiar categories of our sense perceptions, and then we measure the divine by our human standards and, of course, are led astray by the apparent meaning we give to divine and unspeakable reason.12

We must, therefore, “interpret the things of God in a way that befits God,”13 This means reading Scriptural terms analogically, for “with these analogies we are raised upward toward the truth of the mind’s vision … [leaving] behind us all our notions of the divine.”14 As such, even a positive explication of the divine names must read them in terms of analogical difference, so as to resist transposing the categories of our sense perception into the divine nature.

It is important to clarify what is meant by ‘analogical.’ Pseudo-Denys himself doesn’t fully explain his usage. At the risk of reading him too much through the lens of am innovative interpreter, however, it seems plausible to read his account of analogy as similar to Thomas Aquinas’. Under this account, analogy is not a matter of using the same term in virtue of two objects sharing some feature in common in a simple manner. Instead, “in things named analogously there is neither one account, as with univocals, nor totally diverse accounts, as with equivocal. Rather, a name said in many ways in this manner signifies diverse proportions to some one thing.”15 There is a lot which could be parsed out here—but the most important point is that when names are read analogically, they are read as having diverse but still unified senses. To read a name analogically is thus to relativize its meaning in the light of its object.16

To take one example of this in practice, Denys writes both that “God is transcendentally, eternally … and invariably the ‘same’”17 and that “‘difference’ too is ascribed to God since he is providentially available to all things and becomes all things in all.”18 Of sameness, he writes God “precontains all opposites in one single, universal cause of sameness.” Of difference, meanwhile, he writes that “the many visions of God differ in appearance … [but this indicates] something other than what was outwardly manifested.”19 We can see, then, how seemingly opposed predicates do not contradict each other in this reading, but are instead relativized through their analogical application to God.

This then leads to a kind of silence, as the categorical meaning of our terms dissolves in their reconstitution—a positive path towards the more principled apophaticism of The Mystical Theology. For this method proceeds on the basis that “the Transcendent is clothed in the terms of being”20 only provisionally, such that “the union of divinized minds with the Light beyond all deity occurs in the cessation of all intelligent activity.”21 Because we praise this Light “most appropriately through the denial of all beings,”22 then, so too “with a wise silence do we … honor the inexpressible.”23 We do not arrive at silence through a simple absence of concepts, however: we can still use these names. Rather, this silence is akin to a conceptual transparency which opens us to the reality of God’s revelation. This transparency is not, of course, the end of knowledge. It is rather a preliminary openness to revelation, such that the Good can then clear “away the fog of ignorance … [unwrapping] those covered over by the burden of darkness,”24 and we can hope to “lift our eyes to the divine rays.”25

I have argued that Pseudo-Denys’ cosmology casts creation as yearning for a union with the One. This union must be effected by God, since its attainment is beyond our capacity in light of divine transcendence. Because of this we cannot read Scriptural terms according to the ‘familiar categories of our sense perception.’ As part of acknowledging that union with God is God’s prerogative, we must relativize the concepts we have been granted in their application to God, so that they are rendered transparent to the light which draws us to this union.

If this holds, however, then I believe Pseudo-Denys’ account fails on its own terms because the concept of ‘unity’ is not relativized in this way. He does attempt to say that God’s unity transcends “the unity which is in beings.” After all:

[God] is not one part of a plurality nor yet a total of parts. Indeed his oneness is not of this kind at all … Rather, he is one in a manner completely different from all this. He transcends the unity which is in beings. He is indivisible multiplicity, the unfilled overfullness which produces, perfects, and preserves all unity and multiplicity.26

This attempt, however, is undermined by a combination of unity’s cosmological position and its content in Pseudo-Denys’ world-view. In terms of position, unity plays a fundamental causal role, for “no duality can be an originating source; the source of every duality is a monad.”27 It is given a privileged place in the celestial hierarchy, for “unities hold a higher place than differentiations”28 in the divine realm. It is also fundamental to being: “multiplicity cannot exist without some participation in the One, [since] without the One there is no multiplicity, but there can still be the One where there is no multiplicity, just as one precedes all multiplied number.”29 Multiplicity and unity are not read analogically then, but placed in a hierarchy.

In terms of content, this unity is a category of sense perception,30 for it is from our worldly unity that Plotinus shows the One to be the Ground of existence. We can see this in the beginning of his paradigmatic Neo-Platonic argument for the idea that ‘the One’ is the transcendent ground of Being. He claims that a) “it is in virtue of unity that beings are beings … deprived of unity, a thing ceases to be what it is called,”31 and b) anything “described as a unity is so in the precise degree in which it holds a characteristic being.”32 (This argument is only implicit in Pseudo-Denys, but its relevance is supported by his account of the limitations of human knowledge.33) Even if there is a ‘form’ of unity, however, what we de facto take to be the unity or characteristic being of a thing is what we are taught to see. We do not intuit the unity of a city or an army as participating in a transcendent One which grounds their unity; rather, we are taught what it means for these things to be one, and so what ‘one’ means.

Taken together, this positioning of this content grounds the claim that what we take to be unified determines our account of the One’s Unity. This may still work if what we take to be unity is then reflexively relativized by the One’s transcendence, but it is absolutized instead. With number, for example, we have seen the precedence of unity illuminated by reference to the precedence of one over multiplied number. But Pseudo-Denys also says that “transcendent unity defines the one itself and every number,”34 such that the One absolutizes the number-line which was used to illuminate it. And with material things, he says “when things are said to be unified, this is in accordance with the preconceived form of the one proper to each.”35 But we arrived at the One by observing that a thing must be ‘one’ in order to be—and so by appeal to the forms which are now said to be preconceived in the One. Unity is not, then, applied analogically. Rather, it is cast at the head of a hierarchy in its postulated transcendence so as to subsume any conflict with multiplicity. It is thus absolutized as the divine ground and guarantor of being, such that “Unity itself [is the source of everything] of everything unified.”36

Pseudo-Denys might claim that the One’s unity transcends the unity of creatures, then. But instead of relativizing our concept of unity, he reads it into the fundamental nature of God. And in doing so he reads a category of sense perception into divinity, thereby absolutizing it—exactly what he says we must avoid. On his own terms, ‘the One’ is a concept of unity raised up as an idol, closing us off from the union for which we yearn.

Now, it is important to qualify this argument in light of Pseudo-Denys’ positive account of creation. He does, after all, claim that the existence of creation follows from “the beautiful, good superabundance of [God’s] yearning,”37 and emphatically denies that “evil is inherent in matter qua matter.”38 The fact that something other than the One exists, and so the fact of diversity, is not a negative thing for him—multiplicity is not a tragic accident. He cannot, therefore, be described as utterly denying the value or the proper existence of diversity in light of the Unity of the One. All the same, both the goodness and the being of this positive diversity are grounded in a fundamental unity. Even if the the multiple can be good, then, its goodness is still grounded in a cosmologically central concept of unity.

It is also important to note that Pseudo-Denys does affirm that certain qualities are properly closer to God than others, such that some kind of conceptual hierarchy can be appropriate. For example, in The Mystical Theology, he states that “life and goodness” are more appropriately applied to God than the idea that “he is air or stone.”39 Even this qualification, however, takes place in the context of an argument for the facts that ‘life and goodness’ too must be denied of God in some way. The non-analogical reading of unity into the divine nature remains illicit, then, even if there can properly be a hierarchy of analogically applied names which are then denied.

This is just one interpretation of The Divine Names, and it is beyond the scope of this paper to properly consider alternatives. If this interpretation is plausible, however, it is possible to argue that Wittgenstein can be read as continuing and correcting Pseudo-Denys’ project. I am now going to argue that Wittgenstein’s thought pursues a religious end, and that this pursuit motivates an iconoclastic attack on Neo-Platonic unity. I will then argue that his religious motivation is sufficiently to Pseudo-Denys’ to be read as continuing and correcting the project of The Divine Names.

Philip Shields has argued that Wittgenstein’s “philosophical writings are fundamentally religious as they stand.”40 He bases his argument on “an analogy between the standards of sense and the will of God,”41 since the attempt to say what can only be shown (thereby going beyond the standards of sense) leads to transgression and nonsense. Wittgenstein’s thought is religious for Shields, then, because grammar carries the authority of a divine judge.42 There is much to commend in Shields’ work (not least his demonstration of a say/show distinction running through the early and the later Wittgenstein). His account fails, however, because Wittgenstein actually undermines this analogy. For him, the fact that “the only correlate in language to an intrinsic necessity is an arbitrary rule”43 (which Shields uses for his argument) counts against such an analogy being drawn—for although we must be obedient to some grammatical standard in our language, no particular grammar can claim absolute authority.44

How, then, should we read Wittgenstein as a religious thinker? I am going to begin with a remark he made to Maurice Drury—“I am not a religious man, but I can’t help seeing every problem from a religious point of view.”45 The fact that religion occupied Wittgenstein’s thought is then supported by his notes in Culture and Value and conversations with Drury, where he is shown to have discussed or read a number of theologians.46 This doesn’t cement the meaning of his claim that he saw problems from a religious point of view, of course. But his corpus holds clues that can help us interpret this remark. In his Lecture on Ethics, for example, we find this statement about what he takes to be characteristic of religious experience:

I believe the best way of describing [this experience] is to say that when I have it I wonder at the existence of the world … Another experience straight away which I also know … [is] the experience of feeling absolutely safe. I mean the state of mind in which one is inclined to say ‘I am safe, nothing can injure me whatever happens.’47

Now, the context of these remarks might appear to make interpretation difficult—after all, the lecture’s purpose is to cast attempts to express these experiences as hopeless running up against linguistic boundaries.48 This does not, however, count against Wittgenstein seeing experiences of wonder and safety as central to religious feeling, and seeing these experiences as essential to human existence. Indeed, his closing remark—that although the attempt to express these experiences leads to nonsense, it is “a tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and … would not for my life ridicule”49—suggests precisely this.

The importance of wonder and safety for Wittgenstein is also borne out in his writings. Beginning with wonder: in Culture and Value, he writes “man has to awaken to wonder—and so perhaps do peoples. Science is a way of sending him to sleep again.”50 Given that he believed too narrow a commitment to certain methods of science “leads the philosopher into complete darkness,”51 this points to the positive value of wonder. Second, Drury records a conversation where he remarked to Wittgenstein that, “when, say, Plato talks about the gods, it lacks that sense of awe which you feel throughout the Bible.” Wittgenstein replied (“looking at [Drury] intently”) “I think you have just said something very important. Much more important than you realize.”52 This again suggests Wittgenstein saw wonder as being of great importance, if it is allowed that ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’ have comparable meaning.53 Finally, in 1947 he wrote:

The mathematician too can wonder at the miracles … of nature, of course, but can he do so once a problem has arisen about what it actually is he is contemplating? Is it really possible as long as the object that he finds astonishing and gazes at with awe is shrouded in philosophical fog?54

As we shall see, ‘dispersing the fog’ is a central goal of Wittgenstein’s philosophical thought—which motivates interpreting this remark as casting wonder as something of great value.55

When it comes to ‘safety,’ Ray Monk reports that Wittgenstein tried to ease his own anxiety throughout his life by finding a sense of security. He records Wittgenstein telling Bertrand Russell that William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience might “improve me in a little way in which I would like to improve me very much: namely I think that it helps me to get rid of the Sorge [worry, anxiety].”56 Monk then links this escape from Sorge to the feeling of safety from the Lecture on Ethics—the feeling that “no matter what happened in the world, nothing bad could happen to him.”57 And this safety is given an explicitly religious aspect in the comment that “only religious feelings” can ease fears following from Sorge.58

Wittgenstein valued ‘wonder’ and ‘safety,’ then, which he identified as characteristic of religious experience. Shields also notes that there is, for him, something “quintessentially human” 59 about our yearning for and our attempts to attain these goods through absolute expression. It can now be shown that he sees these goods as the goal of his philosophy, such that his thought can be read as aiming at the fulfillment of this yearning. We have already asked, “is [wonder] really possible as long as the object that he finds astonishing … is shrouded in philosophical fog?”60 This question then connects with the early statement in the Investigations, that “the general concept of the meaning of a word surrounds the working of language with a haze … [making] clear vision impossible.”61 The goal of philosophy is therefore to dissolve this haze and this fog in order to attain “complete clarity.” This clarity causes “philosophical problems [to] completely disappear,” and so “gives philosophy peace.62

If it is then allowed that peace is concomitant with the feeling of safety that comes from being free from Sorge, this peace brings us to safety. For he writes in the Investigations that “the real discovery is the one that enables me to break off philosophizing when I want to.—The one that gives philosophy peace, so that it is no longer tormented by questions which bring itself into question.”63 This goal of peace is then also cast in terms of fundamental desire in Culture and Value, where he writes “thoughts that are at peace. That’s what someone who philosophizes yearns for.”64 Philosophy thus aims at a clarity which opens us to wonder and safety/peace.

We must still interpret what Wittgenstein means by ‘clarity’ here. Shields interprets it as signifying something like “the complete clarity of logical form [and] the demanding rigor of the limits of language.”65 Within this account, the clarity Wittgenstein seeks is the rigorous delineation of language’s internal limits. Though there is some truth to this, there is reason to think that this clarity should be described in terms of transparency—understood in a similar sense above, as openness to the way things are—over and above rigor per se especially in cases where what must be clarified is the impossibility of rigorously expressing limits. This finds support in the Blue Book, where Wittgenstein posits “clear-cut and transparent”66 sight as the goal of his method. Clarity-as-transparency is also the operative concept in the questions “who is to say that Scripture really is unclear? Isn’t it possible that it was essential in this case to tell a riddle?”, the answer to which is “you are only supposed to see clearly what appears clearly even in this representation.”67 It is also operative in the claim that it is impossibile to exactly describe light reflecting off water, such that clarity entails recognizing “there is no such thing as exactness in this language game.”68 Finally, it is at work in the comment from Philosophical Remarks that “no coloured picture of any kind whatever is able to represent the impression of ‘blurredness’ correctly,”69 such that clarity must be transparency to blurredness. Each of these cases suggests that clarity is not rigor per se, but transparency to what is seen, even if this means recognizing that we cannot draw strictly rigorous boundaries.70 This is the transparency which opens us to peace and wonder, even and especially when it means accepting that what is seen is beyond absolute explanation.

So, we can read Wittgenstein as a religious thinker on the basis that his philosophy aims at a transparent clarity for the sake of opening us to the religious goods of wonder and safety. Importantly, however, this search for clarity motivates an iconoclastic aspect in his thought. In The Big Typescript, he writes that “all that philosophy can do is to destroy idols.”71 To interpret what he means by ‘idols,’ we can turn to G.E. Moore’s record of his saying “when a man worships idols, one possibility is that he believes idol is alive and will help him”72—which supports Shields’ claim that, for Wittgenstein, idolatry is the tendency to create “objects of ultimate trust which are unable to support the weight of reliance placed in them.”73 We have argued above that clarity is not, for Wittgenstein, a matter of drawing absolute limits, but of recognizing when we can’t definitively determine limits. In line with this—and in line with Simon Glendinning’s claim that, for Wittgenstein, “what prevents clarity is a confused conception of conceptual clarity”74—we can plausibly read Wittgenstein’s idols as those things that lead us to think we can and must draw absolute limits to language if we wish to attain clarity.

It must now be shown that this imperative to destroy idols leads to an iconoclastic attack on unity. We can begin in The Blue Book. After outlining a method of looking at language so that “the mental mist which … enshrouds our ordinary use of language disappears,” Wittgenstein says “what makes it difficult for us to take this line of investigation is our craving for generality.”75 This craving is rooted in several tendencies, the central one of which for our purposes is a “preoccupation with the method of science”—namely:

the method of reducing the explanation of natural phenomena to the smallest possible number of primitive natural laws; and in mathematics, of unifying the treatment of different topics by using a generalisation … This tendency is the real source of metaphysics, and leads the philosopher into complete darkness.76

Now, we have already read Wittgenstein saying that science can prevent peoples’ awakening to wonder, whilst philosophical fog (akin to ‘mental mist’ here) can close it off. When it comes to peace, and safety, meanwhile, he writes “perhaps science … having caused infinite misery in the process, will unite the world—I mean condense it into a single unit, though one in which peace is the last thing that will find a home”77 (an idea contrary to Pseudo-Denys’ claim that Perfect Peace binds “all with the one homogenous yoke”78). It makes sense, then, to see the presuppositions of this darkening tendency as idols which occlude peace and wonder.

Now, science per se is not the problem here—after all, Wittgenstein delighted in scientific investigation.79 The problem is that a particular scientific method “elbows all others aside”80 asserting itself as an absolute principle of our reasoning in all areas of life. It does this by tempting us with the idea that it can penetrate to the essence of things, so providing the rigorous limits we think will give us clarity. And this temptation is effective because of our urge, following from our desire for peace and wonder, “to understand the foundations, or essence, of everything empirical”81—essences that are to be “given once and for all, and independent of any future experience,”82 in terms of a “formal unity.”83 For Wittgenstein, however, the idea “that what is peculiar, profound, and essential to us in our investigation resides in trying to grasp the incomparable essence of language”84 is an illusion. Both these essences and the absoluteness of this method are therefore idols to be destroyed.85

We are now in a position to see a) that, and b) how Wittgenstein attempts to undermine Neo-Platonic unity—for these essences and this method are both grounded in the presupposition of this unity. We can see this by first noting that the temptation to scienticism is facilitated by the way our language appears to us: “what confuses us is the uniform appearance of words.”86 Because of this surface uniformity, our language “keeps seducing us into asking the same questions;”87 namely, questions like “‘What is language?’”88 whose forms suggest that their answers must take the form of unitary essences expressed by ideal concepts. We do of course employ ideal concepts for particular purposes, such as an “ideal of exactitude.”89 But both our craving for generality and the surface uniformity of language lead us to treat these ideals as if they had to be unitary forms to which things must conform if they are to be ‘things’ at all; as prejudices “to which everything has to conform.”90 We are thus “dazzled by the ideal, and fail to see the actual application of the word.”91 We think applications should be uniform in their conformity to ideals—and so we “believe that there must after all in the last instance be uniformity … instead of holding … that it doesn’t have to exist.”92

This presumption of unity is then given a theological connection in the Investigations:

A picture is conjured up which seems to fix the sense unambiguously: … the form of expression seems to have been tailored for a god, who knows what we cannot know … For us, however, these forms of expression are like vestments, which we may put on, but cannot do much with since we lack the … power that would give them point and purpose.93

The knowledge we seek thus tempts us by suggesting ideal forms that can absolutely delimit an unambiguous road of language, offering us an almost divine knowledge. Ideals tempt us by offering us one form to which all particulars must conform if they are to count as a given thing—much like Pseudo-Denys’ ‘preconceived forms.’ For Wittgenstein, however, this unity is an illusory nimbus.94 It is a prejudice that clouds clarity and cuts us off from the peace and wonder for which we yearn. In other words, both this unity and the ideal objects it grounds—analogues to Unity and the One in Neo-Platonism—are for him idols to be destroyed. (It is important to note here that he is not opposed to ideal terms per se, but to their being applied so as to allow one use only. As he says in relation to ‘exactitude,’ what he opposes “is the concept of some ideal exactitude given us a priori as it were. At different times we have different ideals … none of them is supreme”95).

This is an argument for the claim that Wittgenstein seeks to destroy the idol of unity. We can now look at how he tries to do this—by removing biases that force us to think “facts must conform to… pictures embedded in our language”96 and clearing away mistakes rooted in “analogies between the forms of expression in different regions of our language.”97 He attempts to do this by developing a perspicuous view of the diverse uses of ideal terms, so as to show “that things which look the same are really different.”98 In this way, as above, he tries to guard “our assertions against distortion” by giving a “clear view … of what the ideal is, namely an object of comparison [rather than] a prejudice of it to which everything has to conform.”99

The most pertinent example of this for unity is language itself. Wittgenstein says his method shows that “what we call ‘proposition,’ ‘language,’ has not the formal unity that I imagined, but is a family of structures more or less akin to one another.”100 The phenomena we call language thus “have no one thing in common in virtue of which we use the same word for all.”101 Language is thus fundamentally diverse, as are its rules and instruments. And because of this, being is fundamentally diverse as well. As Wittgenstein says of ‘imagination,’ the fact he focusses on diverse uses of the word does not mean he wants “to talk only about words. For the question of what imagination essentially is, is as much about the word ‘imagination’ as my question.”102 Rather “essence is expressed by grammar;”103 and because grammars are (collectively) irreducibly diverse and (individually) open to diverse applications,104 so too essences are constituted by an internal multiplicity just as fundamental as a mooted unity.

Now, it could be argued that the connection between unity, language, and ideals has not been sufficiently demonstrated. It is worth, then, going through parts of the Investigations that touch directly on Neo-Platonic descriptions of ‘the One,’ to show that unity really is at issue here. First: Pseudo-Denys describes God as transcendentally simple, “not one part of a plurality nor yet a total of parts.”105 Wittgenstein complicates efforts to ground unity in simplicity. He notes that we use “‘composite’ (and therefore the word ‘simple’) in an enormous number of different … ways,”106 then concludes that designating something as simple can ground no more fundamental a unity than we find in our diverse uses of ‘simple’ or ‘complex.’107 Secondly: as above, Pseudo-Denys says “God is transcendentally … unalterably and invariably the ‘same.’”108 Going beyond an attempt to show how this sameness doesn’t exclude difference, however, Wittgenstein attacks the idea that ‘sameness’ points to a fundamental unity by noting “the use of the word ‘rule’ and the use of the word ‘same’ are interwoven.”109 For since rules have diverse uses and underdetermine their own application, the meaning of ‘same’ is likewise diverse and underdetermined.110 Finally, Plotinus describes the One as “the unity which is itself.”111 But Wittgenstein argues that ‘is’ is used in different ways without the ‘is’ of identity and the ‘is’ of predication disintegrating into different terms (much like an analogical name). Rather, these uses constitute a multiplicity within identity itself; a diversification-without-disintegration that undermines efforts to delimit unity by using ‘is’ to ground unity in self-identity.112 There is good reason, then, to see Wittgenstein as undermining Neo-Platonic unity: his undermining of unitary ideals simultaneously undermines ideals of unity.

It is also important to note that Wittgenstein does not attempt to exorcise either ideals or unity (which would make an idol out of the “absence of idols”113): both have a role to play in our language-games. Nor is it quite the case that, as Shields puts it, he inverts “Neo-Platonic ontology [by] taking ‘the many’ as the ground of meaning that expresses the will of God and taking the One as an idol.”114 For even though ‘the One’ is an idol, to invert this structure in this way would be to make as much an idol of multiplicity as of unity. He instead attempts to dissolve the prejudices that sort unity and multiplicity into an ontological hierarchy, such that neither has fundamental status—an attempt that could be described in terms of dismantling “the edifice of our pride,”115 as opposed to redecorating the same edifice with different idols.

With this nuance, we can read Wittgenstein’s thought as directed against Neo-Platonic unity—and we can read it as so directed for religious reasons. He attacks it as an idol that cuts off clarity by shrouding the world in philosophical fog. And he seeks this clarity because it is a precondition of religious goods for which we properly yearn: wonder and peace. We can therefore read Wittgenstein as both continuing and correcting Pseudo-Denys’ project. In terms of continuation, he seeks to relativize our concepts so as to dissolve conceptual idols cutting off the good for which we yearn. In terms of correction, he treats the concept of ‘unity’ embedded in Pseudo-Denys’ world view as just such an idol. There is an important difference between the two thinkers, in that Pseudo-Denys relativizes our concepts in their application to God while Wittgenstein does so through an analysis of language per se. But this does not have too great a practical effect—for Pseudo-Denys’ demonstration of our concepts’ relativity in the highest spheres should undermine their claim to absoluteness in the lowest, in that they are read as analogous terms in Aquinas’ sense. It is thus possible to identify Pseudo-Denys’ relativizing above and Wittgenstein’s relativizing below as part of the same theological project.

We have argued, then, that Wittgenstein attacks a Neo-Platonic concept of unity for reasons which nonetheless connect him to Pseudo-Denys. We have not, however, shown this connection to be more than accidental. After all, the fact Wittgenstein saw his own thought as religious does not entail that it actually is religious in a sense Pseudo-Denys would recognize—it could just indicate ignorance of what constitutes ‘a religious point of view.’ Neither have we accounted for Wittgenstein’s self-description as ‘not a religious man.’ We must show, then, both that his ‘religious view’ connects him to Pseudo-Denys and that it allows the validity of his non-religious self-designation. (I am not going to argue for a definition of what it means to be ‘religious’ here. Rather, I am going to argue that Wittgenstein and Pseudo-Denys are similar enough to ground the claim that if the latter’s thought is religious, then the former’s is as well.)

Earl Fronda has already attempted to link Wittgenstein to Pseudo-Denys, principally by showing how Wittgenstein “contends that metaphysical statements [including statements about God] are nonsense because they transgress limits of language,”116 on the basis that our language is conditioned by a human finitude that renders human speech about God impossible. God is thus ‘semantically transcendent,’ such that “to Wittgenstein, one cannot speak literally of the transcendent god”117—a similar approach to Pseudo-Denys’ apophaticism as traditionally read. This analysis bears similarities to Shields’ argument from transgression. For different reasons, however, I am not convinced by Fronda’s reasoning. Apophaticism alone does not make thought ‘religious.’ Neither does it necessarily render it Pseudo-Dionysian, since there is more to Pseudo-Denys than silence. Rather, Pseudo-Dionysian apophaticism is religious in the way it is precisely because of its positive account of the God of whom we cannot speak. Apart from a substantial account of the mature Wittgenstein’s positive views of God, then, (which Fronda does not give) the idea that “about the transcendent, the mature Wittgenstein … opts for silence”118 can just as easily lead to materialist positivism as to religious mysticism.

Helpfully, the mature Wittgenstein does provide us with the resources to reasonably speculate about his positive conception of divinity. We can first turn to the Preface of the Investigations, where he writes that it might fall to the book “in the darkness of this time… to bring light into one brain or another.”119 The possibility of this light, however lies outside himself—in a note from Culture and Value, he asks “is what I am doing really worth the effort? Yes, but only if a light shines on it from above.”120 He also writes “the light work sheds is a beautiful light, which, however, only shines with real beauty if it is illuminated by yet another light.”121 Finally, he says “it may be that what gives my thoughts their luster on these occasions is a light shining on them from behind. That they do not themselves glow.”122 Behind his thought, then, is an idea that its value comes from light above. This image may not be coincidental either. It is present in Augustine’s Confessions—especially in sections explicitly influenced by Platonic and Neo-Platonic thought123which Wittgenstein knew thoroughly and described as “the most serious book ever written.”124 Drury also notes that “Wittgenstein chose his metaphors with great care,”125 which seems especially pertinent here since religious similes “move on the edge of an abyss.”126

It is reasonable, then, to see the image of light as significant to Wittgenstein, and believe that it may have a religious significance through Augustine. To flesh out this divine significance, we can now turn to a letter that he sent to Moore in 1941, in which he expresses the fear that Moore is walking on the “edge of a cliff at the bottom of which I see lots of philosophers and scientists lying dead.”127 He asks Moore to read a poem called The Sacred Fire, saying “I hope it will tell you exactly what I want to say.”128 The poem describes two fires. The first is the goddess Vesta’s eternal fire tended by the Vestal virgins, the second a fire “within my breast.” This second fire “leaps up warm at every tide and turn, a standing offering at the Muses’ shrine. By their breath kindled, for them does it burn.”129 Though the poem is open to interpretation, it implies a) that the second fire responds to the movement of the first and/or b) that the second fire is kindled by and for divine guardians. Whatever the case, an emphasis is placed on the necessity of openness and response to forces of divine significance.

Taking Wittgenstein seriously here (which I believe should be done when it comes to his correspondence,) we can see him impressing on Moore the idea that it is by corresponding to eternal light and/or recognising dependence on forces beyond us that we come to truth. If this holds, we can read his commitment to clarity under a double-aspect. It is indeed transparency to how things are, evading distortion that occludes wonder and peace. But it is also transparency to a divine significance—transparency to a light above, lest we think our light shines by its own power; transparency to a power beyond, lest we starve our fires of their source and goal. If read against his early idea that “we are in a certain sense dependent, and what we are dependent on we can call God”130—an idea there is reason to believe he retained throughout his life131—then the fact of a light upon which his thought was dependent provides us with a formal positive view of divinity. As Shields says, then, if with different emphasis: at the core of Wittgenstein’s thought is the idea we are “dependent on pre-established conditions that lie beyond our control—that we are ultimately dependent, as it were, on the … grace of God.”132

This is a speculative argument for a speculative reading. But even given that the evidence may appear circumstantial, it makes sense in the context of his wider recorded statements. It makes sense of his advice to Drury that “a religious person regards placidity or peace as a gift from heaven, not as something one ought to hunt after”133—a recognition that limits philosophy’s presumption to attain peace by noting that we must receive what we yearn for that. It makes sense in the context of his desire, expressed in a draft preface for Philosophical Remarks and years later, that his work be seen (like Bach’s) as being “to the glory of the God most high, and that my neighbor may be benefitted thereby.”134 Finally, it makes sense of why Wittgenstein “thanked God for a gift he did not deserve”135 when, late in life, he was able to work after a significant dry spell.

So, even if it is not necessarily Christian, Wittgenstein’s idea that our finding of the peace and wonder for which we yearn depends upon something both beyond ourselves and the world is a positive sense of divinity. And the description of this divinity in terms of light and fire bears more than a family resemblance to Pseudo-Denys: it directly parallels the claims that God grants “enlightenments proportionate to each being, and … draws sacred minds upwards to permitted contemplation,”136 and “we shall have a conceptual gift of light from him.”137 If this holds, and if the interpretation of Pseudo-Denys I have offered works, then both he and Wittgenstein can be described as sharing functionally similar conceptions of divinity.

Finally, this allows us to hypothesize why Wittgenstein said he himself was not a religious man. In Culture and Value he states, “a religious belief could only be something like a passionate commitment to a system of reference.”138 But though he saw the symbolism of Christianity as “wonderful beyond words,”139 he could not commit himself to it—not because of contempt for religion, but his own feeling of inadequacy. To support this, we can look to his saying (in the context of continued sense of vanity140) that only if he submerged himself in religion could “doubts [about myself] be stilled. Because only religion would have the power to destroy vanity.”141 In the context of his belief that philosophy seeks peace in which it ceases, we can turn to his claim “I said I can stop doing philosophy when I like. That is a lie! I can’t.”142 In the context of these statements, and his feeling that he could get past these features of himself if he were religious, Wittgenstein’s self-identified non-religiousness can read as a function of his felt inadequacy—his lack of transparency and clarity—not a dismissal of religious faith.143

Now, it is important to note that even if this analysis is sound, Wittgenstein and Pseudo-Denys’ senses of the divine are still different. After all, this paper has argued that Wittgenstein undermines the concept of unity which most fundamentally signifies divinity for Pseudo-Denys. Pseudo-Denys also works out of an orthodox tradition, whereas Wittgenstein never committed himself orthodox Christianity even as its formulations occupied his thoughts (and even though his account of unity and multiplicity might, strangely enough, be more amenable to Trinitarianism than Neo-Platonism).144 However, their accounts of why we yearn for, how we depend upon, and how we must be transparent to ‘the divine’ are similar enough for their concepts of divinity to structure their thought in functionally similar ways. Their thought may not be identical, then, in part due to the fact that they (interestingly enough) have different positive accounts of the ineffable divine. But the similarities between them are sufficient to identify them both as religious thinkers in a similar sense. And this is sufficient for the argument I wish to make—that Wittgenstein can plausibly be read as continuing and correcting Pseudo-Denys’ project in The Divine Names.

To conclude: both Pseudo-Denys and Wittgenstein seek to relativise human concepts in a way that opens us to receiving what we yearn for by rendering us transparent to the divine. This method relativizes our human concepts, preventing us from illicitly reading them into the divine nature. Pseudo-Denys does not fully submit the concept of ‘unity’ to this method, however, undermining his overall project. Wittgenstein does relativize unity, for religious reasons which are similar to Pseudo-Denys’ motivations, and as such he can be read as continuing and correcting the Pseudo-Dionysian project, even though there are differences between his and Pseudo-Denys’s positive ideas of who or what God is.

I am going to end with a coda suggesting how this might inform an account of conceptual inquiry as an erotic and an ascetic practice. In The New Asceticism, Sarah Coakley breaks down dichotomies between the erotic and ascetic by showing how asceticism aims at the fulfilment of desire—for we can only “rightly modulate and direct [desire] … by an asceticism that itself yields to that subtle but ecstatic plenitude of divine desire.”145 The goal of asceticism is then “a progressive purification of the self so as to become transparent to the divine”146; not in denying the erotic, but in ordering ourselves to the conditions of its fulfilment.

Without assuming that every aspect of Coakley’s account is true, we can now claim that if the foregoing is correct, then Wittgenstein can be read as aiding this asceticism. We have seen how Wittgenstein and Pseudo-Denys orient their thought to the fulfillment of yearning for religious goods. And Coakley herself references Pseudo-Denys in saying that “to get rightly ordered our own erotic desires at the human level,”147 we must be open to “the divine ekstasis and yearning of God for creation catching our human yearning into itself.”148 Insofar as he goes beyond Pseudo-Denys, we may be able to read Wittgenstein as ascetic in Coakley’s sense, in that he tries to order our thought so as to render us transparent to the fulfilment of our yearning. We can take him at his word, then, when he says that “the religion of the future will have to be extremely ascetic; and by that I don’t mean just going without food and drink.”149 After all, his work develops a type of ascetic thought that such a religion could use—thought in search for a double-clarity that opens us up to the fulfilment of the religious yearnings that structure our very being.

  1. Luibhéid, Colm, and Pseudo-Denys, Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), pp.77-78
  2. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.58
  3. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.79
  4. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.79
  5. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p. 81
  6. C.f. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.130, where he states that the method of negation traced “guides the soul through all the divine notions” so that “the soul is brought into union with God himself to the extent that everyone of us is capable of it.”
  7. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.49
  8. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.49
  9. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.49
  10. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.50
  11. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.105
  12. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.106
  13. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.107
  14. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.53. My Emphasis
  15. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a 15.5.c; cit. Ralph M. McInerny, Aquinas and Analogy (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998), p.96.
  16. It is worth noting here that, as stated by Kathryn Tanner in Theories of Culture (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1997) relativise can have two senses: “the sense of containing such material within its proper bounds under God, and the sense of setting it in a proper relation to God.” (p.145-146). I believe that the argument made here works whichever sense of ‘relativize’ is employed, but it is still worth highlighting the possibility of ambiguity.
  17. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.116
  18. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.116
  19. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.116
  20. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.52
  21. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.54
  22. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.54
  23. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.50
  24. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.75
  25. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.60
  26. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.67. C.f. Also, p54, that the supra-essential being of God is “at a total remove from every … unity.”
  27. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.88
  28. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.67
  29. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.128
  30. As with ‘relativise,’ I am conscious that there are at least two possible readings of ‘category’ here. It could mean either a category formulated by our sense perception, or a category according to which sense perception is possible at all. I am not certain which of these uses is employed by Pseudo-Denys, but I believe my argument ultimately works whichever way.
  31. Plotinus, Stephen Mackenna, and John M. Dillon, The Enneads (London: Penguin, 1991), 9th Tractate, Chapter 1
  32. Plotinus, The Enneads, 9th Tractate, Chapter 1
  33. C.f. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.53: “One can neither discuss nor understand the One … nor can one speak about and have knowledge of the fitting way in which the holy angels can commune with the comings or with the effects of the transcendentally overwhelming goodness.” This suggests that there is no means of knowing unity directly, leaving available the same mode of teaching by which we learn other concepts.
  34. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.129
  35. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.128
  36. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.99. It should be noted that other qualities (such as ‘cause’ and ‘order’) take similar precedence in parts of The Divine Names, suggesting that either a) this argument could be applied to them as well, or b) reading a concept analogically by reading it into a hierarchy may not be a problem for Pseudo-Denys. In response a), it appears that his account of order and cause follow from this account of Unity, such that it is the most fundamental. In response to b), if Pseudo-Denys himself believes that one can read something analogically in this way then it appears to me that he can still read as internally inconsistent, just on the basis of deliberate rather than accidental moves.
  37. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.82
  38. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.92
  39. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.140
  40. Philip R. Shields, Logic and Sin in the Writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p.2
  41. Shields, Logic and Sin, p.50
  42. c.f. Shields, Logic and Sin, p.47
  43. Shields, Logic and Sin, p.46
  44. C.f. Also Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1975), para.617, where Wittgenstein describes what it means to be torn away from the sureness of a grammar, as well as para.309 where he talks about the malleable relationship between norms and empirical statements—with the heavy implication that grammar should not be treated as absolute in light of this relationship.
  45. O’C M. Drury, The Danger of Words: And Writings on Wittgenstein (Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 1996), p.xiv (Preface)
  46. For example, Calvin (Drury, p.166-7), Hooker (Drury, p.135), Barth (Drury, pp.119 and 146), Origen (161) and Lessing (pp.134 and 166).
  47. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lecture on Ethics, Philosophical Occasions: 1912-1951 (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), p.41
  48. Wittgenstein, Lecture on Ethics, p.44
  49. Wittgenstein, Lecture on Ethics, p.44
  50. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1984), p.5
  51. Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books (New York: Harper and Row, 1995) p18
  52. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.161
  53. Even though ‘awe’ is used to indicate a mistake on the mathematician’s part above.
  54. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.57
  55. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.56. C.f. also Wittgenstein, Ludwig, P. M. S. Hacker, and Joachim Schult,. Philosophical Investigations (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), para.524. The earlier argument against trying to express this wonder is also complicated by the fact that this remark appears almost immediately after the imperative “don’t, for heaven’s sake, be afraid of talking nonsense! But you must pay attention to your nonsense.”
  56. Ray Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (London: Vintage, 1991), p.51. This is borne out by Drury, who reports Wittgenstein reporting that Varieties of Religious Experience “helped me a lot at one time.” Danger of Words, 106
  57. Monk, The Duty of Genius, p.51
  58. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.100
  59. Shields, Logic and Sin, p86
  60. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.57
  61. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.5
  62. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.133
  63. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, ed. P. M. S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte, 4th ed. (United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), para.133
  64. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.43
  65. Shields, Logic and Sin, p.40
  66. Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books, p.17
  67. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.31
  68. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, vol.1, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1980), para.1080
  69. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Remarks (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p.260
  70. C.f. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.79: “Say what you please, so long as it does not prevent you from seeing how things are. (And when you see that, there will be some things that you won’t say.)”
  71. Ludwig Wittgenstein The Big Typescript, TS. 213 (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell 2013), p.305
  72. Lectures, 319. It is worth noting that he is also recorded as saying that God may dwell in a statue here; but in the context, it is suggested that this is due to something like the freedom of God, rather than anything to do with the statue itself. It is also perhaps telling, that this remark occurs very soon after the expression of one of the central ideas of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy: that “one great trouble our language gets us into is that we take a substantive to stand for a thing or substance.” Lectures, 318
  73. Shields, Logic and Sin, p.86
  74. Simon Glendinning, On Being with Others: Heidegger – Derrida – Wittgenstein (London: Taylor & Francis, 1998), p.84
  75. Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books, p.17
  76. Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books, p.18
  77. Monk, The Duty of Genius, p.485
  78. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.122-3
  79. C.f. Monk, The Duty of Genius, p.453 for a description of Wittgenstein’s experimental work during the war in Newcastle.
  80. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.60
  81. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.89
  82. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.92
  83. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.108
  84. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.97
  85. Incidentally, this urge is quite similar to Rahner’s Vörgriff—only here it is something to be dissolved, rather than valorized as constituting our capacity to receive revelation.
  86. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.11
  87. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.15
  88. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.92
  89. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.37
  90. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.26
  91. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.100
  92. Wittgenstein, Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, vol.1, para.907. My emphasis.
  93. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.426. C.f. Also paras.346 and 352.
  94. C.f. Philosophical Investigations, para.97: “Thinking is surrounded by a nimbus.—Its essence, logic, presents an order: namely, the a priori order of the world; that is, the order of possibilities, which the world and thinking must have in common. But this order, it seems, must be utterly simple. It is prior to all experience, must run through all experience; no empirical cloudiness or uncertainty may attach to it.”
  95. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.37 This is one of the passages which can be brought to bear against Shields’ argument for an analogy between the will of God and the dictates of grammar—which include such ideal conceptions.
  96. Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books, p.43
  97. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.90
  98. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.157
  99. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.26
  100. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.108
  101. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.35
  102. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.370
  103. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.370
  104. C.f. Michael N. Forster, The Arbitrariness of Grammar (Princeton: Princeton University Press: 2009), pp.21-30 which elucidates Wittgenstein’s commitment to a ‘diversity thesis’ regarding the irreducible diversity of grammars.
  105. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.67
  106. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.47
  107. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.47
  108. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.116
  109. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para.225
  110. C.f. Lee Braver, Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012), p.121: “As the later Wittgenstein never tires of demonstrating, pictures underdetermine how we use them … [but] automatically following rules in standard ways makes it feel as though the application were contained within the rule.”
  111. Plotinus, The Enneads, Tractate 9, Chapter 2
  112. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, paras.561, 562. C.f. Also para.216: ‘A thing is identical with itself.’—There is no finer example of a useless sentence, which nevertheless is connected with a certain play of the imagination.
  113. Ludwig Wittgenstein The Big Typescript, p.305
  114. Shields, Logic and Sin, p.77
  115. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.26 I don’t think it accidental that this comment was written around the same time as a the comment about the need to guard our statements against distortion through a clear vision of the ideal, cited above.
  116. Earl Stanley Fronda, Wittgenstein’s (Misunderstood) Religious Thought Vol.1 (Boston: Brill, 2010) p.20-21
  117. Fronda, Wittgenstein’s (Misunderstood) Religious Thought, p.204
  118. Fronda, Wittgenstein’s (Misunderstood) Religious Thought, p.69
  119. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, para. 4
  120. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.57
  121. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.26
  122. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.66
  123. C.f. Saint Augustine, Confessions (London: Penguin, 1961), especially Book VII:10
  124. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.90
  125. Drury, The Danger of Words, ix.
  126. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 29.
  127. Ludwig Wittgenstein and Brian McGuinness, Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents, 1911-1951 (Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2012), p.341
  128. Wittgenstein and McGuinness, Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.341
  129. Das heilige Feuer, Conrad Meyer, English Translation in Wittgenstein and McGuinness, Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.342
  130. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Notebooks, 1914-16 (Basil Blackwell, 1961), p.74
  131. Drury records Wittgenstein as saying “my fundamental ideas came to me very early in life,” (Danger of Words, p.ix) including the idea of a mysterious side to nature about which we cannot speak, but on which we must depend if we are to show how things are.
  132. Shields, Logic and Sin, p.86
  133. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.96
  134. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.168
  135. Monk, The Duty of Genius, p.383
  136. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.50
  137. Pseudo-Denys, Complete Works, p.52
  138. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p. 64
  139. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.86
  140. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.159
  141. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p.48
  142. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.219
  143. C.f. Monk, The Duty of Genius, p.383 I believe there is in fact an internal contradiction in Wittgenstein’s thought on this front, and that his exclusion of himself from the religious sphere points to an inconsistency in his thought—namely that peace and wonder rely on recognizing what is beyond one’s capacity, but that one must shape oneself into being able to recognize this. But I also believe that this inconsistency is a real one, and not a sign that he thinks otherwise than argued here.
  144. For an example of Wittgenstein’s reflections on the Trinity (as an example of orthodox expression occupying his thoughts, not his applicability to orthodoxy!), c.f. Culture and Value, p.85
  145. Sarah Coakley, The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God (London: Continuum Intl Pub Group, 2015) p.27
  146. Coakley, The New Asceticism, p.122
  147. Coakley, The New Asceticism, p.96
  148. Coakley, The New Asceticism, p.97
  149. Drury, The Danger of Words, p.114
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