In The Really Hard Problem , Owen Flanagan maintains that accounting for meaning requires going beyond the resources of the physical, biological, social, and mind sciences. He notes that the religious myths and fantastical stories that once "funded" flourishing lives and made life meaningful have been epistemically discredited by science but nevertheless insists that meaning does exist and can be fully accounted for only in a form of systematic philosophical theorizing that is continuous with science and does not need to (...) invoke myth. He sees such a mode of thought as a new, empirical-normative science, which he labels eudaimonistic scientia , that evades the disenchantment produced by natural scientific accounts of meaning. I argue that such an empirical-normative science does not provide us with a scientific account of meaning but is itself simply another way of making sense of one's life that is open to scientific explanation. Such an explanation will be deflationary in the sense that it presumes no greater scheme of things for meaning beyond the span of human existence (collective and possibly individual) but not disenchanting in that it does not explain away the flourishing lives human persons and communities create for themselves. (shrink)
Donald Wiebe critically examines the pervasive assumption that theology is a form of religious thought that is both compatible with and supportive of religious faith. The irony, he argues, is that theology is in fact detrimental to religion and the religious way of life.
Sinceits founding by Jacques Waardenburg in 1971, Religion and Reason has been a leading forum for contributions on theories, theoretical issues and agendas related to the phenomenon and the study of religion. Topics include (among others) category formation, comparison, ethnophilosophy, hermeneutics, methodology, myth, phenomenology, philosophy of science, scientific atheism, structuralism, and theories of religion. From time to time the series publishes volumes that map the state of the art and the history of the discipline.
In a careful re-evaluation of the works of Lévy-Bruhl, Wiebe establishes the coherence of Lévy-Bruhl's classic distinction between primitive, or mythopoeic, and scientific thought, maintaining that religious thinking is mythopoeic in nature while theology -- which thinks about religion -- is related to modern Western scientific thinking. The pre-Socratic philosophers, Wiebe shows, developed a form of rational thought radically different from the religious-mythopoeic thought that preceded it. Although Plato was concerned with recovery of the pre-philosophic wisdom of ancient Greece, he (...) attempted this within a rational, philosophic structure. Wiebe argues that Christian thought, originally mythopoeic, changed rapidly under the influence of Hellenistic culture, and that the Platonization of Christianity introduced an element of philosophic thinking which would eventually undermine its mythopoeic essence. In clarifying the nature of religious thought and its relation to religion, Wiebe provides a sound basis for the development of a general theory of religion. While of particular interest to philosophers, theologians, and students and scholars of the study of religion, Wiebe's study draws upon sources as diverse as philosophy, history, anthropology, and sociology and will therefore interest anyone involved in these disciplines as well. (shrink)
The methodological implications of the motives that underlie the study of religion and, more particularly, the academic study of religion have not, I think, received the attention they deserve. They are of the utmost importance, however, for the differences of motivation between the study of religion legitimated by the modern university and the scholarly study of religion that antedates it, sponsor radically different, if not mutually exclusive, approaches to its study. In asking why the study of religion is undertaken as (...) an academic exercise – which is, after all, a comparatively recent development – I shall be attempting to delineate, to some extent, the relation of motive to method in what has come to be called Religious Studies. In clarifying that relation I hope also to show that Religious Studies – that is, the academic study of religion – must be a vocation in very much the same sense that Max Weber speaks of science as a vocation and, therefore, that such study must take as merely preliminary a ‘religious studies’ that is concerned only to ‘understand’ rather than to explain the phenomenon of Religion. (shrink)
The early essays in this volume proceed on the assumption that a compatability system can be fashioned that will not only bring religious knowledge claims into harmony with scientific claims, but will also show there to be a fundamental similarity of method in religious and scientific thinking. They are not, however, unambiguously successful. Consequently Wiebe sets out in the succeeding essays to seek an understanding of the religion/science relationship that does not assume they must be compatible. The examination, in the (...) final analysis, reveals a fundamental contradiction in the compatability system building programme which suggests that religious belief is beyond legitimation. (shrink)