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Soc 3a03 Notes to midterm

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McMaster University
Cyril Levitt

3A03 – Lectures Tuesday September 9, 13 Elementary Forms of Religious Life – Emile Durkheim Introduction - in that period in which he wrote, the thinking was dominated by the school known as evolutionism o we link Darwin to evolutionism and biology o all life on earth evolves from simple forms to complex forms – ie. Humans. We have evolved from lower forms - Durkheim was an evolutionist o We don’t think this way today because it was criticized in theory and in practice, sociology and anthropology dominated evolutionism o France Bois instituted a different way of looking at anthropology – that there were different stages of human development. He believed there wasn’t enough evidence to prove human evolution/development. As social scientists he said we have to focus on specific groups and how they are organized with all the empirical data provided for us o Durkheim was steeped in this form of evolutionism - Practical critique of evolutionism o Was precisely WWI o Had been tied up with the advances of science and technology o It was associated with progress and colonialism. o Anthropology to some degree provided risks to colonialism o The idea that evolution was bound by progress was shattered by the machine gun and tanks (introduced in WWI). All of a sudden this link between progress and evolution was broken with world conflict Simple and complex religions - there are no simple societies or languages – Bois argued this - Durkheim thought it was necessary to study the elementary forms of religious life (the building blocks) in simple societies o Durkheim believed that in the higher religions, in advanced societies, that too many heterogeneous elements were in play. We would be able to see more clearly where these fundamental building blocks of religious life really were in more simple societies o Indigenous people of Australia, he found evidence to tease out what these elementary forms of religious life were really about - In looking at religion, Durkheim believed it couldn’t be understood without the notion of the symbol (symbolism) o one of the central elements of religion is something that can be understood as symbolic. o One of the problems people who are engaged in that religion, they confuse the symbol with that of which the symbol stands for o Ex. A flag – in battle soldiers will die for their flag  its not the actual material/object, but its what it stands for – the symbolic value of what it stands for - Durkheim wants to look to what the symbol stands for, to the reality that the symbol represents, but at the same time that it represents it, it also hides it. one of his tasks in the book is to show how a symbol gives expression and hides the reality of what the symbol represents. o People who are true believers confuse the symbol for the reality because even though it expresses the reality, it hides it at the same time - We need to reach beneath the symbol to grasp the reality of what it represents. - They mistake symbols for things that aren’t true but symbolically they are true - Fundamentally, there are no religions that are false, all religions are true in their own ways. * - They are all true because if you go beneath the symbols you can discover the basic reality of those symbols because they represent some sort of human need for that particular group - Different religions have different views of things which often conflict with one another, so how can they all be true? o Durkheim’s point is that its only on the surface that they contradict one another, looking beneath the surface we come to find the human needs of these different religions - Its not appropriate to rank religions hierarchically, they aren’t of different kinds, they are all equally religious but have different views - These religions are to be respected, they fulfill the same needs and proceed from the same causes, and can therefore serve the same basis - He is looking for the common building blocks - What is necessary for a religion to be a religion - The concept of god is an elementary form of religious life. But there are religions where there are no gods, therefore god cannot be an elementary form of religious life because it must be present in ALL forms of religious life - He also makes the point that although all religions are true, they aren’t true in the way believers believe them to be true. o The confusion in the thinking of true believers in the symbol as the literal reality, where for Durkheim they are true in the sense of human need. o Durkheim seems to be a great supporter of all religion, he isn’t a supporter of the literal sense of religion - Wherever you have a human group, you must necessarily have religion because you need an organized system where people can express their needs and ideas through symbols - Since all religions can be compared, some elements are of necessity common to them all, not that they are all equal in that they view religion - There will always be religion, you will never be able to abolish religion because it consists of eternal human needs - For most communities, religion is just one aspect of life, but doesn’t affect every aspect of their lives o Not for Durkheim, its important because it’s the source of ALL thinking o All human thought (what we would call science, philosophy, etc) is religious th and so this opposition between science and religion of the 18 century is only of recent vintage – we owe to religion the roots of logical, scientific, philosophical thinking. The very way of thinking was religious. - European philosophy regarding the theory of knowledge – how can we know anything? No one was able to achieve this answer. - The concept of the social is missing – because the categories we need to make sense of the experiences need to rationalized. If its just individual how can we have concept of time and space as objective? Where doe the objectivity come from? He says it comes from society o All thinking was originally religious thinking Lecture 2 Introduction - all religions are true - there cant be no society without religion, because every society provides for human needs - he is at odds with Freud – Freud believed religion was based on an infantile prototype, based on fear, and as children we turn to our parents when we are afraid. And when we are adults we turn to another infantile prototype when we are scared – god - the belief in God is not an elementary form of religious life for Durkheim but it is for Freud - Similarities between the 2 people o Durkheim believed that one of the reasons we had to look at religions in primitive societies (simple), if we look at religions in complex societies we cannot see what these elementary forms are, we see the elementary forms more clearly in more simple societies. o In this he wasn’t different from Freud in individual and society o Freud believed that our origins of our conflicts as adults come from conflicts from childhood o Freud believed too we had to go to the grooming stages to unveil the adult conflicts later on o See a parallel between Durkheim and Freud - For Durkheim, religion wasn’t just one aspect of life – but in these early forms of society (primitive), religion wasn’t only a part of life, but the whole if it. what we consider today in complex society what were separate realms were one. All of these things were part of religion – human thought was entirely religious in Durkheims time. Were taking up the nature of human nature in regards to human thought. - For Durkheim to talk about religion is to talk about ALL of it. we don’t have this grand theory anymore - We need to keep in mind that the way he talks about religion isn’t the way we talk about it today o He says on p. 8 last paragraph o “It has long been known…” o next page, he states the thesis of the book (mid pg. 9) o “the general conclusion of the chapters to follow is that religion is eminently a social thing….” o Religion is a social element o Makes the claim that God is society o God is the symbolic representation or personification of our collective lives.  Fundamental position of the book Nature of Human Nature - he had a theory - Latin “homo-duplex” - He believed this was the nature of human nature o That we as humans have 2 separate compartments 1. The individual  The one is the individual, what differentiates an individual from other individuals. Consisted on what we are biologically and psychologically. We are all formed by a combination of our biological heritage which is different from others as well as our individual experiences were different  Non human animal part of the human being, driven by appetites and instincts. 2. The social  He was more interested in the social part of the duplex. Includes everything that distinguishes us from our animal cousins. Life is related in much the way that Darwin described it. it’s the social part that represents everything higher than the social being. What things are uniquely human in the social aspect that we don’t find in other animal cousins? Language, philosophy, law, religion, art, etc  Everything that distinguishes us from others come from out o What is the relationship?  They are at odds with one another, conflict  Because what is social doesn’t always support what is individual because when we live with others we have to tailor our own behaviour so that it all works  Religion is a social thing – it comes from without  The nature of religion is a reflection of the society in which that religion arises  Its easier to change religious affiliations than change languages  No body just believes in one religion or speaks one language – there are thousands of different languages and religions  Supports his idea that religion is a social thing in particular 2 Schools of thought concerning the nature of thought - rationalist o argue that the mind plays an important role in shaping how we thing - empiricists o argue that the mind doesn’t participate at all, it’s a blank slate o example: David Hume, argued causality which is based on repeated observations. How do we know with certainty that on the next try, we will get the same results? There is no guarantee, we only have habit, we expect it but there is no necessity or universality. o Therefore all of our knowledge comes from experience o There is nothing universal about cause, it doesn’t prove anything Emmanual Kant - didn’t like that Hume destroyed the thought of universality - he tried to re-establish universality and necessity in terms of the categories of thinking, such as causality because of the way human mind is constructed - before we can take in anything we call knowledge it is already shaped by the human mind, that it orders the things that are taken in - its not the individual human mind that creates the framework for time and space, it is the society in which that individual lives that shapes these categories o he looked to anthropology for examples - other societies have different ways of perceiving space because the organization of their camp was in these separate parts - he was trying to show that even the most fundamental ways of thinking were social - we see how this sociological theory of knowledge is important to Durkheim Monday September 16,13 Religion is a social thing - homoduplex o one consists of what we are biologically, and other components we get from society o between these 2 compartments, there is constant struggle which is driven by our biology and society, which society insists that we follow o the animal in us are in conflict - he suggests that because we are social beings, that the categories of which we think (space and time) are derived not from our biological make up, but from society o different societies have different conceptions of space and time o showed this empirically Chapter 1 - Durkheim works with definitions, need to be clear about what we are talking about - People have different definitions of religion, which doesn’t always correspond with our commonsense notions of what religion is - Takes up existing theories of religion o Animism and naturism, then refutes each in turn and goes to talk about his theory of religion o He also did this with the theory of suicide - First concept is the notion of the supernatural as something mysterious, irrational, unusual o Often when people think of religion they think about the supernatural o We don’t work according to cause and effect when thinking about the supernatural. Forget all laws o We think that religion is a figure of the supernatural o Durkheim says this isn’t true o 1. The notion of the supernatural appears very late in human evolution – don’t find it in societies that anthropologists worked on. If we look at these simple societies there is no concept of mystery.  So religion existed to explain the regular/normal not the mysterious. The mysterious only came along afterwards, therefore the idea of the supernatural is a new form of religious life – doesn’t exist among all religions  P. 26 last 2 paragraphs “religious conceptions…” o 2. The notion of divinity of God or gods  there are religions that are theistic (God centred) but only a handful are like this  we don’t find the concept of divinity  even in the most complex religions we don’t find the concept of divinity and god  Buddhism and Jainism are religions without theology (without god)  It therefore cannot be an elementary form because it must be present in ALL religion nd  P. 28 2 paragraph  P. 31 2 paragraph “furthermore, this indifference to the divine…”  In more advanced religions there are rites that aren’t directly connected with the divinity of god  Rite is a religious practice  P. 32 “The bible commands the woman to live in isolation for a period of time”  There are many prohibition that are not connected with god  The notion of prohibition uses as evidence  He concludes p. 33 before the last paragraph “ thus there are rites without gods..” - distinctions in all religions: o 1. Separation of religion into 2 part – beliefs and practices (rites)  a belief doesn’t necessarily require a practice, but they go in hand together  this is something we find in all religions because everyone believe in something o 2. Classification of everything from the sacred and profane is found in every religion  profane is that of every day common, utilitarian – no special significance beyond their use  sacred is something lifted out of its everyday use, the ordinary and seems to be infused with a kind of spirit of awe, power, forbidiness. We approach these things very carefully and differently from the profane objects  all religion has to do with the separation of the sacred and the profane and the ways they can be brought into conflict with one another safely  bottom paragraph p. 34 “simple or complex, all known religious beliefs..”  any profane object can become sacred. In some religious practices the dumb of an animal can become a sacred object  something that is sacred in one religion can be profane in another religion  bottom of p.35 “on the other hand, we should bare in mind…”  dependence is mutual – god needs man just as man needs god  we think god is independent and can survive without us, Durkheim says this isn’t true  relationship between the sacred and profane p. 36 bottom “the opposite of these two classes is expressed…”  this is important – there are points of contact between the sacred and profane – it has to be done carefully because of the power that the sacred holds  have to take precautions Things that get confused are religion and magic Durkheim argues that they are very different from one another - religion o must have some kid of institutional frame work “Church” o but other religions don’t call their institutions churches o community of people come together as one o we don’t find religion without church o religion unites people in the institution into a moral body – moral he means something that cohores the individual to not follow their biological drives but to act in such a way to support the foundation of the community - magic o there is no church/institutions for magic at best the relationship between the magician and the people that follow him o one on one relationship o has a clientele o relationships are accidental and transient - p. 41“religious beliefs proper of a definite group…” - p. 42 top “magic is an entirely different matter…” - there is no church of magic - **Durkheim sums up on p. 44 “a religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say things set apart and forbidden...” o Religion is imminently a social, collective thing Tuesday September 17, 13 Chapter 2 - look at competing theories concerning the nature of religion o called contrary theories Predominant theories in anthropology and religious studies: ANIMISM and NATURISM Animism - the doctor of souls, spiritual beings - hence reality is divided into material and spiritual reality which provides the split between the sacred and profane - comes from the notion of the double - in understanding the nature of the double, its different from Durkheim’s view of it o Idea of the double comes from the idea of the soul, which has to do with the experience of dreaming o While we are dreaming we are doing many kinds of things, while our physical body is in the same place o There must be some other element in our body that can detach itself from our bodies while we sleep o Introduced p. 47 2 last paragraph “according to animist theory…” - Problems with this because the soul is still some how related/attached to the body o The difference between the soul and body is that the soul can only temporarily leave the body, but must return o Spirits exist entirely without connection to the body o How??  The fact that when the body dies the soul has no body to go back to and is thus independent of the body and becomes a spirit  Durkheim argues, why does the spirit have a different sense of power simply because its no longer attached to a body?  P. 48 last paragraph “but the soul is not a spirit…”  Thanks to their extreme fluidity they can go into a body and cause harm or do justice  We are a creator but also captive of our own creations - Spencer has an explanation of how this orientation to the spirit world arises. It has to do with the confusion of the metaphor and reality o P. 51 full paragraph, introduces Spencer’s ideas “according to Spencer…”  Plays a big role in Durkheim’s theory  How he understood the ancestors and the process - Whats the problem? o Durkheim doesn’t understand how the soul (double) since it has nothing sacred in it, why does the soul become a spirit which is sacred when the body dies?? o We don’t know why a spirit should be any less profane than a soul after its died o Furthermore, if Spencer and Tylor are right, and ancestor is the beginning of the transformation, we would see expressions of the cult of ancestor worship in earlier societies. But we DON’T o We find ancestor worship much later on o For these reasons then, Durkheim argues we don’t know why we should argue for this to be true if they aren’t accounted for - What Durkheim says about human nature. He talks about the relationship between human nature and animal nature. He wants to argue that while they are similar, that we are different o mid p. 62 “this is so because man is not simply an animal….” o The idea that they are in conflict can get us to think that they are different o For an animal the self preservative drive is paramount, but society can make us willing to sacrifice ourselves for society o Relation to religion  the fact that religion has to do with the two fold nature – psychological and biological individuals and members of a society and another compartment that is filled that comes from without participation in society - Argues that religion is everywhere – it is social - Religion has too much of a presence in society to be simply based on pathology as if it were s form of mental illness o He says p.65 last paragraph “if that theory of animism was true, one would have to accept the notion that religious beliefs were…” o There is something in the base of religion that is rooted in something real and tangible something that is science Naturism - the belief that religion has its origin in the powerful impact of nature - source of the distinction between everyday profane and powerful majestic sacred he introduces these 2 leading conceptions on p. 45 last paragraph “it can be said that…” Thursday September 19, 13 Naturism - naturism came out of philology (study of language and linguistics) and believed that there was a foundation of religion in the real - Durkheim suggests that the naturists seemed to avoid one of the problems that he found in the case of the animists – that religion was nothing substantial but founded in dreams - Naturists said that religion is found in something real - P. 71 last paragraph “he Muller justifies…” - “no matter how it first appeared…” - in order for the awe of experience, something has to happen before we can translate that into religion. This has to do with the fact that we have to personify these natural forces o p. 72 “religion is truly formed only when…” - we begin to get the transition from the experience of awe, such as fire, in to religion proper through a confusion of language - 2 paragraph p. 74 “by virtue of their extreme generality…” o we have words that describe human action and feelings and then apply them to things that are unwarranted, apply them metaphorically but then we are confused by their meaning - Durkheim says that there really is no difference between the position of the animist and naturist because they both depend on error as the source of religion o Doesn’t understand how something so deeply rooted in human nature can be based on error o 2 paragraph on p. 78 “only an appearance therefore, naturism escapes…” - Durkheim – animism and naturism root religion in nothing but the confusion of human thought. Neither are capable of grasping the foundation of religion - Muller suggested that religion had its origins in the experience of the awe o Durkheim suggests the opposite, that nature is boring, we experience the seasons as something expected not as a miracle. There is nothing we experience in nature that we don’t expect - Nature is homogenous, wherever you go you experience the same nature, it doesn’t become something sacred somewhere else - P. 82 “let us remember what is of issue…” - Neither animism or naturism could account for the radical separation of the sacred and profane Durkheim’s Theory – Totemism - begins by looking at totemism, label he uses to describe this primitive form of religious expression. It is neither naturism or animism - totemism was taken from previous anthropological work - totemism is both a form of religion and of kinship. The totem itself is the name which a group of people are given which through the name relates them to one another as kin. - All the members who share the same totemic name are related to one another for that reason. This unit is sometimes called a clan to describe the collectivity of people who share that name - The clan is not the social whole of the society, only a part because you cannot have a society which consists of only one clan. Why? For the simple reason that the earliest form of totemist clan was exogamous (marriage outside of the group). o If that’s the case how to people reproduce? There has to be many other clans from which these people may select their partners. o Exogamy vs. endogamy o Therefore it requires several clans to form any social community - The name which designates the clan is most often that of an animal. Sometimes it’s the name of a plant, rarely is the name taken from some force of nature (rain) - The animal is usually one that they usually encounter. Since they share the same name, that animal is seen to be a brother or sister of that clan. - Each individual in that clan has a kind of two fold, or double nature o As an individual and as an animal - In totemism, there are no gods. Divinity isnt an elementary form of religious life because its not found in this religion. - Totemism consists of many significant prohibitions (thou shall not…). there are all kinds of rules. One is exogamy, thou shall not marry within the clan, or though shall not harm the totem animal. - He provides a number of anthropological examples in the beginning of chapter 4, don’t need to know - Second section of chapter 4, he takes up issues of method, which are related to his earlier book. Not very important to know Book 2 Chapter 1 - religion needs to have beliefs and practices - focus on the main practices of totemic beliefs - it is important that the totem is first of all a name that is an emblem. - P. 100 second paragraph under section 1 “first the individual who comprise it…” o The members of the clan are not related to one another through blood, they are kin through the same name - Last paragraph on p. 100 “every clan has a totem…” Totemism - is both a religion containing the elementary forms of religious life and a form of kinship - totem was a name in the beginning, usually a name of an animal - beyond the name, they were kin – related to one another. There were also certain features emphasized o it was forbidden for members to eat the flesh of the totem animal but there were certain ceremonial occasions where it was compulsory to eat it o these clans were exogamous (marriage outside their clan) so that a clan was part of a larger tribe o in addition to being a name it was also an emblem - p. 111 that every member had an emblem or coat of arms which was the family coat of arms part of heraldry – Durkheim makes the same comparison “the totem is not simply a name it is an emblem…” - this emblem was imprinted on things which belonged to the clan. P. 114 middle paragraph “these vary facts provide a sense…” (tattooing) - the tattoo is an emblem which represents membership within the group, an identification - suggests that the emblem is more sacred than the person themselves – the emblem is the most sacred, more sacred than the animal and the individual members of the group. p. 118 “these totemic declarations…” - p. 121. “in themselves, the churingas…” - p. 124 second paragraph “the sacredness stems from one cause” – something material stands for something social **** main understanding of the book*** o just as a flag stands for the country and their customs and traditions Chapter 2 - talks further about the relationship between the human beings and the animals within the totemic clan - the prohibition of eating the clan animal, members of other totems can kill and eat the totem animal because its not sacred to them - there are religious occasions where usually forbidden becomes compulsory - p. 133 first full paragraph “the images of the totemic being is more sacred than the totemic being itself” o the totem is an emblem is a material representation - what makes the emblem so sacred it the material barrier - says the sacred has something to do with the collectivity of society - p. 133 same paragraph last sentence “so the representations of the totem are more..” section II – The nature of the sacredness - the human being has a twofold nature (individual and an animal) - the sacredness of the clan member relates to the fact that he shares something with that clan animal - the twofold nature is very important for Durkheim - if we look at the parts of the human being, they also take part in the twofold and the sacred o human blood and the hair – both material and sacred - Durkheim disagrees with those who suggest that what we have in these totemic societies is animal worship (zoalitry) - He cautions us as seeing it as such, last paragraph p. 139 “ therefore we must be careful not to see…” o Rejects the notion that totemism is animal worship - The importance of religious thought as a precursor to logic and science. How we classify things. This comes from our own social organization o P. 145 paragraph under section II “these classifications are the first we meet…” - The whole notion of classification itself depends on social organization o p. 149 “a classification is also a system of parts…” o religion is the basis of everything: logic, philosophy, and science – it develops things into hierarchies and ranks - another feature of religion he focuses on is that it has this capacity to extend itself to draw things in o bottom p. 154 “thus, the circle of religious things extends well beyond…” chapter 4 – individual and sexual totems - not very important - his argument is that individual totems are always derived secondary to the clan totem and the same thing in regard to the sexual totem, it’s a further development of the clan totem - There is evidence of an individual totem- an individual will have an attachment to a specific totem on their own (may be a specific animal) - The existence of sexual totems- in some of these clans, there is evidence that men and women or a clan had different totems; is this a collectivity or a sexual division - He argues that in relation to the individual totem, he is not denying that it happens on occasion but he sees it as derivative, not original; it is also a late development - Sexual totem- argues that it is still a collective notion; people are collective in the division of men and women in the clan - P. 189 “ I showed the inadequacy…” Chapter 5 – origins of the totemic beliefs - issue goes back to something fundamental, that one the features true in all religions has to do in two separate parts – the sacred and profane - p. 169 “the beliefs I have just viewed…” - Durkheim argues that the notion of the divine is NOT an elementary form of religious life Section I - Idea that the original form of religious veneration, object, right and belief is of the ancestor cult - He argues that the ancestor cult is derivative, later in time - Why is it then that for most totemic clans, the ancestor is seen to be that of an animal? o Members of the totemic clan don’t look like their animal totem o mid p.172 “the savage observes the half human traits…” - end of section I p. 174 last full paragraph “it is certain that totemism involves…” Chapter 6 – The origins of totemic belief - the foundation of totemic beliefs rests on the notion of some type of force - some typ
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