, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 101-120
Date: 03 Dec 2011

Realism and belief attribution in Heidegger’s phenomenology of religion

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Abstract

This essay offers a new reading of Heidegger’s early “formally indicative” view of religious life as a broad critique of popular representations of religious life in the human sciences and public discourse. While it has frequently been understood that Heidegger’s work aims at the “enactment” of religious life, the logic and implications of this have been rather unclear to most readers. Presenting that logic, I argue that Heidegger’s point parallels that of Alfred Schutz in suggesting that typical academic discussions of religion constitute a determinate, deficient way of relating to religious individuals and groups and their concerns. Those concerns appear to the researcher herself in a way that they would not if the theorist were actually entertaining them as states of affairs in the real world, leading her to attribute beliefs to a hypothetical “nobody.” Heidegger’s early notion of formal indication explains the logic behind our lack of “realism” toward certain topics of research, and his comments on the study of religious life are a paradigm case for the descriptive fallacies that phenomenology can help to address.