Weber, Geertz, and Ricoeur on Explanation and Interpretation


  • Robert A. Segal University of Aberdeen



Max Weber, Clifford Geertz, Paul Ricoeur, method and theory, interpretation, explanation


One perennial issue in the study of religion is the relationship between explanation and interpretation. Explanation provides causes. Interpretation provides meanings. The issue is the relationship between causes and meanings, for which rough synonyms are reasons, motives, intentions, and purposes. This article presents three of the most common positions on the relationship: those of Max Weber, Clifford Geertz, and Paul Ricoeur. The aim is not to endorse any of the positions but simply to compare them.

Author Biography

Robert A. Segal, University of Aberdeen

Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen


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How to Cite

Segal, R. (2014). Weber, Geertz, and Ricoeur on Explanation and Interpretation. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 43(1), 25–33.