2021 Carl G. Hempel Lectures: "The Invention of Religion." - Day 2
From Philosophy Philosophy Department on March 31st, 2021
One source of our ideas about religion is the anthropology and sociology of religions, which took their first steps as modern disciplines in the decades leading up to the First World War. In these lectures, I'll explore some of the central ideas of the field in the work of some central figures—Edward Tylor, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim—and go on to argue that their ways of framing religions show up in more recent Darwinian work on the evolution of religion. I'll end by discussing whether the study of what we now call "religions" is helped or hindered by the conception of religion the founding fathers invented. Along the way we'll consider the great diversity of the people, practices, ideas, institutions, and identities, we call "religious." The project is one on social ontology—trying to characterize a kind of socially-produced object—and in the philosophy of the social sciences that aim to explore that object.
Abstract: Among the things that Tylor neglected were the role of religious institutions in the ethical life of their adherents and the centrality of religion as a source of moral ideas. He also says very little about one of the most evident features of much religion, which is the place of symbolism in ritual and belief. These lacunae were filled in by Durkheim and by Weber, whose work we'll explore in the second lecture.