When Is a Religion Like a Weed?
Some Thoughts on Why and How We Define Things
Keywords:religion, definitions of religion, theory
Caroline Schaffalitzky de Muckadell's 2014 article, "On Essentialism and Real Definitions of Religion," offers a comprehensive rationale for the use of real, essentialist definitions of religion in the field of religious studies. In this article, I examine her arguments and the proposed definition she supplies. I argue that a close reading of Schaffalitzky's piece, concentrating especially on the way she uses examples, helps to demonstrate that she and her anti-essentialist opponents view the field of religious studies in incommensurable ways. While Schaffalitzky views definitions as serving the analytical study of religion as an object, her opponents view definitions primarily rhetorically and seek to focus attention on the process of defining.
Damour, Alexis. 1863. “Notice et analyse sur le jade vert. Réunion de cette matière minérale à la famille des Wernerites.” Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences 56: 861–65.
Introvigne, Massimo. 1999. “Religion as Claim: Social and Legal Controversies.” In The Pragmatics of Defining Religion: Contexts, Concepts, and Contests, edited by Jan Platvoet and Arie L. Molendijk, 41–72. Leiden: Brill.
“Jade.” 2015. Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed July 13. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jade.
Johnson, Samuel. 1755. “Jade.” A Dictionary of the English Language . . . Which Are Prefixed, a History of the Language, and an English Grammar. London: Knapton.
Masuzawa, Tomoko. 2005. The Invention of World Religions: Or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226922621.001.0001
McCutcheon, Russell T. 1997. Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse on Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia. New York: Oxford University Press.
Plato. 1919. Plato: Euthyphro. Apology. Crito. Phaedo. Phaedrus. Vol. 1. Translated by Harold North Fowler. London: William Heinemann.