Religious Studies | Phenomenology of Religion
R462 | 4161 | Hart


Prior to the late 1950's, religion was studied primarily within
theological or atheist frameworks.  Then some outstanding thinkers
borrowed from the early twentieth century philosophical movement,
called "phenomenology," the idea that one could study something
without believing in it.  As with art, instead of being taken with
the reality of the content, one could be taken up with the content
of the reality. Instead of being taken up with what appears one can
be interested in how it appears. Or, one can put into scare-quotes
beliefs or propositions of others or even one's own, and study the
meaning of what is believed as well as the act of belief (or
perception, or remembering) that makes present what is believed -
without oneself necessarily going along with "the belief." There is
a "willing suspension of disbelief."  Thus "phenomenology of
religion" in America during the 1960's was often synonymous
with "the academic study of religions," a discipline that was
primarily historical, sociological, and anthropological in its
interests.  Beyond a casual familiarity with the theme of putting
one's belief in scare-quotes, what most typically represents "the
phenomenology of religion" however has little to do with the
philosophical movement of "phenomenology."  In this course we will
attempt to do a philosophy of religion based on some of the basic
positions and distinctions that have characterized historical
phenomenological philosophy.  Thus we will become acquainted with
the themes of the phenomenological reduction, intentionality,
objective and non-objective awareness, pre-reflective awareness,
senses of transcendence, the transcendental ego, inter-subjectivity,
and inner-time consciousness.  But all along the way we will be
interested in the study of religion, primarily the topics of the
religious meaning of transcendence, e.g., the holy, but also death,
immortality, reincarnation, and eternity.  Our main texts will be
Robert Sokolowski, Introduction to Phenomenology, Max
Scheler, "Problems of Religion," and Karl Jaspers, Basic
Philosoophical Writings.  There will be a mid-term exam and a paper.