The Question of Methodological Naturalism


The traditions and institutions that we call religions abound with references to the supernatural: ancestral spirits, karma, the afterlife, miracles, revelation, deities, etc. How are students of religion to approach the behaviors, doctrines, and beliefs that refer to such phenomena, which by their very nature are supposed to defy the methods of empirical research and the theories of historical scholarship? That is the question of methodological naturalism. The Question of Methodological Naturalism offers ten thoughtful engagements with that perennial question for the academic study of religion. Contributors include established senior scholars and newer voices propounding a range of perspectives, resulting in both surprising points of convergence and irreconcilable differences in how our shared discipline should be conceptualized and practiced.

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Jason N. Blum, Ph.D. (2009), University of Pennsylvania, is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Davidson College. He is the author of Zen and the Unspeakable God (Penn State Press, 2015), and various articles concerning methodology in religious studies and topics at the intersection of philosophy and religion.
"This volume, The Question of Methodological Naturalism, represents a wide range of approaches to methodological naturalism in the study of religion. (...) One of the major advantages of the book is its open and clear-cut polemical thrust: as the editor Jason Blum notes, there simply is no solution to the problem of naturalism on which scholars generally agree."
- Aleksei Rakhmanin, University of Helsinki, in Reading Religion, July 26, 2021.
Contents Acknowledgements
Notes on Contributors
The Question of Methodological Naturalism
emsp;Jason N. Blum
Naturalism as Method and Metaphysic: A Comparative Historical Taxonomy
emsp;Daniel L. Pals
Incapacitating Scholarship: Or, Why Methodological Agnosticism Is Impossible
emsp;Craig Martin
Orthodoxy Is Not Scientific: a Phenomenological Critique of Naturalism
emsp;Jonathan Tuckett
Naturalisms, Ineffability Claims, and Symbolic Meanings
emsp;Nancy Frankenberry
Natural Ineffability and the Scandal of Language
emsp;Jason N. Blum
In Defense of a Naturalistic Approach to Religion
emsp;Robert A. Segal
Who's Afraid of Reductionism? Methodological Naturalism and the Academic Study of Religion
emsp;Edward Slingerland
What Can the Failure of Cog-Sci of Religion Teach Us about the Future of Religious Studies?
emsp;Ivan Strenski
Must a Scholar of Religion Be Methodologically Atheistic or Agnostic?
emsp;Michael A. Cantrell
A Better Methodological Naturalism
emsp;Kevin Schilbrack
Anyone interested in religion and the study of it, and particularly those with an interest in philosophical or methodological issues associated with the investigation of religion.
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