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American Academy of Religion

Review: [untitled] Author(s): Donald Wiebe Source: Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Dec., 1980), pp. 632-634 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 26/04/2011 20:46
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Journalof the AmericanAcademy of Religion

Scienceof Religion:Studiesin Methodology(Reason and Religion: Method and Theory in the Study and Interpretationof Religion, 13). Ed. by Lauri Honko. The Hague: Mouton, 1979. xxix+632 pages, indices. $56.50. ISBN 90-279-77828. For those who assume that the academicstudent of religion works within a coherent "scientific"frameworkpeculiarto the subject matter under examination, this volume in the Reason and Religionseries will be enlightening. The scholarsearchingfor such a coherent frameworkwithin which to make sense of his own research will be disappointed.And the scholar intent on building an apologetic for the "science of religion" on the basis of which it might take its "rightful"placewithin "the communityof sciences" is left in ruins. For, despite the comforting title of the volume, Scienceof Religion:Studiesin Methodology, no unified theoretical or methodological picture of this "field of research" emerges. Instead, explicit acknowledgementis made that studies of religion are characterizedby an absence of any common body of theory and are beset by methodologicalconfusionthat is likely to continue for the forseeablefuture. The editor's claim that the present confusion in the academic study of religion is partof a wider breakdownof views on science is unconvincing.This "anarchy"in methodology, rather, is indicative of either the nonexistence of "science of religion" or, using a Kuhnianmetaphor, that the "science" sought is in a preparadigmatic state. Responses to the dilemma, however, appear limited. The scholar may despair of the methodologicaldisarrayand, like the Judges of Israel, "do what is right in his own eyes." He may, alternatively, pursue the quest for a unifying paradigmfor "a science of religion." Scienceof Studiesin Methodology reflects both kinds of responses, each presuming Religion: an expertise believed to be essential to the scientificstudy of religion. Whateverthe criticismsof this volume, it is nonetheless both an important and a successful one. It is successful because it is intended basically as documentationof the proceedingsof the first study conference on "Methodology of the Science of Religion" held under the auspices of the International Associationfor the History of Religions in Turku, Finland, in 1973. It contains not only the papersand preparedcommentary-responses also transcriptions but and summariesof the ensuing discussions. Although these proceedingsinvolve some tedious repetition, one effect of the volume is to make the reader to participatory the debate. The shortcomingsof the book, then, only reflect those of the conferenceitself. The importanceof this work does not lie in the resolution of a central methodologicalproblem but rather in providinga reflection of the disarrayin which students of religion find themselves. Recognizingthe malaise for what it is, is itself no mean achievement. More importantly,significant questions of method are clearlyidentifiedfor future criticalattentionand debate. The conference was organized around three principalthemes: "Oral and Written Documentationof Religious Tradition,""The Future of the Phenomenology of Religion," and "Religion as Expressive Culture." The first was mainly concerned with questions of source criticism in both "book" religions and oral traditions, with most papers drawing attention to the historical/ philological character of the study of religion. The two remaining sections directed attention to comparative-systematic kinds of research:sociological/anthropological,phenomenological/typological, ecological, and so on. This structure reflectsa polarization the conferencebetween historicaland nonhistorical in

Book Notices


orientations in the study of religion. Nevertheless, the papers and discussions provide insightfultreatmentsof a variety of problematicinterpretivecategories. Furthermore,agreementemerges on some methodologicalquestions. On the simplest of methodological levels one finds agreement on the assessment of the complexity of the phenomenon of religion and the need for subtlety in one's study of it. There are repeated warningsagainst a superficial treatmentof phenomenataken out of context, and againstmisleadingcomparative (and typological)studies that ignore contexts. (The "dialectic"of supplementation by comparative-systematic research,however, is also recognized.) A second point of general agreement among the participants concerns the relationship of "science of religion" to other related disciplines. It seems a general worry, that is, that scholarsin religiousstudies find their chief source of methodological creativity in developments in other fields of research. Walter Capps, for example, sees this "stimulus-and-response syndrome" of religion scholars as a source of uncertaintyin this field of research because it undermines clear self-definitionand "fudges"disciplinary boundaries. A third point of agreementconcerns the nature of the study of religion as an academic and nontheologicalenterprise. Carsten Colpe's "ideologicalcriticism," for example, is an attempt to prevent "science of religion" from becoming another style of theology. In this he repeats the theme of Kurt Rudolph in his discussion of the autonomy of religious studies and criticismof the invoking of feeling in the study of religious phenomena. And various discussionsthroughoutthe volume, such as the comments of Pye and Werblowsky on van Baal's and Goldammer's papers, support the argument. Even Bleeker's talk of the study of religion as a purely scholarlyaffairseems to lend support,althoughBleekerstill wishes to make room for "empathy"in the study of religion. Bleeker's talk of "religio-historical explanation,"like Bianchi'stalk of "religio-anthropology," and Hultkranz'stalk of "religio-ecology,"seem to ban all reductionismin an a priorifashion that seems to underminethe issue of the autonomy of religiousstudies. Waardenburg's discussion of "meaning"and Goldammer's discussion of "symbol" also appearto make ontological concessions in the theological direction in the way they make use of the concept of transcendence.Nevertheless, all still seem to hold to the principlethat the study of religion is an autonomous enterprise. The only outright opposition to this principlecomes from EdmundPerry'scommentaryon Colpe's paper. Complaints of inadequacyof the treatment of method in the study of religion here must be aimed at the conference programand not the book which simply reflects those proceedings. Such self-criticism, in fact, appears in the book itself. Sharpe,for example, complains"that little attempt has been made, even in a section of a methodological conference devoted to 'Evaluation of Previous Methods,' to state clearly and unambiguouslywhat those methods actually are" (205). Too much was taken for granted, vis ia vis shared knowledge, by the conference organizers.Bleeker'scomplaintis also an indirect reflection upon the organizers. He maintains "that the average historian of religions should abstain from speculationsabout matters of method, which can only adequately be solved by students of philosophy and of philosophy of religion" (176). Even if one disagrees with Bleeker on this matter, it is surprising that students of religion have not only excluded philosophers of religion from their discussionsof method, but have also ignored philosophersof science. If progress is to be made in our methodological discussion, this oversight must surely be corrected.


Journalof the AmericanAcademy of Religion

Scienceof Religion: Studiesin Methodology an interestingand useful book. is It is a pity that this record of the first conference on methodology did not appear sooner to provide guidance and warning for the organizationof the second conferenceon methodologyheld in Warsaw. Donald Wiebe TrinityCollege, Toronto


NeitzscheBriefwechsel. KritischeGesamtausgabe, Section2. Ed. by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari.Berlin and New York: Walterde Gruyter, 1977, 1978. Vol. 1: Friedrich NietzscheBriefe, April 1869-Mai 1872; 336 pages; DM 86; ISBN 3-11-006634-3. Vol. 2: Briefean Friedrich Nietzsche,April 1869-Mai 1872; 630 pages; DM 138; ISBN 3-11-006636-X. Vol. 3: Friedrich NietzscheBriefe, Mai 1872-Dezember1874; 299 pages; DM 96; ISBN 3-11-007194-0. Vol. 4: Briefe an Friedrich Nietzsche,Mai 1872Dezember 1874; 666 pages; DM 162; ISBN 3-11-007196-7. The magnificentlyedited collection of Nietzsche's correspondencecontinues to grow (cf. JAAR, 46 [March1978]:103).The four new volumes available cover the periodfrom 1869 to 1874. They are divided into volumes of letters by Nietzsche, II, 1 and 3, and volumes of letters to him, II, 2 and 4. It is interestingto note that the ratio of letters by Nietzsche to letters to him from the first period edited, 1844 to 1869, namely 633 to 221, is reversed in the period these volumes cover: 635 to 947. The burdens of fame! A random include such people as readingof the indices bears this out; the correspondents RichardWagner, the Vischers in Basel, Hans von Btilow (and many letters to and from his wife Cosima, with whom Wagner's fate was to become so and one EduardThurintertwined). Franz Liszt, Overbeck, Jacob Burckhardt, neysen, whose son occupies a place in the story of significant shifts in the theologicalclimate of our century. (Which makes one wonder aloud, how much the elder's appreciationof Nietzsche became part of the younger's perception that a change was in order.) But what these volumes permit one to discern, in additionto the closeness and love of the whole Nietzsche family, are the phases of the Wagner-Nietzsche relationship(over 140 items in these volumes alone) which from times of great mutual respect and approbation was to move to an acrimonious break, although that was to happen only later than the time covered in these volumes. The initial assessment of the first volumes is amply reinforced by the readingof the new ones: the "phantom"Nietzsche disappears,the "superman" is characterized dimensions of deep affection, pain, anguish, and is received by