Wittgenstein on Frazer and Explanation

Keith Dromm


Wittgenstein offers two general criticisms of Frazer in his “Remarks on Frazer’s
Golden Bough.” The first attacks the plausibility of Frazer’s explanations for
religious and magical practices; the second attacks the very effort to explain such
practices. Some commentators have understood Wittgenstein to be offering an
alternative account of religious and magical practice, but the proposed accounts are
difficult to reconcile with Wittgenstein’s second criticism of Frazer. They take
Wittgenstein to be proposing either an expressivist or instinctive account of these
practices. I explain the purpose of the remarks that suggest these accounts and show
how they serve a purpose that is consistent with Wittgenstein’s eschewal of


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; explanation; religion; magic; description; perspicuous presentation

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