Lugwig Wittgenstein On God

Lugwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), one of the founders of analytic philosophy

According to Encyclopedia Britannica (1997), “Wittgenstein is the greatest philosopher of the 20th century.”

1.  “To believe in God means to understand the question about the meaning of life.

To believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter.

To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Arthur Allen Cohen and Paul Mendes-Flohr, Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, New York, Free Press, 1988, 567).

2.  At one time, Wittgenstein had begun each day by repeating the Lord’s prayer. Concerning this prayer, once he told his friend Maurice Drury:

 

“It is the most extraordinary prayer ever written. No one ever composed a prayer like it. But remember the Christian religion does not consist in saying a lot of prayers, in fact we are commanded just the opposite. If you and I are to live religious lives it must not just be that we talk a lot about religion, but that in some way our lives are different.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections, editor – Rush Rhees, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1981, 109).

3.  The diaries that Wittgenstein kept during the First World War (in which he was a volunteer) reveal that he often prayed, not that he should be spared from death, but that he should meet it without cowardice and without losing control of himself:

 

“How will I behave when it comes to shooting? I am not afraid of being shot but of not doing my duty properly. God give me strength! Amen!

If it is all over with me now, may I die a good death, mindful of myself. May I never lose myself! Now I might have the opportunity to be a decent human being, because I am face to face with death. May the spirit enlighten me.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View?, London, Routledge, 1993, 8-9).

4. To Drury he said:

“It is my belief that only if you try to be helpful to other people will you in the end find your way to God.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View?, London, Routledge, 1993, 20).

5.  In 1929 Wittgenstein wrote:

“If something is good it is also divine. In a strange way this sums up my ethics. Only the supernatural can express the Supernatural.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View?, London, Routledge, 1993, 16).

6.  Here is a comparison of the Gospels with Paul’s letters:

“The spring which flows quietly and transparently through the Gospels seems to have foam on it in Paul’s Epistles. Or, that is how it seems to me. Perhaps it is just my own impurity which sees cloudiness in it; for why shouldn’t this impurity be able to pollute what is clear? But to me it’s as if I saw human passion here, something like pride or anger, which does not agree with the humility of the Gospels. As if there were here an emphasis on his own person, and even as a religious act, which is foreign to the Gospel.

In the Gospels – so it seems to me – everything is less pretentious, humbler, simpler. There are huts; with Paul a church. There all men are equal and God himself is a man; with Paul there is already something like a hierarchy; honours and offices. That is, as it were, what my nose tells me.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View?, London, Routledge, 1993, 16).

7. “WITTGENSTEIN: Drury, what is your favourite Gospel?

DRURY: I don’t think I have ever asked myself that question.

WITTGENSTEIN: Mine is St. Matthew’s. Matthew seems to me to contain everything. Now, I can’t understand the Fourth Gospel. When I read those long discourses, it seems to me as if a different person is speaking than in the synoptic Gospels. The only incident that reminds me of the others is the story of the woman taken in adultery.

… At one time I thought that the epistles of St. Paul were a different religion to that of the Gospels. But now I see clearly that I was wrong. It is one and the same religion in both the Gospels and the Epistles.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections, editor – Rush Rhees, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1981, 177-178).

8.  “The Christian religion is only for one who needs infinite help, therefore only for one who feels an infinite need. The whole planet cannot be in greater anguish than a single soul. The Christian faith – as I view it – is the refuge in this ultimate anguish.

To whom it is given in this anguish to open his heart, instead of contracting it, accepts the means of salvation in his heart.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View?, London, Routledge, 1993, 17).

9. “Christianity is indeed the only sure way to happiness.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Monk 1991, 122).

10. “Christianity is not a doctrine; I mean, not a theory about what has happened and will happen with the human soul, but a description of an actual occurrence in human life. For ‘consciousness of sin’ is an actual occurrence, and so are despair and salvation through faith.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View?, London, Routledge, 1993, 16).

11. “Religious faith and superstition are entirely different. One of them springs from fear and is a kind of false science. The other is a trusting.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View?, London, Routledge, 1993, 18).

12. Wittgenstein’s biographer and friend, Norman Malcolm wrote:

“Wittgenstein’s mature life was strongly marked by religious thought and feeling. I am inclined to think that he was more deeply religious than are many people who correctly regard themselves as religious believers.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View?, London, Routledge, 1993, 21-22).

13.  Two years before his death, Wittgenstein said to Drury:

 

“I have had a letter from an old friend in Austria, a priest. In it he says he hopes my work will go well, if it should be God’s will. Now that is all I want: if it should be God’s will.

Bach wrote on the title page of his Orgelbuechlein, ‘To the glory of the most high God, and that my neighbour may be benefited thereby.’  That is what I would have liked to say about my work.” (Wittgenstein, as cited in Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections, editor – Rush Rhees, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1981, 181-182).

Credit: Nobelists.net

Advertisements