a1 Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
Much has been made of the Kierkegaardian flavour of Wittgenstein's thought on religion, both with respect to its explicit allusions to Kierkegaard and its implicit appeals. Even when significant disparities between the two are noted, there remains an important core of de facto methodological agreement between them, addressing the limits of theory and the dispelling of illusion. The categories of ‘nonsense’ and ‘paradox’ are central to Wittgenstein's therapeutic enterprise, while the categories of ‘paradox’ and the ‘absurd’ are central to much of Kierkegaard's attempt (pseudonymous and non-pseudonymous) to dispel religious illusion. Writing of how the ‘urge to thrust against the limits of language’ yields ‘nonsense’, Wittgenstein explicitly appealed to Kierkegaard: ‘Kierkegaard, too, recognized this thrust and even described it in much the same way (as a thrust against paradox)’.1 I want to consider whether Kierkegaard's category of paradox of the absurd is assimilable to Wittgenstein's view of nonsense and paradox. I shall argue that a consideration of Wittgenstein's view of paradox can highlight contrasting strands in Kierkegaard's writings on religious faith, strands which take paradox more or less strictly – in particular, it can clarify several different opinions concerning the status of religious claims. My exploration will bring to the fore some implications of the attempt to make room, in the religious employment of language, for a ‘higher understanding’ of truths which we are said to be able to grasp but cannot express.