An Amateur’s Guide to Reading Wittgenstein

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Wittgenstein in 1950.

If you’ve met me, you probably know I enjoy reading, writing, and talking about Ludwig Wittgenstein. It’s one of those strange things where a system of thought and the personality behind it combine such that reading him becomes a matter of compulsion. Strangely enough, however, I’ve only ever had one week of reading for one class where Wittgenstein was a set reading. He’s a name that lurks in the background, popping up in introductions, in comparative studies, in his unspoken influence on recent thinkers, or in the explicit rejection of what he’s supposed to represent. But he himself rarely appears on syllabi outside of introductory surveys. Continue reading “An Amateur’s Guide to Reading Wittgenstein”

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How is Biblical Literalism a Secular Phenomenon?

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Mosaic from the Papal Basilica of San Paulo Florida le Mura, used as the cover to Agamben’s Kingdom and the Glory.

This post is also published on the Oriel Theology blog.

A good while ago, I put together a post arguing for the secular nature of Biblical Literalism. I’m still fond of the post, and I stand by the argument. But one thing it lacks is an definition of what it means to be secular, beyond a crude presumption that secular phenomena originate outside of thought proceeding from God’s nature.

In any case, I just finished working through Giorgio Agamben’s The Kingdom and the Glory. Right at the start of the text he gives an account of secularization which I think makes sense of how Biblical Literalism is a secular phenomenon, apart from my initial presumption. So, here’s a quick post describing that account and that making sense, followed by a few other thoughts. (To be clear, I’m thinking throughout of Biblical Literalism as I have encountered it in person, not as it may or may not have been worked out in the academy.) Continue reading “How is Biblical Literalism a Secular Phenomenon?”

Wittgenstein in Middle-School: Homily

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Solute, by Julian Vadas

The prayer for homily last week was about being many and one—so, it was set up to motivate an appreciation of diversity in unity. Since Wittgenstein’s approach to this is one of my main philosophical interests, I tried to give a homily that managed to communicate some of the more practically important conclusions that can be gleaned from his writing in a way that 60 middle schoolers might enjoy at 8:30 in the morning. I figured the attempt would be interesting, and at the least provide an answer to the question, ‘why should we care about conceptual analysis of theology?’ In any case, it’s basically an attempt to apply several aspects of my account of Wittgenstein’s religious philosophy. Enjoy! (The actual homily was obviously a bit different, but it stuck to the text for the main part.) Continue reading “Wittgenstein in Middle-School: Homily”

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

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This 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 continues and corrects Pseudo-Denys’ project in The Divine Names. I am first going to argue that The Divine Names should be interpreted as attempting to render human thought transparent to the divine by relativizing our concepts. This fails because the concept of ‘unity’ is not relativized. I will then argue that Wittgenstein does relativize unity in a similar way and for similar religious reasons to Pseudo-Denys. As such, he can be read as continuing and correcting the Pseudo-Dionysian project. Continue reading “Wittgenstein’s Religious Philosophy (in light of Pseudo-Denys)”

Broaching Impossible Thinkers

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Incomprehensible therapy, courtesy of Existential comics

This post is written for the Oriel Theology blog, which can be found here.

It’s that time of year again—students are anticipating the start of the school year, whilst we’ve already started in America. And it’s almost guaranteed that the start of a new year will bring us into contact with new thinkers, new writers. Continue reading “Broaching Impossible Thinkers”

The Secular Nature of Biblical Literalism

This post originally appeared on the Saint Hilda’s House blog, here. I have expanded on what I think should be meant by ‘secular’ here.

Introduction

imageI think I’m correct in saying that, in public consciousness at least, the greatest controversies between Christianity and secular society seem to come down to arguments between the Bible and humanity’s own discovered truths. I’m thinking here of such frequently rehearsed debates as Genesis vs science, or Paul/The Torah vs movements for LGBTQ and gender equality. To paint in the broadest of strokes, in both cases we have on the one side the faithful who represent the Biblical view, on the other scientists and social activists representing human reason and compassion. Continue reading “The Secular Nature of Biblical Literalism”