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The Truth Behind Practices : Wittgenstein, Robinson Crusoe and Ecclesiology

Insole, Christopher J.



The Wittgensteinian claim that meaning is immanent to 'practices', influential in contemporary theology, is capable of two readings: the first takes `practice' to refer to the social activities of actual communities; the second implies no more than a way of going on that is in principle communicable. The first reading is palpably unattractive, both philosophically and exegetically; the second reading is much less ambitious, providing a plausible critique of empiricist theories of meaning. I suggest that it is the first implausible reading that is often at work in theological appropriations of Wittgenstein, such as we find in Stanley Hauerwas. I fill-out this claim by exploring — with an ear to Scripture — the implications for ecclesiology of adopting either of the two readings. I conclude by raising the alarm about two dangers: of being too Wittgensteinian in some respects, and not Wittgensteinian enough in others.


Insole, C. J. (2007). The Truth Behind Practices : Wittgenstein, Robinson Crusoe and Ecclesiology. Studies in Christian Ethics, 20(3), 364-382.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 1, 2007
Deposit Date Jan 27, 2009
Journal Studies in Christian Ethics
Print ISSN 0953-9468
Electronic ISSN 1745-5235
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 3
Pages 364-382
Keywords Church, Community, Ecclesiology, Hauerwas, Practices, Truth, Theology, Wittgenstein.