The article presents Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophical investigations of the concept of magic and its relation to scientific explanation in his two distinct sets of remarks on James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough stemming from readings in 1931 and sometime after 1936. We aim to show how a shift in Wittgenstein’s general philosophical thinking informs a corresponding shift in his approach to Frazer’s notions of magic and science. This enables us to argue that the traditional “expressivist” interpretation of Wittgenstein’s remarks misses the mark of his philosophical investigations. Rather than putting forward a new theory, Wittgenstein recognizes magic as a ‘form of life’ and as such already implicating our explicatory attitude towards other humans and the world.
The aim is to show how formations of discourse can be seen as the subject matter for the historian of religions, drawing on structuralist and hermeneutic approaches. Although these may differ on important theoretical and methodological issues, I find the way in which they correspond, namely by pointing to the topic of discourse as their field of investigation, even more important. In this article a discourse is understood as a framework of communication, and the focus is laid upon religious discourse as a special kind of authorization. In ancient Greece, for example, "authors" such as Homer and Orpheus were the authorities of two different discursive traditions. The analysis of discourse can present us with a view of how certain frames of communication were interacting by means of contest, and how, eventually, it was the very strategy of authorization that was contested. Hence, what has often been seen as a paradigmatic shift from mythos to logos could more fruitfully be viewed from a discursive angle than from a perspective of different mentalities. Discourse analysis, as presented in this article, is a way of coming to terms with the process of transformation by regarding dynamic properties of communication, that is, as interrelated strategies on connected levels of system and event.
By investigating the philosophical premises behind Daniel Dennett's latest book, Breaking the Spell, this article sets out to present and critically discuss the range of validity which the theory of natural selection can consistently claim for itself. Deduced from a materialist notion of reality, which brings nature and culture on a common agenda, the explanation of religious ideas as products of meme-transmission exposes itself to the charge of reductionism and have thus provoked hostile responses from religious people as well as scepticism from some quarters of humanities. Far from arguing that Dennett should have exempted the sensitive field of religious belief from the intrusion of scientific investigation, this article criticizes the notions of religion as well as science, from which these investigations are set ashore, and remains uncompromising on the possibility of taking a moral stand on the premises of a theory of natural selection. Instead the article advocates for a more modest version of the theory that leaves room for other approaches with regard to self-understanding on a level of intersubjectivity.
In this review of Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars, I shall not so much focus on the concrete analyses, but rather discuss implications of a more theoretical and philosophical nature. First, I shall deal with Lincoln’s method by grasping (if not recasting) it as a sort of discourse analysis. Secondly, I shall critically go through some of the cases by paying a special attention to his distinction between ‘truth’ and ‘regimes of truth’ as well as the concomitant reference to empirical criteria. Thirdly, and finally, I shall I challenge his stance on “weak comparison” and argue for the complementary value of various universalizing theories in the study of religion.
While this article salutes attempts to use Donald Davidson’s principles of radical interpretation in the study of religion in order to avoid the pitfalls of correspondence theory of truth, on the one hand, and cultural relativism, on the other, it suggests that an adequate understanding of religion may also take other pragmatic aspects of meaning into account. Buying into Jürgen Habermas’ critique of Davidson, the more specific argument is that a differentiation of validity criteria serves to disclose the restricted role “truth” plays in speech acts. It is also argued that although Richard Rorty’s skepticism towards universal criteria of rationality borders on relativism, he is justified in focusing more radically—along with Robert Brandom—on pragmatic and situational criteria of meaning. Finally, drawing on Wittgenstein’s concept of “perspicuous representation” I suggest an alternate way of coming to grips with meaning potentials in religious ways of life.
This article explores various ways in which the concept of truth is actually used across discursive boundaries separating common sense, science, mathematics, and religion. Although my overall approach is pragmatic, I argue that we also need to take some semantic restrictions into consideration. The main objective of the article is the issue of translating concepts of truth in various linguistic and cultural contexts without losing sight of the particular network of connotations. I come to the conclusion that with regard to a religious discourse, a translatable concept of truth typically enters the grammatical place of the subject rather than the predicate. From this position the discursive constraints of authority, authenticity and expressivity are held in check by an internal predetermination of the implied possibility of falsehood. Most of all, however, the article focuses on non-propositional aspects of a religious expression of truth, in which case the very distinction between true and false becomes patently irrelevant.