SOC250Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Direct And Indirect Realism, Agnosticism, Reductionism

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Published on 5 Feb 2013
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Week two September 19th 2012
Soc250
RELIGION
the sociological study of religion attempts to identify:
a) the social factors or bases for religious beliefs, actions, experiences,
communities
b) the relevance or significance of religion in social life and history
but the sociological study of religion confronts unique interpretive challenges:
ontology- concerned with the nature of ‘being’, reality or existence, causally and
constitutively (= ‘what the world is and how it works’)
epistemology- concerned with nature of knowledge, how we know things
religion is based on a distinct ontology- the claim that there are supernatural
beings or powersm or a super sensible reality, an absolute, divine or
transcendent realm that is ultimately primary and causally responsible for both
the natural world and social world
social science has no direct or objective ‘acces’ to that purported transcendent
reality, it cannot be visited for purposes of measurement or examination (unlike
the realities of politics, art, war, etc)
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religion is based on and creates an epistemological dualism or split: religious
believers claim the reality of the divine or ttranscendent, but social scientis and
historians have no way of assessing or testing legitimacy or accuracy of that
belief. For science, the divine or supernatural is not empirically verifiable …. Or
falsifiable
epistemologically, faith statemetns, i.e the claims of believers to spiritual or divine
truths are not fundamentally factual or empirical. Rather, they are essentially
declarative (God is love , nirvana is ultimate bliss, paradise will be your reward
etc… ) performative (I have been saved by the lord, Om, There is no god but
god, and Muhammad is his messenger.) or emotive i.e expressing or soliciting
feelings of awe, reverence, dependence, joy etc.
(on many key points of a faith tradition, religious language is closer to poetry than
to prose)
“ faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”
(Heb. 11-1)
Accordingly, the evidence or proofs for faith statements are “internal” to each
particular religious tradition--- the specific faith claims of one tradition are not
convincing to those believing in other traditions, nor to skeptics and atheists
Parable of the Two Explorers and the Garden (find on google, too much to type)
This epistemological situation results in
1. an ‘insider’- ‘outsider’ polarity (believers vs non believers/believers in other
religious traditions)
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2. a split or polarity between subjective and objective ways of knowing i.e
religious experience is sustained by cultivated faith in the claims of a tradition:
those without that faith will not experience or comprehend true nature of that
religiosity- so say the insiders
the dilemma or tension: social science cannot access that posited domain of the
divine or transcendent yet believers claim their actions and experiences derived
from that source, social science accounts which attribute the actions and beleifs
of believers to sundry social and historical forces/factors will thus appear
superficial or reductionist to the religious actors themselves
social scientists must accordingly bracket the ontological claims of the religion
what berger calls methodological atheism and Smart methodologicall
agnosticism and focus soley on their historical, social and psychological
consequences and effects
historical social science studies causes and consequences of religious belief
not the validity of it (that is a concern for theology and philosophy of religion)
social science example of the dilemma: carlos Castaneda…..
case illustrates basic dilemma of insider vs outsider, subjective vs objective ways
of knowing: scientific standards are deemed inadequate or distortional by
‘believers/insiders’ while scientists insist that only by maintaining ‘objective
distance’ can we hope to discover true social causes and forces at work
if you cant view it from inside spirit world, and are external, level of analysis is not
adequate, but the risk of doing this, getting too involved, is you go from an
observer to an insider who is just giving testimony.
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Document Summary

For science, the divine or supernatural is not empirically verifiable . Or falsifiable epistemologically, faith statemetns, i. e the claims of believers to spiritual or divine truths are not fundamentally factual or empirical. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (heb. Accordingly, the evidence or proofs for faith statements are internal to each particular religious tradition--- the specific faith claims of one tradition are not convincing to those believing in other traditions, nor to skeptics and atheists. Parable of the two explorers and the garden (find on google, too much to type) Human beings not completely reliant on religion for these functions, there"s competition : we have : (common sense, science, law, morality, technology, art, etc, share those functions) E. g in prior societies, more emphasis on religion to heal, but now niggas go to the hospital, if they say you dying bro, you start the prayer power.

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