Believing and Acting: The Pragmatic Turn in Comparative Religion and Ethics

Hardcover | March 15, 2012

byG. Scott Davis

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How should religion and ethics be studied if we want to understand what people believe and why they act the way they do? In the 1980s and '90s postmodernist worries about led to debates that turned on power, truth, and relativism. Since the turn of the century scholars impressed by'cognitive science' have introduced concepts drawn from evolutionary biology, neurosciences, and linguistics in the attempt to provide 'naturalist' accounts of religion. Deploying concepts and arguments that have their roots in the pragmatism of C. S. Peirce, Believing and Acting argues that both approaches are misguided and largely unhelpful in answering the questions that matter: What did those people believe then? How does it relate to what these people want todo now? What is our evidence for our interpretations? Pragmatic inquiry into these questions recommends an approach that questions grand theories, advocates a critical pluralism about religion and ethics that defies disciplinary boundaries in the pursuit of the truth. Rationality, on a pragmaticapproach, is about solving particular problems in medias res, thus there is no hard and fast line to be drawn between inquiry and advocacy; both are essential to negotiating day to day life. The upshot is an approach to religion and ethics in which inquiry looks much like the art history of MichaelBaxandall and advocacy like the art criticism of Arthur Danto.

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How should religion and ethics be studied if we want to understand what people believe and why they act the way they do? In the 1980s and '90s postmodernist worries about led to debates that turned on power, truth, and relativism. Since the turn of the century scholars impressed by'cognitive science' have introduced concepts drawn fr...

G. Scott Davis is Lewis T. Booker Professor of Religion and Ethics at the University of Richmond.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.01 inPublished:March 15, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199583900

ISBN - 13:9780199583904

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Table of Contents

1. Believing and Acting: The Allure of Method in the Study of Religion2. Peirce and the Legacy of Pragmatism3. Ethics, Religion, and the Limits of Empiricism4. Richard Rorty and the Pragmatic Turn in the Study of Religion5. 'Gay Fine Colours': Cognitive Science and the Study of Religion6. 'The Base of Design': Relativism and Fieldwork in Contemporary Anthropology7. From the History of Art to Comparative Religion and Ethics8. From Comparisons to Cases: Pragmatism and the Politics of Virtue