Western science has generally addressed human nature in its most negative aspects-the human potential for violence, the genetic and biochemical bases for selfishness, depression, and anxiety. In contrast, Tibetan Buddhism has long celebrated the human potential for compassion, and is dedicated to studying the scope, expression, and training of compassionate feeling and action. Science and Compassion examines how the views of Western behavioral science hold up to scrutiny by Tibetan Buddhists. Resulting from a meeting between the Dalai Lama, leading Western (...) scholars, and a group of Tibetan monks, the volume includes essays exploring points of difference and overlap between the two perspectives. Opening with the story of the extraordinary meeting in Dharamsala India, the book then takes the reader through the best of what Western behavioral scientific tradition has to say about altruism, ethics, empathy, and compassion-looking at how different elements of this science are challenged by cross-cultural examination. In a series of essays, the participating scientists and scholars ask not only how Tibetan and Western understandings of emotion differ, but how Western behavioral science might broaden and enrich its understanding of human nature to do justice to the study of human emotions. An essay by the Dalai Lama reveals his views on human nature, offering a useful exposition of the Buddhist point of view. Also included are direct excerpts from the dialogues themselves, which are filled with intellectual intensity, moments of convergence, and frequent humor. This extraordinary cross-cultural dialogue about our most essential natures will appeal to scientists, scholars, and the educated lay reader. (shrink)
Since the turn of the millennium Jürgen Habermas's contributions to social and political theory have been increasingly turning toward matters of religious and theological relevance. This article weighs up the import and coherence of Habermas's recent reflections on religious belief and its relationship to reason and modernity in Western philosophical culture. At the forefront of the analysis stands Habermas's conception of appropriate “limits” and “boundaries” between the domains of knowledge and faith and the possibility and desirability of a process of (...) “discursive translation” of contents of religious language into forms of secularized, universalizing moral argument. The article defends the thesis that Habermas's project of a rapprochement between contents of religious language and norms of scientific thinking founders on its attempt to reconcile too many different, conceptually centrifugal tendencies. However, these difficulties and inconsistencies in Habermas's recent thinking remain instructive and ought to continue to engage the interest of scholars concerned today with the question of how far the philosophy of the social sciences can and cannot accommodate commitments to theism in the practice of research. (shrink)
Abstract. The placebo effect these days is no longer merely the insubstantial, subjective response that some patients have to a sham treatment, like a sugar pill. It has been reconceived as a powerful mind-body phenomenon. Because of this, it has also emerged as a complex reference point in a number of high-stakes conversations about the metaphysical significance of experiences of religious healing, the possible health benefits of being religious, and the feasibility of using double-blind placebo-controlled trials to investigate the efficacy (...) of prayer. In each of these conversations, the placebo effect is always pointing toward some larger issue, serving some larger agenda. The agendas, though, tend to pull in different directions, leading to a situation that feels at once fractured and stalemated. This essay reviews the main areas of interest, and proposes some specific issues where humanistic scholars of religion in particular might be able to introduce constructive and creative new perspectives. (shrink)
This article explores the much neglected work of the German philosopher and cultural theorist Hans Blumenberg, a figure still relatively little known in the Anglophone world. The thesis is defended that Blumenberg's conception of The Legitimacy of the Modern Age (1966) offers valuable resources for addressing some important questions about the philosophical self-understanding of the modern social sciences in relation to theological and religious sources of thought and language. The article begins with an assessment of the contemporary relevance of Blumenberg's (...) critique of the idea of modern scientific culture as a merely `secularized form' of theological thinking. This critique is then compared with Blumenberg's account of the relationship of theoretico-scientific inquiry to mythological consciousness in his second major philosophical monograph of 1979, Work on Myth. The article concludes with a range of reflections on ways in which Blumenberg's work helps us understand how certain explanatory constructs and devices employed in the modern social sciences can be said to incorporate, assimilate, and at the same time critically transform figures of thought and language that display a mythic, religious and theological context of historical origination, provenance or genealogy. (shrink)
The article appraises Habermas's recent writings on theology and social theory and their relevance to a new sociology of religion in the `post-secular society'. Beginning with Kant's Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, Habermas revisits his earlier thesis of the `linguistification of the sacred', arguing for a `rescuing translation' of the traditional contents of religious language through pursuit of a via media between an overconfident project of modernizing secularization, on the one hand, and a fundamentalism of religious orthodoxies, on (...) the other. Several questions, however, must be raised about this current project. How far can Habermas engage adequately with religious ideas of the absolute while still retaining certain broadly functionalist theoretical premises? Is the notion of an ongoing secularization process in the `post-secular society' a contradiction in terms? What appropriate `limits and boundaries' are to be accepted between the domains of knowledge and faith, and how strictly can they be drawn? How coherent is the notion of `methodological atheism', and how consistently can Habermas pursue the project of a `religious genealogy of reason'? (shrink)
The collapse of the Weimar Republic remains central to the history of the 20th century and to contemporary debates on 'classical modernity' and its Europe-wide crisis in the wake of the First World War. The present issue of Thesis Eleven focuses on three dimensions of the Weimar crisis: the experience of fundamental societal crisis and closure and its diagnostic power in relation to the rise of fascist movements; the cognitive and normative resources that sought to work against this crisis-ridden sense (...) of closure; and third, the degree to which these counter tendencies anticipate postmodern interrogations of the premises of classical modernity. (shrink)
Criticism of ‘the West’ and of ‘Western civilization’ in Germany in the early 20th century is generally most familiar today as a conservative force of the age. It is well-known that at the outbreak of war in August 1914 a longstanding German complex of resentment of the Western European powers exploded in a call to arms. Yet it needs to be stressed that not all prominent German bourgeois writers endorsed a wholly militant reading of the motif of German national-cultural ‘protest (...) at the West’. By 1918 an array of voices could come to discern another kind of salient work of contention that refused apology for any kind of violent Kulturkrieg. The thesis defended in this article is that in sophisticated humanistic writing of the era, a German mood of antagonism with the West represents not a regressive ideology but the productive and intelligent outcome of a longstanding preeminence of philosophical questioning in German academic life since the later 19th century about European world pictures and their claims to universal validity on the stage of world history. A range of statements are shown here to anticipate debates of the present day about ‘late’, ‘reflexive’ or ‘post-Eurocentric’ conditions of Western modernity. (shrink)
Despite differences between them, Gadamer and Habermas both argue that in order to understand the practices and beliefs of other cultures and periods of history fully and critically, researchers should enter into imaginary ‘dialogue’ with their subjects about the nature of the world. Objectivity of understanding in their view consists not in prior suppression of our contemporary preconceptions and interests but in a process of actively seeking agreement with others over appropriate world-views and normative beliefs. This paper challenges Gadamer's and (...) Habermas' thesis on three fronts. It argues that, the notion of 'dialogue' with past personages and abstract social totalities is not clear, even when qualified as 'imaginary'; to derive normative Verständigung from descriptive Verstehen is not conceptually well-founded, nor pertinent to the thematic goals of research; and however deeply interpreters remain tied to the culture of their upbringing, they are not thereby licensed to incorporate value-judgments into the research process. Rather than providing any methodological norms for research, dialogue ought best be seen as characterising certain moral and political responsibilities of scientists in relation to civil society and the public sphere. (shrink)
Jacques Derrida's vision of 'messianicity' in his book Specters of Marx and the essay 'Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of “Religion” at the Limits of Reason Alone' has been widely appreciated by scholars. Yet little fundamentally critical engagement appears to have been made with some important historical-sociological questions raised by Derrida's ideas in these texts. Drawing on earlier reference-points in 20th-century critical theory and sociology, the present article argues for some objections to Derrida's presentation of the significance of religious (...) messianism in modern Western social and political thought. The central claim defended is that Derrida invidiously marginalizes some important non-messianistic idioms, sources and traditions of thinking about religious history and its bearing on contemporary social and political self-understanding. (shrink)
Gadamer and Habermas both argue that some earlier theorists of interpretation in the human sciences, despite recognizing the meaningful character of social reality, still succumb to objectivism because they fail to conceive the relation of interpreters to their subjects in terms of cross-cultural normative “dialogue.” In particular, Gadamer and Habermas claim that the most prominent nineteenth-century philosopher of the human sciences, Wilhelm Dilthey, fell prey to a misleading Cartesian outlook which sought to ground the objectivity of interpretation on complete transcendence (...) of the interpreter’s present cultural and historical situation. This article challenges Gadamer’s and Habermas’s claim by arguing that new research on nineteenth-century hermeneutic thought reveals Dilthey to be much more aware of the reflexive, present-centered nature of historical research than they maintain and further that their own “dialogical” model of interpretation suffers from notable obscurities which Dilthey’s work itself helps expose. (shrink)
This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the leading topics, theories and debates in modern social theory. Fourteen chapters have been written by specialists in the field, providing up-to-date guidance on the full sweep of the modern sociological imagination, from the legacies of the classical figures of Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Simmel and Parsons to the work of cutting-edge contemporary theorists.
The article explores a range of motifs in the writing of the Austrian émigré novelist and essayist Hermann Broch, that point to themes in the sociological thought of Max Weber. Although explicit citations of Weber’s name appear rarely in Broch’s writings, the thematic and stylistic contents of Broch’s first novel of 1930-1 The Sleepwalkers indicate a plethora of ways in which the Austrian author engages with ideas he can only have first assimilated by means of a more or less conscious (...) programme of reading in texts by Weber and by other thinkers of the same milieu and generation, including Wilhelm Dilthey and Heinrich Rickert. Most notably in the ‘Excursus on the Disintegration of Values’, in Part III of The Sleepwalkers, Broch elaborates what might be seen as a certain poetic extension of the Weberian vision of modernity in terms of rationalization, disenchantment and the fragmentation of value-spheres. (shrink)
The article examines Randall Collins's magnum opus, The Sociology of Philosphies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change in relation to a number of discourses bearing on the sociology of knowledge and the sociology of philosophies, from Hegel and 19th-century historicism to Mannheim, Foucault, Bourdieu and Gillian Rose's Hegel Contra Sociology. The article explicates Collins's dual theory of intellectual networks and institutional conflict as factors in the explanation of intellectual change. The article interprets Collins's work as a classic application of Durkheimian (...) sociological principles to the analysis of knowledge. However, the article argues that Collins is less successful in accounting for the internal normative motives of inquiry and the problem of what Hegel saw as the claims of reason in history based on the orientation to truth. (shrink)
It is widely felt that the sorts of ideas current in modern laterality and split-brain research are largely without precedent in the behavioral and brain sciences. This paper not only challenges that view, but makes a first attempt to define the relevance of older concepts and data to present research programs.
Understanding recreational experiences is a longstanding research tradition and key to effective management. Given the complexities of human experience, many approaches have been applied to study recreational experience. Two such approaches are the experiential approach (based in a positivistic paradigm) and emergent experience (based in an interpretive paradigm). While viewed as being complementary, researchers have not offered guidance for incorporating the approaches into a common model of recreational experience. This study utilized longitudinal, qualitative data to examine aspects of recreational experience (...) posited by these two approaches. Results provided a framework for synthesizing across the two approaches. Respondents had clear pre-activity expectations, and most respondents realized their expected outcomes. This supports the experiential approach. Of the 48 activity narratives, 27 experienced something unexpected, and 45 described process-oriented, intrinsic motivation, suggesting evidence of emergent and unique characteristics specific to an individual’s realization of recreational experience. This supports the application of the emergent experience approach to understand how individuals create meaning from recreational engagements. The paper proposes a model for integrating results of the two approaches. While not advocating for any specific approach, the findings can serve as an example of building a holistic model of the outdoor recreation experience. The purpose of the model is to allow for a more complete understanding of how individuals create recreation experiences, more complete documentation of the benefits of outdoor recreation for both researchers and managers, and better synthesis across studies. (shrink)
In 1977 a German literary scholar, Astrid Lange-Kirchheim, published an article announcing an astonishing discovery: credible evidence exists to suggest that Kafka's famous disturbing short story, `In the Penal Colony', published in 1919 but first written in 1914, echoes and reworks, in several of its key images and turns of phrase, elements of an essay published in 1910 in the German literary magazine, Die neue Rundschau, bearing the title `Der Beamte' (`The Civil Servant', or `The Official' or `The Functionary') by (...) Alfred Weber, younger brother of Max Weber. Most Kafka scholars today accept Lange-Kirchheim's findings and recognize the importance of `Der Beamte' as at least one crucial reference point for Kafka's writing. Yet little wider awareness of the connection seems to exist among historians of sociology and other scholars of the history of the human sciences. This article comprises a summary of Lange-Kirchheim's analysis together with a complete annotated translation of `Der Beamte' by Alfred Weber in English. (shrink)
Wilhelm Dilthey's late nineteenth-century doctrine of `re-experiencing' the thoughts and feelings of the actors whose lives the social scientist seeks to understand has been criticized by several commentators as entailing a `naïve empathy view of understanding' in which social scientists are said to transport themselves into other cultural contexts in a wholly uncritical, unreflective manner. This article challenges such criticisms by arguing that Dilthey's writings on hermeneutics amount to a highly sophisticated defence of the role of psychological feeling in understanding (...) that should still be of interest to contemporary social theorists. Beginning with a review of the reception of Dilthey's work by Max Weber and the Neo-Kantians, the article goes on to enumerate a number of significant parallels between Dilthey's insights and more recent approaches in social and cultural theory. (shrink)
Recent writing in social theory has seen a renewed preoccupation with questions of religion, secularization and civilizational difference. This article reappraises the work of one early twentieth-century thinker in relation to these issues: the German historical theologian and close colleague of Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch. The article concentrates particularly on Troeltsch’s late writings on Europe and ‘Europeanism’. The thesis is defended that Troeltsch offers an important gloss on Weber’s famous assertion of the ‘universal significance and validity’ of occidental rationalism. Troeltsch (...) offers a thicker, more concretized reading of Weber’s statement that serves as a precursor to contemporary thinking about ‘multiple modernities’ and also as a fund of trenchant counter-responses to the claims of recent post-colonial critics about Eurocentrism in western social science. Troeltsch’s writings give us one example among many of a current of cosmopolitan reflexivity in European social thought between the wars that avoided both nationalism and chauvinism, on the one hand, and nihilism and obscurantism, on the other. (shrink)
There has been considerable interest in recent years in German social thinkers of the Weimar era. Generally, this has focused on reactionary and nationalist figures such as Schmitt and Heidegger. In this book, Austin Harrington offers a broader account of the German intellectual legacy of the period. He explores the ideas of a circle of left-liberal cosmopolitan thinkers who responded to Germany's crisis by rejecting the popular appeal of nationalism. Instead, they promoted pan-European reconciliation based on notions of a shared (...) European heritage between East and West. Harrington examines their concepts of nationhood, religion, and 'civilization' in the context of their time and in their bearing on subsequent debates about European identity and the place of the modern West in global social change. The result is a groundbreaking contribution to current questions in social, cultural and historical theory. (shrink)
The articles brought together in this double-length section of the Annual Review of Theory, Culture & Society focus on two intertwined strands of the thought of Georg Simmel, both of them neglected until recent years. A first bears on what might be called Simmel’s metaphysics of the social, or what he himself once called ‘sociological metaphysics’. A second strand centres on the renewed contemporary relevance of Simmel’s ideas about money economies and their relation to precarious individual life-situations in an age (...) of global economic turbulence. Current sensibilities in the wake of global economic crisis and the demise of some of the more euphoric sociologies of globalization of the last two decades provide a timely setting for a reappraisal of Simmel’s thinking. With the completion in 2012 of the Suhrkamp edition of Simmel’s collected works, Simmel’s themes need to be explored more deeply, including particularly his thinking about lived experience, transcendence, death, fragmentary worlds of value, and allegorical representation. This issue of the journal showcases some of the latest scholarly work and foregrounds several pivotal primary pieces unavailable in English until now. (shrink)
This introduction to Georg Simmel’s essay ‘On Art Exhibitions’ sketches the context and relevance of some striking points of commonality to Walter Benjamin’s much better-known ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ of 1936, as well as to Simmel’s own subsequent essay on ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’ of 1903. The introduction is followed by a complete English translation.
The text comprises a translation of Georg Simmel’s article, ‘Europa und Amerika: eine weltgeschichtliche Betrachtung’, first published in Das Berliner Tagblatt in July 1915, with a short introduction by the translator. The article is the counterpart to Simmel’s better-known essay ‘The Idea of Europe’, first published in March 1915, reprinted in 1917 in lightly revised form in Simmel’s collection of texts on Germany and the First World War, Der Krieg und die geistigen Entscheidungen. In both essays, Simmel develops a vision (...) of the future of Europe after the destruction of the war as a fragile cultural totality that both encompasses national identities and at the same time transcends them. (shrink)