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The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion$
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William J. Wainwright

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195138092

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195138090.001.0001

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Religious Epistemology

Religious Epistemology

The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion

Nicholas Wolterstorff (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

While acknowledging the importance of sophisticated reformulations of some of the traditional arguments for “natural and revealed” religion, the bulk of this chapter expounds and then compares and contrasts the other two main developments over the past half century in the epistemology of religious belief: Wittgensteinian philosophy of religion, and Reformed epistemology. What unites these two movements is that both insist that religious belief does not typically have its origin in the attempt to explain things, both insist that religious belief typically consists of a more or less comprehensive perspective on reality rather than consisting of beliefs about God simply added on to one’s other beliefs, and both insist that religious belief does not have to be rationally grounded in order to be acceptable. What especially differentiates the two movements is the difference of their polemical partners—Enlightenment evidentialism for the Reformed epistemologists versus logical positivism for Wittgenstein—and the fact that the Reformed epistemologists are resolutely realist concerning God whereas most of the Wittgensteinians are apparently not theistic realists. In closing, I point out important similarities between some remarks of early Heidegger and the shared positions of the Wittgensteinians and the Reformed epistemologists.

Keywords:   Enlightenment, epistemology, evidentialism, Heidegger, logical positivism, Reformed epistemology, religious belief, Wittgenstein

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