Disenchanting Disenchantment: Bridging the Science/Religion Dichotomy

  • Basit Bilal Koshul


Having looked at the “what?” and the “how?” of scientific inquiry, the discussion now turns to the “why?”; more specifically to “why does a scientist undertake a scientific investigation of culture?” An exploration of the “why?” of scientific inquiry, as Weber understood the answer to this question, reveals that his scientifically valid answer to this question has an irreducible religious element in it. At the very end of his life, Weber wrote an “introduction” that was to be put at the beginning of his collected essays on the sociology of religion. In this “introduction,” he explicitly states the value-idea that informed the trajectory of his scientific inquiry:

Any child of modern European culture will, unavoidably and justifiably, address universal-historical themes with a particular question in mind: What combination of circumstances called forth the broad range of ideas and cultural forces that on the one hand arose in the West, and only in the West, and on the other hand stood—at least as we like to imagine—in a line of historical development endowed in all civilizations with significance and validity? (PESC, 149)

For Weber, two things are a given: (a) modern culture is characterized by a uniquely “developed” manifestation of a “broad range of ideas and cultural forces” and (b) an “underdeveloped” manifestation of these very same ideas and cultural forces is to be found in every human culture known to historians. The two givens taken together mean that the completely disenchanted character of modern culture represents the actualization of a potential that is present in all known cultures—where all known cultures had experienced only partial disenchantment.


Scientific Rationalism Modern Culture Empirical Reality Cultural Science Natural Causality 
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© Basit Bilal Koshul 2005

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  • Basit Bilal Koshul

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