Michael Miller deposited Kaplan and Wittgenstein: Atheism, Phenomenology and the use of language in the group Philosophy on Humanities Commons 9 months, 3 weeks ago
The attempts of Mordecai Kaplan and Ludwig Wittgenstein at reforming Jewish theology and analytic philosophy respectively share some important traits. While Kaplan’s scientifically respectable “atheistic” Judaism sought to reinterpret theological principles in line with a modern-day materialist vision of the cosmos, Wittgenstein’s reductionist anti-metaphysical philosophy attempted to show that language often leads thought astray by concealing unjustified presuppositions. Both thinkers were involved in a process of cleaning language – of removing terms from common use in order to refine, redefine, and strip away layers of misleading mythology so that they can be returned, purified, to everyday use. This paper will examine their thought side by side in order to demonstrate the similarities between their thought as well as what they can teach us about the role of metaphysics in deconstructing the theism-atheism binary. I will argue that there is a current of immanence which unites their efforts, flattening the world into a phenomenal-experiential plane where religious terminology is still retained as crucial for the exercise of meaningful human life but is understood to relate to the immediate lived experience. As a result of this de-ontologising, religion becomes a matter of ideology rather than objective truth and ethics becomes paramount.