Religion as a Phenomenon

  • Ninian Smart
Part of the Philosophy of Religion Series book series


In part, talk of religion as a phenomenon has sprung from the tradition of philosophical phenomenology (from Husserl onwards), whose methods, with variations, have been applied to the study of religion. In part my approach in the previous chapter has been influenced by this school, for example in the notion of ‘bracketing’. Gerardus van der Leeuw, in an appendix to his ‘Religion in Essence and Manifestation, [1], has characterised phenomenological method as follows: (i) assigning names to what is manifested (e.g., ‘sacrifice’ and ‘purification’); (ii) the interpolation of the phenomenon into our own lives, sympathetically; (iii) the application of epoche; (iv) the clarification of what is observed, by structural association (comparison and contrast); (v) the achievement through the foregoing of understanding; (vi) control and checking by philology, archaeology, etc.; (vii) the realisation of objectivity, or in other words letting the facts speak for themselves.


Religious Tradition Phenomenological Description Previous Chapter Mental Causation Sacred Text 
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  1. 6.
    See, for example, Georges Dumézil, ‘Archaic Roman Religion’ (University of Chicago Press, 1970). For a general critique: C. Littleton Scott, ‘The New Comparative Mythology’.Google Scholar

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© Ninian Smart 1973

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