Doubt as methodology and object in the phenomenology of religion

Brown, Malcolm (2011) Doubt as methodology and object in the phenomenology of religion. M/C Journal, 14 (1).

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Abstract

The Holy Grail in the phenomenology of religion (and, to a lesser extent, the sociology of religion) is a definition of religion that actually works, but, so far, this seems to have been elusive. Classical definitions of religion—substantive (e.g. Tylor) and functionalist (e.g. Durkheim)—fail, in part because they attempt to be in three places at once, as it were: they attempt to distinguish religion from non-religion; they attempt to capture what religions have in common; and they attempt to grasp the 'heart', or 'core', of religion. Consequently, family resemblance definitions of religion replace certainty and precision for its own sake with a more pragmatic and heuristic approach, embracing doubt and putting forward definitions that give us a better understanding (Verstehen) of religion. In this paper, I summarise some 'new' definitions of religion that take this approach, before proposing and defending another one, defining religion as non-propositional and 'apophatic', thus accepting that doubt is central to religion itself, as well as to the analysis of religion.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Authors retain copyright. Deposited in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/
Depositing User: Dr Malcolm Brown
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Arts - School of Humanities and Communication
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2011 05:21
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2014 02:40
Uncontrolled Keywords: phenomenology of religion, definitions of religion, apophasis
Fields of Research (FOR2008): 16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220499 Religion and Religious Studies not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO2008): C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950405 Religious Structures and Ritual
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950404 Religion and Society
E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society
C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950406 Religious Traditions (excl. Structures and Rituals)
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/19220

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