Assessing social-scientific theories of religion

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

A common conviction is that no objective criteria exist for evaluating rival social-scientific theories of religion. The choice of a theory—for example, of a psychological rather than sociological theory, or, within psychology, of Freud's theory rather than Jung's—seemingly reflects mere personal, subjective preference. Thus only an author's use of a social-scientific theory, not the theory itself, ever typically gets evaluated. Various social sciences or specific social-scientific theories do often get promoted—most recently, for example, a sociological approach to ancient Israel and early Christianity. But a sociological approach invariably gets measured against a philological or theological one, not against other social-scientific ones. The failure to compare rival social sciences or theories within them doubtless stems partly from the difficulty of the task: from the need for the kind of breadth which specialization in a single discipline or theory bars. The failure surely stems more deeply from the assumed impossibility of the task: from the assumed absence of objective criteria for evaluating competing theories. What “subjectivists” assume is threefold. First, they assume that to explain a phenomenon one must have an approach of some kind, whether labeled a perspective, pattern, paradigm, gestalt, or worldview. Undeniably, this assumption is correct. Without some approach one would have no organized analysis, or explanation, at all, which is exactly what a discipline or theory provides.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReinventing Religious Studies: Key Writings in the History of a Discipline
PublisherAcumen Publishing Limited
Pages69-76
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781844657810, 9781844656554
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

Fingerprint

Scientific Theory
Theory of Religion
Social Sciences
Rivals
Impossibility
Conviction
Psychology
Psychological
Subjectivist
Sociological Theory
Social Theory
Paradigm
Sigmund Freud
Early Christianity
Ancient Israel
Gestalt
World View

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

Cite this

Segal, R. A. (2012). Assessing social-scientific theories of religion. In Reinventing Religious Studies: Key Writings in the History of a Discipline (pp. 69-76). Acumen Publishing Limited.

Assessing social-scientific theories of religion. / Segal, Robert A.

Reinventing Religious Studies: Key Writings in the History of a Discipline. Acumen Publishing Limited, 2012. p. 69-76.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Segal, RA 2012, Assessing social-scientific theories of religion. in Reinventing Religious Studies: Key Writings in the History of a Discipline. Acumen Publishing Limited, pp. 69-76.
Segal RA. Assessing social-scientific theories of religion. In Reinventing Religious Studies: Key Writings in the History of a Discipline. Acumen Publishing Limited. 2012. p. 69-76
Segal, Robert A. / Assessing social-scientific theories of religion. Reinventing Religious Studies: Key Writings in the History of a Discipline. Acumen Publishing Limited, 2012. pp. 69-76
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