The Meaning of Believing: A Wittgensteinian Critique

Derek E. Montgomery

In this essay, Derek Montgomery examines how the concept of believing is meaningfully talked about in ordinary language. It is commonly assumed the word "believe" refers to the inner experience of believing and this experience is what the word means. This assumption is, arguably, flawed because: (a) for any word to have meaning, a community must agree on proper and improper ways to use it, and (b) social agreements of this nature are not possible if a word's meaning inheres in the private experience it is referring to. For Christians, the Church serves the necessary communal function of imparting standards and rules establishing how members can use the word "believe" meaningfully. Mr. Montgomery is Associate Professor of Psychology at Bradley University.

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Last Updated: March 30, 2002
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