Wittgensteinian descriptivism and concepts of self-renunciation

Thomas, Emyr Vaughan (1997). Wittgensteinian descriptivism and concepts of self-renunciation. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e175


Part I presents a systematic presentation of what is termed 'the Wittgensteinian position', broken down into eight theses, each of which is thought of as intrinsic to self-renouncing faith.

Part II consists of three case-studies examining the conception of self-renouncing faith found in the works of Francois Mauriac, Georges Bernanos, and Patrick White. Distinct divergencies from many of the Wittgensteinian theses are unearthed.

Part III traces the roots of each of the Wittgensteinian theses to their sitz im leben in a strain of neo-Romanticism centred on securing independence of the world. Connections are made to Tolstoy, Emerson, Rilke, Trakl and Von Hofmannsthal.

Part IV argues that each case study in Part II runs counter to the Wittgensteinian position in one of three ways:

(1) not having some theses which are proposed by the Wittgensteinian position to be intrinsic to self-renouncing faith;

(2) deeming some theses which are proposed by the Wittgensteinian position to be intrinsic to self-renouncing faith as either (2.1) not inherently selfrenouncing or (2.2) actually incompatible with the understanding of selfrenunciation exemplified in the case-study;

(3) having a different logical structure to its model of self-renouncing belief from that of the Wittgensteinian position.

Points (1), (2) and (3), and particularly points (2.1) and (2.2), suggest that self-renouncing faith is not the unitary phenomenon assumed by the Wittgensteinian position. The casestudies represent three distinct models of self-renouncing faith. These models have no place for the self-concern that characterises the Weltbild of self-concern with which the Wittgensteinian position is impregnated.

There follows a broad discussion of the implications of the above findings for the Wittgensteinian position, including Wittgenstein's status as a religious thinker, the way a descriptivist methodology should be understood, the blanket exclusion of the metaphysical from religious belief and the over-simple portrayal of religious belief as a conceptual orientation to the world.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions