Religion, relativism, and Wittgenstein's naturalism

Bob Plant

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Wittgenstein’s remarks on religious and magical practices are often thought to
harbour troubling fideistic and relativistic views. Unsurprisingly, commentators
are generally resistant to the idea that religious belief constitutes a ‘language-game’ governed by its own peculiar ‘rules’, and is thereby insulated from the critical assessment of non-participants. Indeed, on this fideist-relativist reading, it is unclear how mutual understanding between believers and non-believers (even between different sorts of believers) would be possible. In this paper I do three things: (i) show why the fideist-relativist reading of Wittgenstein is not wildly implausible (Sections 1–2); (ii) argue that, despite its initial plausibility, this reading fails to take into account Wittgenstein’s naturalism (Sections 3–4); and (iii) explain what sort of naturalism this is, and how it sheds light on Wittgenstein’s remarks on religious belief (Sections 5–6).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-209
Number of pages33
JournalInternational Journal of Philosophical Studies
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • religious belief
  • relativism
  • fideism
  • naturalism
  • commonality
  • primitive behaviours


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