Does critical realism enable social scientists to do better empirical work?
We will explore this question by engaging with concrete research projects currently being
undertaken by affiliated faculty and alumni of the Critical Realism Network.
Critical Realism and the Philosophy of Religion
Presenter: Professor Kevin Schilbrack, Appalachian State University
Meeting Description: 35 minute lecture followed by a Q&A with Dr. Timothy Rutzou
Abstract: In this webinar, I’ll explore how critical realism aids our understanding of both scholars who study religious agents and the religious agents themselves. I’ll briefly contextualize the debate among religious studies scholars today about the status of the central conceptual category of “religion”. Some contemporary scholars, influenced by genealogy and deconstruction, argue that religion was not discovered in those cultures but was rather manufactured, imagined, or invented in Europe and then imposed on the rest of the world. Here, religion is a social construction, a projection of the western imagination. On what grounds can Western scholars retain the concept? In response, I will argue that CR enables us to speak of religion as a real entity, a social structure, that operated even before the word was created. I will consider three arguments for abolishing the category of “religion” and show how CR provides tools with which we can respond to them. Second, how does CR help us understand religious agents? Religious people organize their lives around and claim to experience value-laden realities that those who are not members of their communities typically cannot see. What is needed, then, is a relational ontology where human beings are not independent substances but are rather constituted by their relations.
Fitzgerald, Timothy. 1997. “A Critique of ‘Religion’ as a Cross-Cultural Category,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 9:2. pp. 91-110.
Chidester, David. 2007. ‘Real and Imagined: Imperial Inventions of Religion in Colonial South Africa,’ in Timothy Fitzgerald, ed., Religion and the Secular: Historical and Colonial Formations. London: Equinox.
Chemero, Anthony. 2003. “An Outline of a Theory of Affordances,” Ecological Psychology 15:2, pp. 181-195.