Title of the project:  Epistemology of Religious Belief: Wittgenstein, Grammar and the Contemporary World


         PI: Nuno Venturinha (email: nventurinha.ifl@fcsh.unl.pt)
         Co-PI: Sofia Miguens, Porto (email: smiguens@letras.up.pt )


                     Grant number: PTDC/FER-FIL/32203/2017
                     Duration: 2018-2021
                     Funding agency: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
                     Budget: 208,623.07 EUR


Project's description:


This project explores a Wittgensteinian framework in epistemology by focusing on religious belief. In particular it concentrates on uses of the concepts of belief, certainty, conviction, doubt, holding for true, knowledge, opinion and proof as they are dealt with in the author’s later thought. Although Wittgenstein himself claimed not to be “a religious man” (yet having a religious point of view upon the world, which most of the times he identified with ethics), he offers us plenty of conceptual instruments for dealing with religious belief. We have selected some specific themes for understanding his grammatical approach as well as its sources and implications. Our starting point is the idea that philosophy of religion is a privileged field to observe the complex relations between Wittgenstein's early and later thought. From a Tractarian view of epistemology as philosophy of psychology to the remarks on hinge propositions in On Certainty, Wittgenstein’s views of epistemology changed and so did his approach to religious belief. If in the Tractatus Wittgenstein tried to formulate a mystical approach, which he connected with a peculiar form of transcendental solipsism, the mature view on religious belief that we find in the post-1929 writings reveals an author concerned with language as it is employed in our daily lives. In order to understand such change we will consider the idea of a “natural religion”, which exposes, with no theological apparatus, essential aspects belonging to human nature. This is exemplified in the robust criticism of J. G. Frazer’s intellectualist descriptions and interpretations of the rituals of primitive societies. We will also consider the question whether the notion of “form(s) of life” in the Philosophical Investigations, a key for understanding “culture”, is meant as a single one, proper to humanity, or rather as a diversity of “forms of life”. Since the rejection of historicity defended by Wittgenstein in matters of religion is strongly reminiscent of J. H. Newman’s Grammar of Assent, we will look at this text as a possible source for Wittgenstein’s conception of grammar. On Certainty is clearly very rich in implications for an epistemology of religious belief and Duncan Pritchard’s “quasi-fideism”, anchored to the work of the later Wittgenstein, has important implications for understanding the nature of religious disagreements, something that is vital in our contemporary world. Existential scepticism as a threat, from a Wittgensteinian standpoint, will also be explored taking Ernest Sosa’s virtue perspectivism as a reference. Since naturalizing approaches to religious belief carried out under the banner of “naturalism” raise the question of its meaning, we will finally assess how they relate to Wittgenstein’s viewpoint on cultural phenomena. One wider ambition of the project is to defend a Wittgensteinian approach to religion, epistemologically informed, that may open the way to interfaith dialogue.



Members of the project:

  • Modesto Gómez Alonso, Edinburgh
  • Alberto Arruda, Lisbon
  • Alexandra Dias Fortes, Lisbon
  • Duncan Pritchard, UC Irvine
  • Vicente Sanfélix Vidarte, Valencia


Project fellows:

  • Ricardo N. Henriques (Predoctoral Researcher)
  • Robert Vinten (Postdoctoral Researcher)



  • Gorazd Andrejč, Cambridge/Maribor
  • Guy Axtell, Radford
  • Thomas D. Carroll, Hong Kong
  • Martin Kusch, Vienna
  • Alois Pichler, Bergen
  • Charles Travis, King's College London
  • Michael Williams, Johns Hopkins




All Events

Jos Hornikx, 11 December 2020, 11h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | Argumentation schemes put to a test:…

December 11, 2020

David Plunkett, Rachel Sterken, & Tim Sundell, 13 November 2020, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | Generics and Metalinguistic Negotiation

November 13, 2020

Klaus Gaertner, September 30, 2020

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | The Untold Story…

September 30, 2020

2nd ERB Project Workshop: Wittgenstein, Nature, and Religion

2nd ERB Project Workshop

July 29, 2020

Dina Mendonça 8 July, 2020

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | Why the Situated…

July 08, 2020

Dave Ward, 12 June 2020, 11h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | Friendly Sensorimotor Generalists

June 12, 2020

Gloria Andrada (w/Robert Clowes), 3 June, 2020, 15.00h to 16.00h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | Transparency in Extended…

June 02, 2020

Alice Crary, 8 May 2020, 11h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | Dehumanization and the Question of Animals

May 08, 2020

Alan Cienki, 17 April 2020, 11h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | Pragmatic functions of gesture on different…

April 17, 2020

Catarina Dutilh Novaes, 13 March 2020, 11h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | The role of trust in argumentation

March 13, 2020

Two-day Masterclass on Wittgenstein’s Epistemology of Religion

ERB Masterclass 2020

February 26, 2020

Fabrizia Garavaglia, 19 February, 2020, 12.00h to 13.00h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | A situated approach…

February 19, 2020

Florian Franken Figueiredo, 14 Feb 2020, 11h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | Philosophy for Children and the Socratic…

February 14, 2020

Abraham Sapién, 22 January, 2020, 12.00h to 13.00

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | The Structure of…

January 22, 2020

DISARGUE Workshop 19-20 Dec 2019


December 19, 2019

Hili Razinsky, 11 December, 2019, 12.00h to 13.00h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | Interpersonal communication and…

December 11, 2019

Herman Cappelen, 6 December 2019, 11h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | Conceptual Engineering: Under our Control?

December 06, 2019

Dima Mohammed, 15 Nov 2019, 11h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Discursive depoliticisation: From argumentation to explanation"

November 15, 2019

Rob Vinten, 6 Nov, 2019, 12.00h to 13.00h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | Wittgenstein, Buddhism, and…

November 06, 2019

Vito Evola, 11 October 2019, 11h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "More than words: Worldmaking and stancetaking…

October 11, 2019


Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa