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, Irvine
  • Vicente Sanfélix Vidarte, Valencia
  • Robert Vinten, Lisbon



  • Prof. Guy Axtell, Radford
  • Prof. Martin Kusch, Vienna
  • Prof. Alois Pichler, Bergen
  • Prof. Charles Travis, London


Associated PhD Student:

  • Ricardo N. Henriques





All Events

Frank Zenker, 12 March 2019, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Why replication is your problem, too"

March 12, 2019

Steven Gouveia, 13 Feb, 15:00 to 16:00

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | "Predictive Processing and…

February 13, 2019

Erich H. Rast, 5 Feb 2019, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Multidimensional ‘better than’"

February 05, 2019

Manuel Garcia Carpintero's talk - 14 December, 2PM - Auditorio Aud. 001, Edif Torre A, Piso -1

Singular Reference in Fictional Discourse?

December 14, 2018

Javier Gonzalez de Prado Salas, 12 Dec, 15:30 to 16:30

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | "Regulation, selection and…

December 12, 2018

Chrysi Rapanta, 4 Dec 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Bewilderment as a predictor of different…

December 04, 2018

The Mechanistic Approach in Biology and Cognition (Inter-University workshop), 9h-19h, 20th Nov

An Inter-University Workshop held on the 20th of November organised…

November 20, 2018

Marcin Lewiński. 6 Nov 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Speech act pluralism in polylogues"

November 06, 2018

Felipe Oliveira, 26 October 2018, 11h, Room I&D 006

Reason-giving as an expressive speech act

October 26, 2018

Value Seminar Talk by Rosalice Pinto, 16:00, Sala B1 1.15

Talk by Rosalice Pinto (CEDIS) at 16 o'clock, Sala B1…

October 26, 2018

Erich Rast, 28 September 2018, 11h, Sala 0.06ID

Value Seminar Talk by Erich Rast (IFILNOVA): Reasons for the…

September 28, 2018

Book Launch: Schizophrenia and Common Sense: explaining the relation between madness and social values with Thomas Fuchs

Schizophrenia and Common Sense: explaining the relation between madness and…

June 25, 2018

Workshop: Misunderstanding, disagreement, manipulation

The idea of the workshop is to explore the blurred…

June 22, 2018

Katharina Stevens, 18 June 2018, 14h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Argument-Design through Role-Taking"

June 18, 2018

Workshop: Communication and metaphors for health. An educational challenge

The workshop discusses the importance of communication and metaphors in…

June 01, 2018

Inês Hipólito, 30th May 11:00 - 12:00

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"Perception as Cognition: Beyond…

May 30, 2018

Dima Mohammed, 28 May 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Proposals for the examination of networked…

May 28, 2018

Jakob Krebs, 16 May, 15h to 16h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"Pictorial Models, Imagination, and…

May 16, 2018

Mehmet Ali Üzelgün, 14 May 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Level, focus, and force of argumentative…

May 14, 2018

Virtualism and the Mind: Rethinking Presence, Representation and the Self

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning Workshop "Virtualism and the Mind"

April 23, 2018

João Leite, 16 April 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "An Online Social Debating System"

April 16, 2018

Klaus Gärtner, 20 Mar, 2018, 14.30h to 15.30h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"4E Cognition: Radical or…

March 20, 2018

Javier Gonzalez de Prado Salas, 19 March 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Reasoning as a self-doubter"

March 19, 2018

Erich Rast, 16.3., Sala 1.05 ID, 16h

Value Seminar Session with Erich Rast, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 16, 2018

Value Seminar Marcin Lewiński, Sala 105 ID 16h

Value Seminar with Marcin Lewiński, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 09, 2018

Value Seminar Dima Mohammed, Sala 105 ID 16h

Value Seminar with Dima Mohammed, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 02, 2018

The 1st European Conference on Argumentation

International Conference | Argumentation and Reasoned Action

June 09, 2015


Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa