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Editor: Aaron W. Hughes
Theory and Method are two words that cause considerable consternation in the academic study of religion. Although everyone claims to be aware of and to engage them, the fact of the matter is that they remain poorly understood. Some see the terms as irritants that get in the way of data interpretation and translation. Others may invoke them sporadically to appear in vogue but then return quickly and myopically to their material and with little concern for the larger issues that such terms raise. To contribute to these debates, the present volume reproduces select articles from Method and Theory in the Study of Religion (MTSR) from the first 25 volumes of the journal, and allows a group of younger scholars to introduce and review them, asking if the issues raised are still relevant to the field.
Author: Aaron W. Hughes

Abstract

Recent theorizing about religion has largely shifted from the cultural to the biological domain. This, however, comes with a cost. To explore this in greater detail, the present essay is divided into three parts: first, I seek to reclaim and redefine what usually passes for the “phenomenology” of religion in the writings traditionally associated with likes of Gerardus van der Leeuw, often by way of Mircea Eliade. I seek to take an initial, tentative step in this reclamation by returning to an admittedly idiosyncratic reading of one version of Heidegger’s philosophy that emerges from the pages of his Sein und Zeit. Second, to show how this new theorizing, rather than contribute to the dubious and quasi-theological discourses associated with the philosophy of religion, enables us to focus with renewed energy upon the constant process of self- and group making. In the third section, I try to nudge (with the aim of perhaps dislodging) what could well become the new regnant discourse of current theorizing about religion.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Author: Aaron W. Hughes

Abstract

In the aftermath of September 11, the academic study of Islam has been one of the most sought-after areas of academic expertise throughout North America. The result is that many departments of Religious Studies have been eager either to develop or increase existing offerings in all things Islamic and Arabic. This strikes me as a good a time as any to reflect upon the nature of the relationship between Religious Studies and Islamic Studies. This article assumes that the integration of the latter into the former has not been easy or even successful. It provocatively argues that some of the manifold reasons behind such tensions emerge from the apologetics—found among both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars—inherent to the study of Islam. This confessionalism is the result of a complex amalgam of academic and non-academic forces.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Author: Aaron W. Hughes

Abstract

NAASR faces an existential dilemma. It is currently caught between the desire for greater numbers and panels that take place at the Annual Meeting of the AAR on the one hand, and the idea of a more exclusive group that focuses solely on historical and scientific analysis on the other. This paper argues that the future of NAASR resides in the latter option as opposed to the former. It even goes a step further and argues that NAASR should—intellectually, if not logistically—split from the AAR because as things currently stand the AAR defines the parameters of the conversation: NAASR, by default, becomes that which the AAR is not. However, in so doing, NAASR still defines itself using the discourses and categories of the AAR. NAASR’s physical departure from the AAR would provide it with the intellectual space necessary for further growth and reflection on things theoretical and methodological.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Author: Aaron W. Hughes

Abstract

This paper examines Hermann Cohen’s idiosyncratic construction of a medieval Jewish philosophical tradition, focusing primarily, though not exclusively, on his Charakteristik der Ethik Maimunis. This construction, not unlike modern accounts, is filtered through the central place of Maimonides. For Cohen, however, Maimonides’ centrality is defined not by his systematization of Aristotelianism, but by his elevation of ethics over metaphysics. The ethical and pantheistic concerns of Maimonides’ precursors, according to this reading, anticipate his uniqueness. Whereas Shlomo ibn Gabirol’s pantheistic doctrine of emanation, for example, assigned little weight to ethics, Abraham ibn Daud rebelled against such a doctrine. Ibn Daud—much like Bahya ibn Paquda and Abraham ibn Ezra—becomes part of a Jewish philosophical tradition that culminates in Maimonides’ rejection of Aristotelian metaphysics. In particular, this paper examines the way in which Cohen envisaged the pre-Maimonidean philosophical tradition, putting his highly critical reading of Shlomo ibn Gabirol and his pantheistic obsession with prime matter in counterpoint with his more favorable readings of Abraham ibn Daud and Bahya ibn Paquda.

In: The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy