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Religion, Models of, and Reality: Are we through with Geertz

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Ceidhle Goode

on 24 November 2013

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Transcript of Religion, Models of, and Reality: Are we through with Geertz

Religion, Models of, and Reality: Are we through with Geertz?
Religious Models of reality in genealogical perspective
3) He presupposes that metaphysical claims can be understood/ interpreted.
He claimed that certain religious symbols pointed to the context of general existence
Some notes on the Author: Kevin Schilbrack
Schilbrack is a professor in the Philosophy and Religion Department at the University of Western Carolina.
- Geertz also includes ‘ethos’ in his definition of religion.

This suggests religion encourages certain:
* Feelings
* Attitudes
* Experiences

And also imprints certain behaviors.

For example: R
itual, aesthetic and ethical behavior.
- Geertz inclusion of metaphysics suggests that religion has a theoretical or descriptive dimension.
The Wa, demonstrating religious feeling.

Some critics argue that you do not need any kind of foundation or grounding.
2) Issues surrounding the relationships between world view and ethos.
Asad is an Anthropologist at the CUNY Graduate Centre
Talal Asad
Asad misinterprets Geertz and thus the critique is in some parts worthless
This brings into question the issue of subjectivity?
Asad objects the idea of an essentialist definition of religion
Geertz’s metaphysical interpretation of religion is an essentialist definition of religion
Asad asserts Geertz’s view is far from a truism but a product of post enlightenment practices relating only to Christian theology
A truism is a statement that is considered obviously true and says nothing new or interesting.
Asad objects to the inner mental state aspect of religion i.e. what the individual believes rather
than it relating to political beliefs etc. The modern understanding of religion is thus
"a product of the only legitimate space allowed to Christianity by post-Enlightenment
society, the right to individual belief" (Asad: 45 [emphasis in original])

Asad objects to Geertz’s view that religion must assert something, distinct from the practices and rituals, inside, moralistically. Geertz states religious practices ‘affirm something about the fundamental nature of reality’
Criticisms of Asad
Asad’s criticism of religion being ‘cognitive’ is ambiguous , if he means by this that for Geertz the none private aspects of religion are not important he is mistaken, distorting Geertz approach

Geertz does not mention ‘belief’, he seeks to gather various aspects of religion

While belief may be central, ethos (spirit, aspirations of a group) is also equally essential.

If by ‘essentially cognitive’ Asad instead means in addition to practices, emotions etc you also find cognitive belief then Geertz is guilty

By insisting religion involves cognitive thought it distinguishes his approach from the modern study of religion

Kant and modernist arguments for religion are made by denying that religion involves ‘cognitive claims about intersubjective world'. Insisting on religion teaching worldview for Geertz goes against the grain of the modernist

Private and Public Meanings
Asad claims that for Geertz religion is an ‘inner/mental state’ this cannot be reconciled with Geert’z statement that the main confusion in contemporary anthropology is the ‘cognitivist fallacy’ that culture is a mental phenomena
Schilbrack claims that for Geertz patterns of religion are extrinsic and meaning is given objectively to them
For Geertz meanings are public, taking his views from Dewey, Ricouer and primarily Wittgenstein and his attack on private language
This does, however, beg the question of whether Geertz is then vulnerable to criticisms of Wittegenstein?
Asad argues that in general religious models of reality are problematic: religious people lack interest in metaphysics meaning Geertz confuses 2 levels of religious discourse: that symbols induce moods and place things within a metaphysical framework. While Schilbrack agrees they are distinct processes Asad overlooks the fact that Geertz’s metaphysics is not a clear cut conception but something not consciously interpreted

Clifford Geertz published ‘
Religion as a cultural system
’ in 1966.

Geertz is criticized quite heavily. Critics see his ideas as:


- Out-moded.
- Confused about how language can be used to refer to the world.

Geertz claims that this attitude does vary culture to culture but having a factual basis for commitment is common.

- Geertz has a ‘Metaphysical interpretation of religion’.

Some criticisms of Geertz

(Philosophical presumptions)
Religions do not just have a world because human nature craves answers..
Critics argued his concept of religion being a ‘Cultural System’ opposes those who studied religious symbols in terms of just their social/ psychological meaning
Geertz claims religion joins world view and ethos, and in some cases identifies it.

Kenneth Rice claims:

If a world view can’t have consequences for an individual’s life without ethos. Or ethos be based on an ultimate power without help from world- view. Then how is it valid to claim that religions (or a system of symbols) join them together?

Religious Mode Of Reality In Holist Perspective
Pre - Conceptual
Content That
The World Provides.
Content that our mind and Language provide
Geertz sees religion as a
Conceptual System,
refers to religious symbols as a way to organise and to give form and order.
Geertz treats religion as a perspective
Conceptual- serves to organise and shape our thoughts
Geertz seems to take a
philosophical route
in too religion...
Critics Say...
Nancy Frankenberry & Hans Penner object they say that this theory is involved in a ‘tangle of conceptual problems’ and 'discredits epistemological dogmas’.
Dogmas attempt to explain how language relates to the world
Frankenberry & Penner embrace the idea
that the practises of describing
interpreting and explaining religions carry philosophical assumptions.
Schilbrack agrees with
particular problems of
Geertz however believes that
his approach is not tied to
dogmas in a necessary way.
Davidson argues that
the world cannot
be organised by a
conceptual scheme.
We can only organise
distinct objects
Uses a genealogical method developed by Nietzsche and made prominent by Foucault
Full transcript