Rationality and the Study of Religion

Routledge
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Does rationality, the intellectual bedrock of all science, apply to the study of religion?
Religion, arguably the most subjective area of human behaviour, has particular challenges associated with its study. Attracting crowd-healers, conjurers, the pious and the prophetic alongside comparativists and sceptics, it excites opinions and generalizations whilst seldom explicitly staking out the territory for the discussions in which it partakes. Increasingly, scholars argue that religious study needs to define and critique its own field, and to distinguish itself from theology and other non-objective disciplines. Yet how can rational techniques be applied to beliefs and states of mind regarded by some as beyond the scope of human reason? Can these be made empirically testable, or comparable and replicable within academic communities? Can science explicate religion without reducing it to mere superstition, or redefine its truth in some empirical but meaningful way?
Featuring contributions from leading international experts including Donald Wiebe, Roger Trigg and Michael Pye, Rationality and the Study of Religion gets under the surface of the religious studies discipline to expose the ideologies beneath. Reopening debate in a neglected yet philosophically significant field, it questions the role of rationality in religious anthropology, natural history and anti-scientific theologies, with implications not only for supposedly objective disciplines but for our deepest attitudes to personal experience.
'Interesting and important. Religion has long been associated with irrationality, both by its defenders and its critics, and the topic of rationality has been unjustly neglected The book certainly deserves to be widely circulated.'
Greg Alles, Western Maryland College
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About the author

Jeppe Sinding Jensen is Associate Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Aarhus, and is co-editor of Religion, Tradition and Renewal (Aarhus, 1991). Luther H. Martin holds a professorship in religion at the University of Vermont, and is the author of Hellenistic Religions (1987) and editor of Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault (1988). He has published widely on theory and method in the study of religion including the cognitive science of religion, and recently co-edited The Academic Study Of Religion During The Cold War: East And West (2001).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Routledge
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Published on
Sep 13, 2013
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9781136480249
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / General
Religion / Philosophy
Social Science / Sociology of Religion
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This is the first book-length critical analysis in any language of Hans Blumenberg’s theory of myth. Blumenberg can be regarded as the most important German theorist of myth of the second half of the twentieth century, and his Work on Myth (1979) has resonated across disciplines ranging from literary theory, via philosophy, religious studies and anthropology, to the history and philosophy of science.

Nicholls introduces Anglophone readers to Blumenberg’s biography and to his philosophical contexts. He elucidates Blumenberg’s theory of myth by relating it to three important developments in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German philosophy (hermeneutics, phenomenology and philosophical anthropology), while also comparing Blumenberg’s ideas with those of other prominent theorists of myth such as Vico, Hume, Schelling, Max Müller, Frazer, Sorel, Freud, Cassirer, Heidegger, Horkheimer and Adorno. According to Nicholls, Blumenberg’s theory of myth can only be understood in relation to the ‘human sciences,’ since it emerges from a speculative hypothesis concerning the emergence of the earliest human beings. For Blumenberg, myth was originally a cultural adaptation that constituted the human attempt to deal with anxieties concerning the threatening forces of nature by anthropomorphizing those forces into mythic images.

In the final two chapters, Blumenberg’s theory of myth is placed within the post-war political context of West Germany. Through a consideration of Blumenberg’s exchanges with Carl Schmitt, as well as by analysing unpublished correspondence and parts of the original Work of Myth manuscript that Blumenberg held back from publication, Nicholls shows that Blumenberg’s theory of myth also amounted to a reckoning with the legacy of National Socialism.

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