Advertisement

Mathematics and the definitions of religion

  • Kevin Schilbrack
Article
  • 252 Downloads

Abstract

In 2014, I published a proposal for a definition of “religion”. My goal was to offer a definition of this contentious term that would include Buddhism, Daoism, and other non-theistic forms of life widely considered religions in the contemporary world. That proposal suggested necessary and sufficient conditions for treating a form of life as a religious one. It was critiqued as too broad, however, on the grounds that it would include the study of math as a religion. How can one include forms of life based on non-theistic realities without including math? In this paper, I show the flaw in the previous definition and the weaknesses of two attempts to evade that flaw, before recommending a shift, first, to a Wittgenstein-inspired polythetic definition of “religion” and, second, to a certain kind of polythetic definition that I call “anchored”.

Keywords

Mathematical realism Polythetic definition Family resemblance 

References

  1. Alston, W. (1967). Religion. In P. Edwards (Ed.), The encyclopedia of philosophy. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Edwards, R. (1972). Reason and religion: An introduction to the philosophy of religion. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanavich.Google Scholar
  3. Fitzgerald, T. (1996). Religion, philosophy, and family resemblances. Religion, 26(3), 215–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Frazer, J. 1994 [1890]. The golden bough. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Hadot, P. (1995). Philosophy as a way of life: spiritual exercises from socrates to foucault. Translated by Michael Chase. Oxford: BlackwellGoogle Scholar
  6. Korsgaard, C. (1986). Aristotle and Kant on the source of value. Ethics, 96(3), 486–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Lincoln, B. (2003). Holy terrors: Thinking about religion after september 11. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Martin, C. (2009). Delimiting religion. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 21(2), 157–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Martin, C. (2012). A critical introduction to the study of religion. Sheffield: Equinox.Google Scholar
  10. McKinnon, A. M. (2002). Sociological definitions, language games, and the ‘essence’ of religion. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 14(1), 61–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mueller, I. (1992). Mathematical method and philosophy truth. In Richard Kraut (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Plato. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Nongbri, B. (2008). Dislodging ‘embedded’ religion: A brief note on a scholarly trope. Numen, 55(4), 440–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Rennie, B. (2016). Can philosophy save the study of religion? A review essay of philosophy and the study of religion: A manifesto. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 28(1), 68–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Riesebrodt, M. (2010). The promise of salvation: A theory of religion. Translated by Steven Rendall. Chicago: The University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  15. Saler, B. (1993). Conceptualizing religion: Immanent anthropologists, transcendent natives, and unbounded categories. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  16. Saler, B. (1999). Family resemblance and the definition of religion. Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, 25(3 (Fall)), 391–404.Google Scholar
  17. Sauchelli, A. (2016). The definition of religion, super-empirical realities, and mathematics. Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie, 58(1), 67–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Schilbrack, K. (2012). The social construction of ‘Religion’ and its limits: A critical reading of Timothy Fitzgerald. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 24(2), 97–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schilbrack, K. (2013). What isn’t religion? Journal of Religion, 93(3), 291–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Schilbrack, K. (2014). Philosophy and the study of religion. Oxford: Wiley.Google Scholar
  21. Schilbrack, K. (2017). Imagining ‘Religion’ in antiquity: A how to. In N. Roubekas (Ed.), Theorizing ‘Religion’ in antiquity. London: Equinox.Google Scholar
  22. Southwold, M. (1978). Buddhism and the definition of religion. Man, 13(3), 362–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wittgenstein, L. (2009). Philosophical investigations. Translated by G. E. M. Armstrong. 4th edn. Malden: BlackwellGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA

Personalised recommendations