A Confusion of the Spheres

Reply Sat 24 Apr, 2010 02:58 am
A Confusion of the Spheres:
Kierkegaard & Wittgenstein on Religious Belief
By Genia Schonbaumsfeld
ISBN: 978-0-19-922982-6
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Genia Schonbaumsfeld's Confusion of the Spheres is a well-written account of Kierkegaard's influence on Wittgenstein's philosophy and conception of religious belief, as well as a defence against popular interpretations of the two, including those by James Conant and D.Z. Phillips.

In the first chapter, Schonbaumsfeld traces Kierkegaard's substantial direct influence on Wittgenstein using new translations of letters, journals papers, and other documents and testimonials as well as combat dated theories which say Kierkegaard had little influence on Wittgenstein. In the second chapter, she attempts to outline what Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein's conceptions of philosophy are, finding that they are both looking for authenticity in life.

In the third chapter, she takes on the daunting task of combating the New Wittgensteinian interpretation of both the Tractatus and Kierkegaard's Postscript as therapeutic nonsense, and instead seeing both works as forwarding positive theses about the nature of language. The fourth chapter constitutes the meat of the book, explaining how, given the history and philosophy thus far, Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein conceive of religious belief: as something that requires a person to be already sensitive to such belief.

She treats the two philosophers respectfully and draws on the works of Norman Malcolm, Donald Davidson, and Richard Swinburne to help her arguments along.

Overall, this book represents the most thorough and up to date research so far on comparing the two thinkers. This book contains several points I was already quite familiar with regarding Kierkegaard's philosophy of religion and ethical theory. I was intrigued to read Wittgenstein's arguments and she makes it easy to show the similarities and affinities with Kierkegaard's arguments.
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