The ‘Language and World’ of Religion

Anat Biletzki


Of the several interpretative families of Wittgenstein’s thought on religion—religion as “mystical,” religion as experiential faith, religion as an attitude, religion as expression, etc.—the fideistic reading has received, it seems, the brunt of both supportive and critical discussion. Within this school there is an unintentional meandering between seeing religion as a language game and seeing it as a form of life, coupled with a general perception that these constructs manifest a similar, or even identical, understanding of what religion is. This article attempts to unravel the ensuing questions arising from the association of religion with language games and with forms of life. It asks whether there is a difference between describing religion as a language game (Words) and describing it as a form of life (World?). Showing that these are not the same, it goes on to inquire if one construct is more appropriate for the portrayal of religion than the other. The suggested reply is that the former (religion as a language game)is a misconstrued parallelism while the latter (religion as a form of life) provides profound insights into what Wittgenstein says about religion—and into religion itself. Beyond these distinctions, however, there is added value in viewing religion as a form of life (and even as a language game); not for the regularly cited uniqueness and singularity of the religious “point of view,” but rather for its public, behavioral, and communal aspects.


20th century philosophy; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; culture; form of life; language game; religion; society

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