Critically assess Wittgenstein’s belief that language games allow religious statements to have meaning. (35 marks)
In his early work, Tractatus Logico, Wittgenstein identified a link between language and reality and put forward the ‘picture theory of language.’ In this theory, he stated language could only be meaningful if one had a mental image which corresponded to it. However this theory faced religious criticism as it meant that discussions surrounding God were both meaningless and impossible. Consequently, Wittgenstein published a second book, Philosophical Investigations. He developed the ‘language game’ theory where he stated that the rules of language game A could not be applied to the rules of language game B, C, etc. He saw each language game as a form of life which had its own individual set of rules, any form of criticism from a participant of another language game would be insignificant as their rules cannot be applied to the rules of any other language game. We cannot meaningfully partake in a language game without understanding the rules of the game. Similarly one cannot engage in a meaningful discussion about God without knowing what God is.
The meaning of language is found through its use of its individual form of life rather than its description of any reality. Each language game uses words in a particular and internally coherent way. No language is true nor false for Wittgenstein. So, as each language game is individual, perhaps a statement can have meaning without existing in the ‘real world’. For example, the meaning of God is universally understood even by non-believers. This is beneficial towards religious language as religious language is often imprecise, idealistic and lacking in scientific evidence. Additionally, as each language game is seen as a ‘form of life’ it cannot be subject to criticism nor is it subject to the burden of proof.
However one could argue that understanding the meaning of God is not as simple as merely...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document