Wittgenstein influenced a generation of philosophers and theologians, with works such as Fergus Kerr’s Theology After Wittgenstein showing the relevance of Wittgenstein’s philosophy for contemporary questions in theology. Nature as Guide follows many of the insights of this earlier generation of Wittgenstein influenced scholars, to bring Wittgenstein into conversation with contemporary Catholic moral theology.
The first four chapters of the book provides a reading of key themes in Wittgenstein’s philosophy, and draw among others on G.E.M. Anscombe to situate Wittgenstein in relation to the Platonic tradition. Understanding the relationship between grammar, metaphysics and nature is central to this tradition and these themes are examined through an account of Wittgenstein’s philosophical development. These four chapters also provides a critical perspective on Wittgenstein’s thought, engaging with the criticisms of Wittgenstein offered by philosophers such as Rhees Rush and William Charlton.
Chapter five lays the groundwork for a dialogue between Wittgenstein and moral theology. Firstly, by examining how open Wittgenstein’s philosophy is to dialogue with theology, and secondly through proposing the use of Servais Pinckaers’ definition of moral theology to structure the conversation developed in subsequent chapters.
Pinckaers’ definition is based upon St Thomas Aquinas’ presentation of the principles of human acts in the Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae and the final three chapters focus on the question of human acts and their basis in human nature. The reading of Wittgenstein developed in the first part of the book is brought into dialogue with the tradition of Catholic moral theology represented by Pinckaers and other students of St Thomas, such as Anscombe, Josef Pieper, Herbert McCabe, Jean Porter and Alasdair MacIntyre. The book finishes with McCabe’s account of the transformation of human nature through God’s Word, showing how Wittgenstein’s understanding of human practices can shed light on the life of grace.
"Goodill's treatment of Wittgenstein is quite good, and any chance of bringing him into sustained, thoughtful contact with moral theology, particularly as it needs therapy about langauge, action and nature, is an opportunity that should be grasped."~Charles Pinches, University of Scranton
"This is a very worthwhile venture into the porosities possible between Wittgensteinian thought, metaphysics, and moral theology. We are offered the singular stress of an author, intimately familiar with his themes, who helps us see Wittgenstein’s positive promise for an appreciative understanding of the need for metaphysics, with important implications for moral theology. This venture succeeds admirably.... The work is lucid and judicious in its handling of seemingly diverse areas, with an intelligent, wise voice that brings forth confidence in the reader. I found it engaging, illuminating. and fruitful. I recommend this book highly."~William Desmond, author of The Voiding of Being: The Doing and Undoing of Metaphysics in Modernity
"This beautifully written book brings the basic principles of the moral theology of St. Thomas Aquinas as expounded over the years by Servais Pinckaers into what many may find a surprisingly productive and illuminating relationship with the version of Wittgenstein’s appeal to human nature in resolving philosophical perplexities, an interpretation that stems from insights by G.E.M. Anscombe, his friend and chosen translator. Provocative and controversial no doubt, completely at home in the best current literature about both Aquinas and Wittgenstein, entirely free of the sort of polemics that often distorts criticism and indeed sometimes also admiration of the two, David Goodill makes a landmark contribution to Catholic moral theology in the Anglophone world."~Fergus Kerr, OP, Blackfriars, Edinburgh
"This clear, nuanced, and carefully argued discussion inaugurates a new phase in the Dominican tradition of putting Aquinas and Wittgenstein into productive dialogue."~Stephen Mulhall, Oxford University
"It has been said, by G.E.M. Anscombe, that Wittgenstein is a philosopher's philosopher, David Goodill shows that Wittgenstein is also a theologian's philosopher.... This book is clear and precise, luminous; it is a considerable contribution to what could be called ‘Wittgensteinian Thomism.’"~Roger Pouivet, Université de Lorraine, Institut Universitaire de France
"Thoroughly engaging throughout, Nature as Guide comprises a tour de force through Wittgenstein's thought on metaphysics and nature and an application of this thought to moral theology in the Catholic tradition. The book will, however, be of interest to a much wider range of readers than this perhaps suggests: anyone interested in Wittgenstein's philosophical anthropology or religious thought, or in the relationship between ideas about nature and morality, would gain a lot from reading the book."~Religious Studies Review
"Goodill offers a lucid and often compelling account of Wittgenstein’s ability to reaffirm human nature dialectically by reconciling inner and outer. He is commendably clear about the limits of his argument. In light of Goodill’s argument, virtue ethicists both philosophical and theological would do well to reconsider Wittgenstein as a friendly interlocutor in their efforts to understand human nature and human goods."~Heythrop Journal