↑ Return to back issues

Volume 4 number 1

e-ISSN 20841043

Kraków, June 2014, volume 4, number 1


Leading theme of the issue:

Comparative Study of Religion: Methods & Applications

edited by Marzenna Jakubczak

Buddhist dove_photo by Marzenna Jakubczak

Editor’s note

Introduction to the issue (Marzenna JAKUBCZAK) (5-8)


Åke SANDER, The phenomenological method revisited: towards comparative studies and non-theological interpretations of the religious experience (9-34)


During the last decades, two major and interrelated themes have dominated the study of religion: (a) the theme claiming that the long taken-for-granted so-called secularization thesis was all wrong, and (b) the theme of the so-called “return” or “resurgence of religion”. This global revival of religion — on micro, meso and macro levels — has been chronicled in a number of important books lately. As even a quick glance in some of the many textbooks about religious studies reveal that there are many various ways of studying religion — theologically, sociologically, psychologically, anthropologically, philosophically, etc. — and they can be tackled from many different ideological or theoretical “slants” or perspectives – gender, postcolonial, orientalism, postmodernism, inside/outside, hermeneutical, etc. And it seems to be a general rule within science that the more important, complex and controversial a subject area is perceived to be, the more heated the debate about theory, method and definitions of concepts seems to be within it. Comparative religion can, very broadly, be carried out from two types of data: texts or actual living human beings. During the last thirty or so years, and in tandem with the initially mentioned two themes, the latter – what many scholars now call “lived religion” (Hall, 1997; Orsi, 2005; Ammerman, 2007; Mcguire, 2008) – have more and more come to the fore in departments of religious studies. This can be seen as a “rejuvenation” of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s opinions that the only way to study religion adequately was in and through the religious beliefs and practices of actually living human beings and that the heart of religion was to be found, not in rules and regulations, hierarchies and hymnbooks, but in the individual’s experience of dependence upon a power infinitely greater than his own. The student of religion must, in other words, concentrate, not on what people might do, ought to do, or what the textbooks say they are supposed to do, but on what they actually do, and the ways in which they actually behave, and why they do what they do — their motives, reasons or inducements for doing what they do.

Keywords: philosophy of religion; sociology of religion; phenomenology of religion; religious studies; comparative studies; comparative methodology; secularization

Sven SELLMER, Phenomenology as an instrument of critique (35-42)


The present paper aims at showing that the phenomenological method is a crucial methodological element of every research that is based on the interpretation of utterances or texts based on experiences, like religious studies. Following the neophenomenological school, the notion of “phenomenon” is understood in a radically relative way: “A phenomenon for a person at a given point of time is a state of affairs for which this person cannot — in spite of trying to vary the presuppositions she makes as much as possible — withdraw the belief that it is a fact” (Schmitz, 2003: 1). Starting from this notion, phenomenology may fruitfully criticise two common strategies: reduction and construction. The first one tries to reduce experiences to allegedly more fundamental processes like electrical impulses in neural nets. Here the phenomenologist must object that in doing so without preceding phenomenological analysis the reductionist will lose large parts of potentially important information. As to the second strategy, constructions — in the sense of presuppositions, ready-made concepts etc. — are present in all texts that are meant to express an experience. In order to describe the underlying experience more adequately, the phenomenological researcher has to remove as many constructions as possible. In this way she does not only produce a description that is ”closer” to the experience (though she can never hope to fully grasp it), but she also paves the way for comparison and dialogue across religions and cultures.

Keywords: methodology; reductionism; deconstruction; experience; phenomenological method; Hermann Schmitz

Marcus SCHMÜCKER, The relevance of “givenness” for the Indian religious traditions (43-54)


The paper focuses on a comparison by taking some of the main results of the European tradition of phenomenology of religion represented and further developed by Jean-Luc Marion. His views on the constitution of the “I” look promising for a comparison when contrasted with the views on the same phenomenon in Indian religious traditions. Marion, whose rich work is in the main part devoted to the philosophy of donation, discovered a new way that led him from the givenness of the object of knowledge/perception to the understanding of self-givenness of the subject up to a new understanding of the experience of god. The author chooses as a start¬ing point the central question in Marion’s work which refers to the constitution of the “I” and the problem of whether it is able to constitute itself or whether something exists that constitutes the “I” beforehand without leaving the concept of subjectivity. For the Indian side, he offers examples for the way in which the constitution of the “I” takes place or not and what relevance a kind of givenness has in this context not only for a concept of the subject but also for the theistic ideas in Indian traditions.

Keywords: Jean-Luc Marion; Indian philosophy; phenomenology of religion; continental philosophy; subjectivity; Advaita Vedānta

Marzenna JAKUBCZAK, The purpose of non-theistic devotion in the classical Indian tradition of Sāṃkhya – Yoga (55-68)


The paper starts with some textual distinctions concerning the concept of God in the metaphysical framework of two classical schools of Hindu philosophy, Sāṃkhya and Yoga. Then the author focuses on the functional and pedagogical aspects of prayer as well as practical justification of “religious meditation” in both philosophical schools. A special attention is put on the practice called īśvarapraṇidhāna, recommended in Yoga school, which is interpreted by the author as a form of non-theistic devotion. The meaning of the central object of this concentration, that is puruṣa-viśeṣa, is reconsidered in detail. The subject matter is discussed in the wider context of yogic self-discipline that enables a practitioner to overcome ignorance ( avidyā) and the narrowness of egotic perspective ( asmitā), recognized in the Hindu darśanas as the root-cause of all suffering or never-fulfilled-satisfaction ( duḥkha). The non-the¬istic devotion and spiritual pragmatism assumed by the adherents of Sāṃkhya-Yoga redefines the concept of “God” ( īśvara) as primarily an object of meditative practice and a special tool convenient for spiritual pedagogy.

Keywords: Indian philosophy; non-theism; atheism; religious practice; meditation; īśvara; svābhāvika; Sāṃkhya; Yoga; God in Yoga

Asha MUKHERJEE, Rabindranath Tagore on a comparative methodology of religions (69-80)


Study of religion describes, analyzes and compares how certain human beings do in fact express their faith in terms of particular scriptures, religious figures, sacred rituals, community solidarity, etc. — and how all these explicitly religious phenomena may relate to other aspects of people’s lives. It also aspires and addresses the questions to be even-handed, objective, based on evidence that may be checked by any competent inquirer, and non-committal on claims to divine revelation and authority. It is in principle comparative, not in a judgmental evaluative sense, but in terms of describing and analysing comparable elements or phenomena from various religious traditions, using the same criteria in each case. The paper begins with a brief report on the study of religion in the context of India and presents in detail Rabindranath Tagore’s (1861–1941) views on the need, an objective and philosophy behind the comparative study of religion. As Tagore observes, when studying religion one usually chooses among two alternative approaches: to do research on the secret text or to study the rituals. Tagore accepts fully none of them and instead suggests to rediscover how human aspiration for transcendence works in practice, how it sustains the individual — often marginalized by the power of institutionalised religion — and society, and how it generates new cultural forms. For Tagore, the essence of religion lies is the will to transcend the limit of the self-cantered being towards an ideal of perfection — which he calls divinity of Man. His understanding of the “religion of Man”, as he puts it, is discussed in the major part of the paper.

Keywords: Rabindranath Tagore; The religion of Man; religious studies; religious pluralism; philosophy of religion; comparative studies; Hinduism; universal religion; divinity of Man

Iwona MILEWSKA, Dharma and religion in Tagore’s views (81-88)


Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), one of the greatest contemporary Indian thinkers, discussed the problem of religion and faith on the ground of global pluralism and religious diversity. He presented his views in numerous poetical works (including Gitanjali, a collection of Song offerings translated into English, for which he was awarded with the Noble Prize in literature in 1913), but he also delivered many speeches, mostly addressed to the Western audience (e.g. The religion of Man). In his writing, Tagore often uses the terms “religion” and dharma interchangeably. This article focuses on both key terms and on the question whether they may be seen as equivalent according to him. Does he really equalize both terms? or, How was his understanding of “religion” and dharma influenced by his cultural background? The article opens with the analyse of the dictionary definitions of both key terms. Next, at the basis of dictionary explanation the main question is raised: whether “religion” and dharma could be treated as equivalents in their whole range of meanings or should their understanding be limited to a chosen definition or definitions? In the following section, Tagore’s concept of the so called “Man the Eternal” and “Divinity in Man” is briefly described. Final comments include some remarks on both terms explained in the light of Tagore’s view on comparative methodology. He claims that “religion” and dharma are close in meaning, since they both stand for the rational description of the individual experience of divinity. Therefore, they may ultimately lead to the common end, regardless their different cultural roots and various circumstances in which both concepts developed. Tagore argues for freedom as the preliminary condition for understanding of the phenomenon of transcendence of human nature towards the experience of divinity. He understands freedom as perfect harmony realized in this world but not merely through our response to it in knowing but in being. Only when such an approach is accepted the experience of “Man the Eternal” can be achieved. In this respect all human beings may meet, regardless they come from Western or Eastern culture. Such an exposition of the core of religious experience allows us to use the terms of “religion” and dharma interchangeably, and thus contribute to the comparative methodology in religious studies.

Keywords: Rabindranath Tagore; religion; dharma; The religion of Man; knowledge; freedom; comparative methodology; religious studies; philosophy of religion

Ashok KAUL & Chitaranjan ADHIKARY, Lived religion in a plural society: a resource or liability (89-102)


Recently there is a renewed academic interest in religion bringing it back on the global political agenda. Religion in the post modern global order is fast emerging as a new organizing principle in the face of multi-polarity, trans-nationality and sweeping pluralisation of peoples. Contrary to the secularist self believe, the modern has failed to take over the tradition including religion. Rather a logical opposite seems to be happening, questioning the very presumptions of the modernity project. The present paper is a narrative on this creative tension in the religious modern and post modern. The paper is crafted into four sections. First section seeks to pin down the genesis of “religious” in the search for social order and consciousness beyond the material world. Second section deals with the unfolding of enlightenment project and its manifest consequence with the birth of secularism master theory. Third section delves deep into the immediate Indian religious lived experiences under foreign rule up to the sweeping spell of globalisation. Fourth and last part of the essay makes a case for universality of a multicultural world and religious secularism.

Keywords: multiculturalism; modernity; secularism; information revolution; capitalism; Hinduism; decentring

* * *

Lajos L. BRONS, Needing the other: the anatomy of the Mass Noun Thesis (103-122)


Othering is the construction and identification of the self or in-group and the other or out-group in mutual, unequal opposition by attributing relative inferiority and/or radical alienness to the other/out-group. Othering can be “crude” or “sophisticated”, the defining difference being that in the latter case othering depends on the interpretation of the other/out-group in terms that are applicable only to the self/in-group but that are unconsciously assumed to be universal. The Mass Noun Thesis, the idea that all nouns in certain languages are grammatically and folk-ontologically similar to mass nouns in English, is an example of such sophisticated othering. According to this Thesis, (a) count nouns refer to discrete objects and mass nouns to stuffs; (b) the other’s language has only mass nouns and thus no count nouns; and therefore, (c) the other’s folk-ontology is an ontology of mass stuffs only. There is much evidence, however, that folk-ontology is independent from language. This paper argues that the Mass Noun Thesis is a case of sophisticated othering rooted in a conflation of grammatical and ontological conceptions of mass and count nouns that is applicable to the language of the interpreter/self but not to the languages of the relevant others, and that othering in this case is driven by a need to create some radically alien other to support a scientific or philosophical theory.

Keywords: othering; interpretation; philosophy of linguistics; philosophy of anthropology; folk-ontology; numeral classifiers; mass nouns

Paweł GAŁKOWSKI, Persuasive argumentation as a cultural practice (123-134)


In this article author traces relation between argumentation and cultural practice. The first part focuses on definition of argumentation in informal logic tradition. In particular, it discusses argument in terms of verbal and social activity involving the use of everyday language. Author claims that there is no argumentation beyond language. The second part explains persuasive argumentation as a form of cultural practice. The persuasive arguments found in “social practice” can be understood as a social activity, analysable within the context of a given cultural system. Author refers to an approach taking the argumentative expression as a certain type of communicative practice, directed towards respecting, recognising or accepting specific actions. The inclusion of persuasive argumentation in the “circuit of cultural activities” to be studied makes it possible to compare this type of argumentation with other social practices, and to posit a clear historical dimension in the study of argumentation. It also makes it possible to view persuasive argumentation as one of many cultural activities aimed at changing or perpetuating behaviours, attitudes, thinking, etc. The third part of the paper concerns the problem of humanistic interpretation of persuasive argumentation. Author attempts to develop this intuition, at the same time demonstrating the problems that arise from this approach. In conclusion, author tries to analyze argumentation in terms of culture theory and humanistic interpretation.

Keywords: informal logic; argument as social practice; philosophy of culture; Jürgen Habermas; Jerzy Kmita

Katarzyna SZEPIENIEC, Husserl and Shestov: philosophical antipodes (135-154)


The paper contains a general characteristics of the relation between Lev Shestov’s philosophy of existence and transcendental phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. The analysis was largely inspired by Cezary Wodziński’s research on Shestov’s writings, including his book published in Polish Wiedza a zbawienie. Studium myśli Lwa Szestowa (1991). In 1931, inspired by Descartes’ Meditationes de prima philosophiae, Husserl began a total transformation of philosophy into a science absolutely founded, assumptionless and developed in the spirit of absolute self-responsibility. Thus, the idea of philosophy as an exact science and Descartes’ idea of a science absolutely founded became the aim. It resulted in a project of universal science which — according to Husserl — has been the aim of European philosophy from the beginning. Ultimately, this philosophy was to rebuild the whole model of European culture. Less than two years after the first edition of Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenchaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie, Lev Shestov published his Athens and Jerusalem (1938) where he agrees with Husserl’s diagnosis that the whole European culture is in a stage of a deep crisis which goes to its very foundations. However, Shestov points at the radically different sources of that crisis. Paradoxically, a remarkable friendship connecting these two thinkers did not affect the similarity of their views. In fact, they are located at the opposite poles of the contemporary philosophical scene. The friendship of Shestov and Husserl was born in the atmosphere of an intense and uncompromising intellectual debate. Both thinkers are strongly convinced that the fate of European culture and European understanding what it is to be man are decided in the realm of philosophy. So, the philosophical projects they offer are two extremely critical visions of culture. At the same time they suggest a way the European culture should be thoroughly reformed at its very basis.

Keywords: crisis of culture; radical criticism; télos; the alternative either-or; to overcome the crisis; source of knowledge


Peter DRUM, Moral tragedy (155-160)


In this paper it is argued, contrary to certain moralists, that resolutely good people can be assured of contentment of soul.

Keywords: Aristotle; Raimond Gaita; Alisdair MacIntyre; moral conflict

Translations into Polish

Titus BURCKHARDT, Wartości wieczyste w sztuce islamu trans. Jakub DANIŠ (161-172)

Keywords & acknowledgement

Titus Burckhardt; perennialism; integral traditionalism; iconoclasm; Islamic art; perennial values in art.

Acknowledgement: BURCKHARDT, T. (1967). Perennial values in Islamic art. Studies in Comparative Religion, 1 (3), © World Wisdom, Inc. (www.studiesincomparativereligion.com). Za wyrażenie zgody na przedruk artykułu w polskim przekładzie kierujemy podziękowania do Mary-Kathryne Steele, President of World Wisdom (www.worldwisdom.com).

Book reviews

Wojciech Torzewski, Hermeneutyka jako filozofia dziejowości. Studium myśli Diltheya, Yorcka, Heideggera, Gadamera i VattimaRev. Tadeusz GADACZ (173-180)

hermeneutics; philosophy of history; Dilthey; Yorck; Heidegger; Gadamer; Vattimo

Rosi Braidotti, The PosthumanRev. Magdalena HOŁY-ŁUCZAJ (181-188)

posthumanism; postmodernism; feminism; gender studies

Krzysztof Śleziński, Edukacja filozoficzna w teorii i praktyceRev. Renata TRELA (189-198)

didactics of philosophy; teaching philosophy; philosophical education


Bitwa Idei VI (199)

V Ogólnopolska Konferencja „Myśl i Kultura Buddyjska” (200-205)