Beyond the Enlightenment: Weber on the Irreducible Relationship Between Faith and Science

  • Basit Bilal Koshul


Weber’s self-conscious acceptance of the value of scientific rationality is expressed in the assertion that science is an absolutely unique source of knowledge, and the one “for whom scientific truth is of no value will seek in vain for some other truth to take the place of science in just those respects in which it is unique …” (OSS, 110 ff.). Weber sees scientific truth as being a unique source of knowledge insofar as it offers “the provision of concepts and judgments which are neither empirical reality nor reproductions of it but which facilitate its analytical ordering in a valid manner” (OSS, 111). In asserting that scientific rationality is a unique source of knowledge that is intimately tied with progress and that such knowledge is worth having, Weber is very much a part of the Enlightenment tradition.


Religious Faith Scientific Truth Empirical Reality Religious Behavior Cultural Science 
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  1. 1.
    Recent Weber scholarship has uncovered a strong influence of Nietzsche’s thought on Weber’s work that went largely unnoticed by earlier Weber scholarship. This influence has been documented and commented upon by, among others, David Owen in “Autonomy and ‘Inner Distance’: A Trace of Nietzsche in Weber” in History of the Human Sciences, 1991, 4/1: 79–91. Tracy Strong has put forward the argument that Weber consciously structured the essay “The Social Psychology of World Religions” along the same lines as Nietzsches On the Genealogy of Morals. Besides the resemblance in the structure of the essay, Weber echoes key aspects of Nietzsche’s critique of modernity, but does stop short of calling the entire ethical enterprise into question, as Nietzsche does. See, “‘What Have We to Do with Morals?’ Nietzsche and Weber on History and Ethics” in History of the Human Sciences, 1992, 5/3: 9–18. In putting forth the argument that there is a direct link between these two works, Strong is concurring with an earlier observation offered by Wilhelm Hennis. Hennis has also proposed that while Nietzsche is not explicitly mentioned by Weber in his essay on the social psychology of world religions, the whole essay is “an analysis of the role that according to Nietzsche, affliction played in the formation of salvation religions” (Hennis, 1988, 152). Hennis goes on to note that “the parallels between Nietzches’ ‘brilliant essay’ (as Weber called the third section of On the Genealogy of Morals) and his own essays are so striking that, once indicated, they cannot escape our notice” (Hennis, 1988, 155).Google Scholar

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© Basit Bilal Koshul 2005

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