Methodological Issues in Religious Studies

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This book elucidates the conceptual or theoretical issues in religious studies by means of utilizing the tools of philosophical analysis. The academic discipline of religious studies is rich in conceptual systems that derive from ethnography, history, psychology, sociology and media studies. In line with other fields of research in cultural studies, religious studies adopt various theoretical resources in eclectic ways, and by the same token, imports various numerous conceptual issues from these adjacent fields. In addition to the rich conceptual systems within religious studies, the discipline investigates conceptual systems, cultural meaning systems that postulate supernatural entities. Whether the study object is religious behaviour or religious belief, sacred texts or buildings, the ultimate research object is the conceptual system that is conveyed or expressed by the material data. Thus there are concepts and conceptual systems at both sides: at the side of religious studies, and at the side of religious culture (cultural knowledge, behaviour and artefacts). The investigation of conceptual issues in religious studies has therefore either theoretical (or philosophical) and empirical relevance.

This book provides a philosophy of religious studies that is anchored in the intentional systems theory, on one hand, and in scientific realism, on the other hand. It will be of interest to those working in religious or cultural studies and have an interest in the philosophy of science. The book will also provide interesting case studies for philosophers of science, especially those interested in humanities and social research.


“… long overdue, and [the author]’s work here is an excellent beginning to providing a comprehensive framework for the development of a fully scientific study of religion.” – Prof. Donald Wiebe, Trinity College, University of Toronto

“… well written volume helps clarify a number of important issues. These include the centrality of science to our understanding of the world, the value of philosophy for good science, the nature and mutual relationships of concepts and theories, the role of theory in religious studies, and some pitfalls embedded in relativism and post-modernism.” – Prof. Stewart E. Guthrie, Fordham University

“… a refreshing and welcome addition to the philosophical dialogue of meta-theoretical analysis of ‘how we study, what we think, they think,’ and the conceptual and cultural systems behind such endeavors.” – Prof. William McCorkle, Masaryk University, Brno Czech Republic

Table of Contents

Preface by Donald Wiebe



Chapter 1: The Relevance of Philosophy

Conceptual Analysis and Argumentation

Argumentation in Everyday Life

Argumentation in Science

Deductive Argument

Inductive Argument

Burden of Proof


Philosophy of Religious Studies



Values in Science

Philosophy of Religion

World Philosophy and Ethnography

Chapter 2: Concepts and Theories


Misunderstandings About Concepts



Levels of Theories

Hermeneutics as Application of Theories

Chapter 3: Lauri Honko’s Theoretical Contribution


Tradition Ecology as a Research Programme

Tradition Ecology and Memetics

Genre Analysis and Folklore Process

Example of Folklore Process 1: Para-Religious Phenomena

Example of Folklore Process 2: Religion and Media

General Theory and Cultural Details

Chapter 4: The Concept of Body

Religious Bodies

Other Bodily Activities

Embodied Religion, Emotions and Fieldwork

Inferential Schemas related to the Concept of Body

Body as a Source Model

Chapter 5: Religion, Education and the Normative Rationality of Science Education

Applied Research in Cultural Studies

Religion Education and Confessional Elements

The Case of Finland: From Confessional to Multiconfessional Education

Philosophical Commitments of Religions





Future Prospects for Science-Based Religion Education

Chapter 6: Relativism and Conceptual Egocentrism in Religious Studies

Cultural Diversity and Cultural Relativism

Relativism as Methodology

Comparing Beliefs

Conceptual Egocentrism in Religious Studies

Post-Secular Practices

Concluding Remarks


Index of Subjects and Names

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