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Faith and Philosophy

Volume 17, Issue 2, April 2000

Michael Scott
Pages 170-190

Wittgenstein and Realism

It is clear from both his writings and lectures on religion that Wittgenstein thought that there are many differences in the standards and forms of justification informing religious and scientific discourses. However, the evidence of such differences can be used to support two quite different and conflicting lines of argument. On one apparently realist argument, the differences are taken to show that religious discourse describes different kinds of fact (or offers different kinds of description) to scientific discourse; on the other seemingly antirealist argument, the differences show that religious discourse does not have a descriptive function at all. This paper evaluates these arguments both as contributions to the debate concerning religious realism and as interpretations of Wittgenstein.

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