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Contemplating Religious Forms of Life: Wittgenstein and D.Z. Phillips Paperback – Jul 26 2012
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??Contemplating Religious Forms of Life is a pleasure to read. It is articulate, fair, and shows impressive familiarity with the relevant literature. Mikel Burley clearly brings out the value of D. Z. Phillips' influential Wittgensteinian approach to the philosophy of religion without ever denying or ignoring its weaknesses. This is a sympathetic and reliable guide to an enormous and controversial body of work.'? ?Duncan Richter, Professor of Philosophy, Virginia Military Institute, USA, and author of Wittgenstein at His Word
??A well written book with a very clear understanding of Phillips' work. Burley criticizes Phillips' work while also explaining and appreciating the broad outlines of a Wittgensteinian approach to the study of religion. Students and scholars of religion will welcome this lucid and engaging assessment of the Swansea tradition of Wittgensteinianism. An excellent piece of writing.'? ?Patrick Horn, Visiting Professor, Claremont McKenna College, USA, and author of Gadamer and Wittgenstein on the Unity of Language
?Burley undertakes his task with energy and a pleasing style. He displays a thorough grasp of recent discussions concerning the impact both Wittgenstein and Phillips have had on philosophy of religion, and he engages well with those discussions.? ?Brian R. Clack, University of San Diego, Notre Dame Philosophical Review
?Mikel Burley's book is highly insightful and should interest readers seeking to better understand the relevance of Wittgenstein and Phillips to philosophy of religion and some of the most important contemporary debates surrounding them.? ?Christopher Hoyt, Western Carolina University, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion
?Burley has done us a great service in helping us to read [Wittgenstein and Phillips] more carefully. I highly recommend this book.? ?David Rozema (University of Nebraska-Kearney), American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly (Vol 88, No. 1)
About the Author
Mikel Burley is Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Leeds, UK. He is author of three books, including Contemplating Religious Forms of Life: Wittgenstein and D. Z. Phillips (2012), and co-editor of Language, Ethics and Animal Life: Wittgenstein and Beyond (2012).
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D. Z. Phillips was best known for his attempts to cull a coherent "perspicuous view" of religion from those scattered remarks by Wittgenstein. Phillips spent much of his long philosophical career trying to perfect his Wittgenstein-influenced view of religion, and defend it from critics. The latter often entailed trying to make his view plausible to more conventional thinkers who thought the entire project to be a preposterous non-starter.
Mikel Burley can be said, with some caveats, to be following in Phillips' footsteps, advocating, clarifying and seeking to improve upon Phillips' non-standard take on religion. In this Burley does very well in a number of respects. he makes Phillips' view clear, defends it from some weaker objections, and develops it further. I am sympathetic to what Burley tries to do in this book. I was especially impressed by his various remarks about the debate between a new wave of philosopher "atheists" - Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennet among them - and their philosophical "theist" opponents. Burley boldly, and I suspect correctly, suggests that it is a tempest in a teapot - irrelevant bickering about a counterfeit of religion, properly conceived.
Wittgenstein's remarks on religion certainly do point in a direction that is antithetical to the basic assumptions that underlie standard philosophy of religion. Phillips, I suspect, had a good understanding of some of what Wittgenstein was trying to say. Burley may well understand Phillips' views as well or better than Phillips himself did. He is skillful, methodical and reasonably clear (considering it is, at bottom, Wittgenstein's thoughts that are at issue) in doing so. For those interested in these subjects, Burley offers, what is for the most part a solid contribution and a good read.
I myself have some doubts about the Phillips/Burley view. In simplified form, I think their interpretation points in the right direction and that they offer a good approximation of part of what Wittgenstein was up to. I suspect there is more - perhaps another dimension - to Wittgenstein's thoughts that must be taken into account. That said, I think Burley's has made a notable contribution to what is admittedly a narrow field, but one which I find fascinating and compelling. Burley defends an unpopular view, but he does so very well and deserves to be taken seriously.
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