Thursday, March 11, 2010

Introduction to Wittgenstein's Secular Demonology

Is this the sense of belief in the Devil: that not everything that comes to us as an inspiration comes from what is good?

I wonder what moved Wittgenstein to venture this formulation. It seems calculated to make viable an integration of pious caution with the bold impiety of the age. The atheist who believes in demons would be like the good architect according to Wittgenstein's earlier remark:
Today the difference between a good and a poor architect is that the poor architect succumbs to every temptation and the good one resists it.

But what is the point of treating the moderation of a secular progressiveness as "belief in the Devil," even when the Devil has nothing to do with it? Is this a secularization theory, claiming that even hard-nosed materialists may secretly still believe in the devil? Or a theory of consequential equivalence, claiming only that we might as well say they believe? Or is there yet another possibility, that "Devil" never meant anything other than the indeterminate source of inspirations which do not come from what is good, and that the secular caution of the type of the good architect only makes this indeterminacy obvious?