Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building-Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things

Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building-Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things

by Ann Taves
     
 

"Ann Taves's ambition in this lucid, elegantly structured, and prodigiously researched work is to render transparent the cultural, sociological, and psychological processes by which certain experiences are deemed religious—and she succeeds admirably. With its deft deployment—and creative integration—of recent theories of mind and culture, the social

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Overview

"Ann Taves's ambition in this lucid, elegantly structured, and prodigiously researched work is to render transparent the cultural, sociological, and psychological processes by which certain experiences are deemed religious—and she succeeds admirably. With its deft deployment—and creative integration—of recent theories of mind and culture, the social and the psychological, Religious Experience Reconsidered will quickly establish itself as an indispensable resource for those of us determined to think past the otiose boundary between 'inner' experience and 'outer' environment that so bedevils scholarship in religious studies. Historians, anthropologists, and psychologists of religion will find this a stimulating and generative work, a helpful conversation partner in their own researches."—Robert A. Orsi, author of Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them

"Taves deals, at one and the same time, with two of the most pressing and contentious issues in the field of religious studies today: the viability of the term 'religion' as a category of critical scholarly inquiry, and the potential contributions and challenges of cognitive neuroscience to the humanistic study of religious experience. Religious Experience Reconsidered is an erudite, provocative, timely, and significant contribution to the theoretical underpinnings of the discipline of religious studies writ large."—Robert Sharf, University of California, Berkeley

"Taves offers a clear introduction to important debates and contested issues in the study of religious experience and a thoughtful and constructive position on these issues. Religious Experience Reconsidered makes an important contribution and should stimulate further discussion on this topic. I don't know of any other book like it."—Wayne Proudfoot, Columbia University

"This is a terrific book. The basic message is that cognitive science and neuroscience aren't scary but useful, and humanists can not only understand the ideas but see their relevance, engage with their authors, and contribute to their literature. Taves exemplifies the interdisciplinary spirit in which such work must take place."—Tanya Marie Luhrmann, Stanford University

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2900691140871
Publisher:
Perseus Distribution
Publication date:
01/28/2009
Edition description:
OP

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables ix

Acknowledgments xi

Preface xiii

Introduction: The Problem of "Religious Experience" 3

Experiences Deemed Religious 8

Previous Work 9

The Argument 12

Why an Attributional Approach Is Better 14

Chapter One: Religion: Deeming Things Religious 16

The Sui Generis and Ascriptive Models of "Religious Experience" 17

Deeming Things Religious 22

Special Things and Things Set Apart 28

Setting up Research 48

Conclusion: A Four-Fold Matrix 53

Chapter Two: Experience: Accessing Conscious Behavior 56

Clarifying the Concept 58

Accessing Experience 63

Representation and Experience Revisited 73

Conclusion 86

Chapter Three: Explanation: Attributing Causality 88

Attribution Theory: An Overview 90

An Attributional Theory of Religion 94

Four Levels of Analysis and Attribution 111

Conclusion 118

Chapter Four: Comparison: Constructing an Object of Study 120

Comparing Experiences 121

Specifying a Point of Comparison 126

Comparing Simple and Composite Formations 129

Imagination and Reality 156

Conclusion: Religions: A Building-Block Approach 161

Building Blocks 162

Religions as Composite Formations 164

Implications 165

Appendixes

Appendix A: General Attribution Theory of Religion 169

Appendix B: Personal Accounts of Stephen Bradley and William Barnard 172

Appendix C: Preliminary Thoughts on the Elaboration of Composite Formations 176

Glossary 181

Works Cited 183

Name Index 203

Subject Index 207

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