Retrieving phenomenology of religion as a method for religious studies

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Philosophy Department

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Research Article

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Journal of the American Academy of Religion

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Recently, critics such as Robert Segal and Russell McCutcheon have offered trenchant critiques of phenomenology of religion and recommended its dismissal as a method for religious studies. While acknowledging the warrantability of their criticisms, I argue that such a reorganization of the discipline would truncate the study of religion. Drawing on the work of other scholars who have sought to clarify phenomenology of religion, I suggest three ways in which phenomenology of religion may be reinterpreted and thereby retrieved as a viable method for the study of religion. I characterize phenomenology of religion as a distinctly interpretive approach to the study of religious experience and consciousness, which makes no claims concerning the sui generis or essential nature of religion, and which uses historical evidence as a guide to interpretation of religious consciousness. Understood in this fashion, phenomenology of religion has a necessary, but not exclusive, role to play in religious studies. © 2012 The Author.

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