TO THE EDITOR: In his letter to the editors (MTSR 10 : 79-83), in which he comments on Timothy Fitzgerald's review of Religion and Reductionism: Essays on Eliade, Segal, and the Challenge of the Social Sciences for the Study of Religion, Hans Penner repeats a key point from his and Edward Yonan's landmark article, "Is a Science of Religion Possible?" (7our- nal of Religion 52 : 107-33). As Penner puts it anew, "the issues here are theoretical" (82). That is, theory challenges not the phenom- enon being explained but only alternative explanations of it. A bio- chemical theory of pain
HOW HISTORICAL IS THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS? ROBERT A. SEGAL Quentin Skinner, Professor of Political Science at Cambridge University, is one of a group of scholars in various fields intent on restoring history to the history of their fields.' 1 Others include J. G. A. Pocock and John Dunn in political theory, George Stocking in anthropology, Robert Alun Jones in sociology, Thomas Kuhn in science, E. H. Gombrich in art, and Alasdair Maclntyre in ethics. Earlier influences are Herbert Butterfield in history and R. G. Collingwood in philosophy. All oppose the ahistorical practices of persons professing to be historians of
Anthony Blasi (1995) argues that many scholars of religious studies misconstrue the sociology of religion, if not the whole social scientific study of religion. So zealous are these scholars to reject an apologetical, nonreductive approach to religion that they fail to recognize an approach to religion that is nonreductive yet nonapologetical: the approach of interpretive sociology of religion, as represented by the symbolic interactionist school of sociology. The scholars Blasi most castigates are the members of what he labels "the Religion school of thought". Because he cites but two persons in his essay- Thomas Ryba and me - it is hard to see on what basis he claims that this school even exists. Two citations do not a school make. Moreover, the essay of mine which he cites never even appeared in Religion, and Ryba's essay, which did appear in Religion, is only a long, and by no means uncritical, review of a book of mine. I will, then, forgo discussing the four planks of the Religion school's credo that Blasi extricates from what is really Ryba's summary, not endorsement, of my own position. Instead, I will focus on the three kindred issues that Blasi discusses most fully: interpretation versus explanation, empirical versus nonempirical, and explaining versus explaining away.
In defense of "the Religion school": A response to Anthony J. Blasi ROBERT A. SEGAL Anthony Blasi (1995) argues that many scholars of religious studies mis- construe the sociology of religion, if not the whole social scientific study of religion. So zealous are these scholars to reject an apologetical, nonreductive approach to religion that they fail to recognize an approach to religion that is nonreductive yet nonapologetical: the approach of interpretive sociology of religion, as represented by the symbolic interactionist school of sociology. The scholars Blasi most castigates are the members of what he labels "the Religion school of thought".
THE CONCEPT OF SURVIVAL: OF THE USELESS OR OF THE USEFUL? ROBERT A. SEGAL In his engaging article on "'Survival' as an Interpretive Strategy: A Sino-Western Comparative Case Study" (MTSR 2/1 , 2-26) Robert F. Campany considers only one form of the concept of "survival": survival of the useless. Hence he characterizes the concept as "a device to explain cultural practices that stand out against the fabric of contemporary life as absurd, meaningless, superstitious, or bizarre. By conceiving of these practices as relics or fragments of a past era, one can then say that there was a time when they
INTRODUCTION TO THE SYMPOSIUM ON THE SACRED ROBERT A. SEGAL The following four essays on the nature of the sacred were originally presented at a session of the History of the Study of Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion on November 1990 in New Orleans. The essays typify the range of approaches to the subject. The first two essays are primarily taxonomic and exegetical. Surveying various religionist and social scientific theories of the sacred, Carol Burnside distinguishes between those theories that pit the sacred against the profane and those that incorporate the profane within the sacred. According to
Brent Nongbri, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013. 288 pages. GBP 16.99 (Hardback). ISBN 9780300216783.
One sees from the outset that the author has a shaky grasp of the history of the study of religion when he informs us that “[f]or much of the past two centuries [till 2013], both popular and academic thought has assumed that religion is a universal human phenomenon, a part of the ‘natural’ human experience that is essentially the same across cultures and throughout history” (p. 1). Apart from the
241 REPLY TO EBERSOLE Gary Ebersole lodges two objections to my article "How Historical is the History of Religions?" He objects, first, to posthumous attacks on Mircea Eliade. He objects, second and more important, to the assumption that all other persons in religious studies, for whom I use the innocent term "religionists," dogmatically heed Eliade's views of religion. I will respond to these points in turn. First, my criticisms of Eliade, here and in other articles, are not of the man but of his views. In other academic fields-notably, philosophy-even the severest criticism presupposes respect: one simply ignores views not
RESPONSE WHY ISN'T RELIGION AN INDEPENDENT VARIABLE? ROBERT A. SEGAL In "Religion as an Independent Variable" (1998) Daniel Krym- kowski and Luther Martin make two main claims: that religion has not been shown to be an independent variable, and that Max Weber, touted as the inspiration for this view among social scientists, does not himself always deem religion an independent variable. 1. Religion as iyadependent and dependent variable The force of both claims rests on the meaning of the term "independ- ent variable," which Krymkowski and Martin use in varying ways. When they use the term tamely, their claim that