Wittgenstein, Quasi-Fideism, and Scepticism

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In the discussion of certainties, or ‘hinges’, in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty some of the examples that Wittgenstein uses are religious ones. He remarks on how a child might be raised so that they ‘swallow down’ belief in God (§107) and in discussing the role of persuasion in disagreements he asks us to think of the case of missionaries converting natives (§612). In the past decade Duncan Pritchard has made a case for an account of the rationality of religious belief inspired by On Certainty which he calls ‘quasi-fideism’. Pritchard argues that religious beliefs are just like ordinary non-religious beliefs in presupposing fundamental arational commitments. However, Modesto Gómez-Alonso has recently argued that there are significant differences between the kinds of ‘hinges’ discussed in Wittgenstein’s On Certainty and religious beliefs such that we should expect an account of rationality in religion to be quite different to the account of rational practices and their foundations that we find in Wittgenstein’s work. Fundamental religious commitments are, as Wittgenstein said, in the foreground of the religious believer’s life whereas hinge commitments are said to be in the background. People are passionately committed to their religious beliefs but it is not at all clear that people are passionately committed to hinges such as that ‘I have two hands’. I argue here that although there are differences between religious beliefs and many of the hinge-commitments discussed in On Certainty religious beliefs are nonetheless hinge-like. Gómez-Alonso’s criticisms of Pritchard mischaracterise his views and something like Pritchard’s quasi-fideism is the correct account of the rationality of religious belief.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalTopoi-An international review of philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2022


  • Quasi-fideism
  • Certainty
  • Religious belief
  • Hinge-epistemology
  • Scepticism
  • Rationality


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