JOHN KENNETH DOWNEY, Marquette University


The work presented here is an exercise in philosophical or foundational theology. It addresses issues of criteria and method in contemporary theological discourse. The study focuses on the revisionist theology of David Tracy and the influential work of the later Wittgenstein. The dissertation is an attempt to outline how and when Wittgenstein might be of use in theology. Chapter one locates the reader in the overall business of fundamental theology. A discussion of contemporary models for theological thinking indicates the status questionis. A critique of the revisionist model as drawn in David Tracy's own work is proposed as the occasion for a study of Wittgenstein's import. Chapter two is an exposition of David Tracy's foundational theology as put forth in Blessed Rage for Order. Tracy concentrates on developing criteria for meaning and truth in doing theology. The common criterion which allows for a public discussion of religion is found to be experience. This experience is disclosed in a phenomenology and validated by a metaphysics. Chapter three presents a hermeneutic for reading and appropriating the perspective of the later Wittgenstein. There is a discussion of the work of the early Wittgenstein. Chapter four indicates the perspective of the later Wittgenstein by focusing on his command to look at language, his use of the language-game, and his attention to grammar. The "Wittgensteinian shift" is radically non-foundational and non-theoretical. Wittgenstein calls for a linguistic tropism, not a new philosophy of language. Chapter five makes explicit some specific Wittgensteinian criticisms of Tracy suggested by the preceding chapters. It is argued that a greater attention to language can lead to greater clarity in theological discourse. Confusions and oversights in Tracy's work are noted. The study ends with the question of whether and in what sense there can be a Wittgensteinian foundational theology. Contemporary theological inquiry would do well to affirm the revisionist openness to critique and dedication to a public, methodologically self-conscious, and linguistic theology. The chapter shows that Tracy's search for foundations is a misplaced effort, though his search for clarity in theological investigations is not. David Tracy's search for "foundations" is better abandoned. There is no particular "Wittgensteinian theology" to put in its place, but various Wittgensteinian revisions and imperatives may prove useful in generating and sustaining genuine theological conversation.

Recommended Citation

DOWNEY, JOHN KENNETH, "WITTGENSTEIN AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF THEOLOGY" (1983). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8317275.