Monday, 23 April 2018 06:00

CATHOLICISM

    The title of my text could be Catholicism on the boundaries of mere reason. That is a paraphrase of the title of a very important work of Kant. But affinities stop here, because my perspective is very different and even opposite to the Kantian philosophy.
    I would like to take my starting point from a very recent work edited by Susan L. Mizruchi, Religion and Cultural Studies. In her Introduction, she states that ”Religion is now a `cutting edge` field of research”: ”some of the most exciting academic work in disciplines such as literary criticism and history is now being done in specializations devoted to the subject of religion”. ”Like its companion term, the `aesthetic`, religion has until recently been considered the special province of cultural conservatives. All this has changed. The boundary line of religion and culture at the turn of the twenty-first century is a major site of intellectual action and interaction”. In fact, religion has been one of the most neglected subjects of Cultural Studies.
    Mizruchi`s methodological premise in the book seems to me also to be very interesting, namely that ”religion is understood as nonuniversal in theory and practice. Religion is a particular phenomenon only apprehended through language, which is itself historically particular. Thus, the analytical terms we apply to the religious instances we study are themselves subject to historical scrutiny”.
    This stance implicitly accepts the methodology proposed by one of the most important protestant theologians in the last twenty years, George A. Lindbeck, who lent the greatest importance in the study of religion to cultural and linguistic aspects. More specifically, Lindbeck refutes two other conceptions of religion that are widely acknowledged. The first position that Lindbeck refutes is the cognitive-propositionalist interpretation of religion. This confers a determining importance to doctrines understood as ”propositional claims about reality”. It treats doctrines as ”informative propositions or truth claims about objective realities”. The second theory rejected by Lindbeck is the experiential-expressivist theory that ”interprets doctrines as noninformative and nondiscursive symbols of inner feelings, attitudes or existential orientations”. According to this theory, religious experience is grounded in a pre-linguistic and unmediated form of experience where inner experience is primary. Religious doctrine, symbols, myths and rituals are secondary expressions of this fundamental inward state.
    To these two theories of religion, Lindbeck opposes its own that he sums up as follows: ”A religion can be viewed as a kind of cultural and/or linguistic framework or medium that shapes the entirety of life and thought [...] Like a culture or language, it is a communal phenomenon that shapes the subjectivities of individuals rather than being primarily a manifestation of those subjectivities. It comprises a vocabulary of discursive and nondiscursive symbols, together with a distinctive logic or grammar, in terms of which this vocabulary can be meaning-fully deployed”. A fundamental element of this theory is the concept of intrasystemic consistency that opens the way to the study of the identity of the single religious cultures taken in their specific aspects.
Published in ”Paragrana”(Berlin), BandVIE 2003, Heft 1 und 2
Copyright©MarioPerniola, 2003
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