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Klein, Terrance W. Wittgenstein and the Metaphysics of Grace.

KLEIN, Terrance W. Wittgenstein and the Metaphysics of Grace. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. xxi + 173 pp. Cloth, $90.00--In this new monograph, Terrance W. Klein proposes to shine a Wittgensteinian philosophical light on the theological concept of grace. Wittgenstein, in addition to his logical, semantic, mathematical, ethical, aesthetic, and methodological preoccupations, is well-known as having religious theoretical interests, obsessions and struggles of faith.

Klein recognizes that Wittgenstein nowhere addresses the concept of faith. He proposes nevertheless to adapt and apply a later Wittgensteinian perspective to what he speaks of in the volume's title at least as the "metaphysics" of grace. This phrase is nowhere properly explicated, although there is ample discussion of topics in metaphysics directly or indirectly related to grace, especially in Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine, Martin Luther, Bernard Lonegran, Karl Rahner, David Burrell, and Romano Guardini. After the first chapter, Wittgenstein is only brought on stage for an occasional cameo reference to a somewhat formless exegesis of theological writers on the concept of grace.

Klein interprets Wittgenstein as a kind of linguistic idealist. "If [early] Wittgenstein is understood correctly," Klein remarks, "one can't really say that he maps the world. Rather, the world itself is a map, a map of reality. It's our 'picture' of reality. Remember, the world is not defined as that which is. It's our mental appropriation of whatever there is. 'The world is the totality of facts, not of things'" [Tractatus 1.1] (p. 5). However, facts (Tatsachen) in the Tractatus are by no means "mental appropriations." They are objective copresences of atomic facts (Sachverhalten), which are in turn objective ensembles of mind-independent simple objects. Finally, how can Klein maintain that for the early Wittgenstein "the world is not defined as that which is" when on the same page he quotes the very first sentence of the Tractatus, proposition 1, stating that "The world is everything that is the case"? Later, Klein with similar amnesia proclaims that "In Wittgenstein's Tractatus, the world was made up of objects, corresponding to ostensively defined words ..." (p. 107). This flatly contradicts Tractatus 1.1, which Klein quotes above only to misconstrue.

Discussing the later Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigtions, Klein adds, "Certainly there are extra-mental entities ... So how does Wittgenstein differ from previous realists? Why is the 'linguistic turn' such an imperative shift? Because Wittgenstein reverses the noetic sequence. It is not: mind encounters reality and names that reality through the use of language. It is rather that usage and language are convolving; together they create what is reality for us" (p. 17). Not surprisingly, Klein offers no passages from Wittgenstein's writings in order to support this interpretation. Nowhere does Wittgenstein use anything remotely resembling Klein's unexplained phrase apparently denoting a historicized "reality for us." Throughout the book, Klein inexplicably reads into Wittgenstein an evidently muted Sartrean-Heideggerean account of reality.

The connection between Klein's interpretation of Wittgenstein's concept of meaning and the theology of grace is described in Klein's Preface, where he writes: "My thesis is simple enough. When Christians use the word 'grace', they reference within language the point of contact between humanity and the divine. I want to argue that on the human side of this valence lies an act of perception, one made possible because language itself is the 'place of contact' between God and humanity" (p. xii). Klein in the end offers no clear thesis either of what might be meant by the idea of grace, or of how Wittgenstein's language game semantics might be invoked either to help understand the role of grace in religious life or to disabuse theological thinkers of the expectation that divine grace should somehow be comprehensible. The vital link that Klein's discussion of grace requires is that reality be language-dependent, so that the gaze or act of perception can constitute an otherwise unexplained 'point of contact' between God and humanity. He alleges that Wittgenstein is committed to the linguistic determination of reality, and that therefore Wittgenstein might be receptive to an account of grace in which to perceive is to experience God's grace.

Unfortunately for Klein, his "simple" thesis fails philosophically in several ways. Even limiting our horizon to Christian thinking, we cannot reasonably consider grace to be merely "the point of contact between humanity and the divine." For there would be such a point of contact within Christian doctrine also for interactions between God and human beings that no one could plausibly regard as matters of grace, such as the exercise of divine wrath as in Old Testament times or on Judgment Day, when grace, as many Christians believe, is deliberately withheld from the unfaithful or unrepentant? Why, additionally, suppose that we experience grace whenever we perceive? It is an attractive proposition, in some ways, because it implies God's extraordinary generosity and bountiful bestowal of grace. We have grace whenever we experience God's world. But why does perception in particular represent the point of contact between God and human beings that constitutes grace? Why not, without being facetious, breathing? Consider Genesis 2.7, for example, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

There are two main ways of pursuing philosophy of religion. One can study philosophy and try to master its vocabulary, argument forms, history, research paradigms and techniques, and then apply these skills to special topics in religion, trying to understand the concepts of faith, grace, salvation, redemption, divine wrath, creation out of nothing, looking critically at efforts to rationally demonstrate the existence and nature of God, and the like. Or one can combine preconceived religious ideas and commitments with philosophical methods for the sake of advancing one's own religious journey and possibly furthering an agenda of religious evangelism. The first approach in my view alone deserves to be called philosophy of religion, the latter is perhaps better identified as philosophical theology or apologetics. Klein's book, which evidently belongs in the second category, provides an interesting window on a range of controversies concerning the theology of grace that is sure to enliven continuing dialogue and philosophical speculation about the problem of understanding divine grace.--Dale Jacquette, Universitat Bern.
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Author:Jacquette, Dale
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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