Thinking Religion as More than One A Deconstructive Appeal for Pluralism

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Description: This dissertation argues that the concept of religion, as it has been understood and employed by the main currents of the philosophy of religion at least since Kant, does not deal adequately with the plurality of concrete religious traditions that exist in the world. In order to move away from the traditional philosophical tendency to think about religion as a unitary object with an identifiable essence, I propose both that we look beyond the discipline of philosophy in order to glean insights from sociology, religious studies, and theology, and that we take up the concern with inescapable difference evident in Jacques Derrida's work. My aim, simply, is to make a case for greater attention to pluralism in philosophical inquiry into issues concerning the religious. Part One begins by examining three important historical sources for contemporary philosophical conceptualizations of religion: Kant, Schleiermacher, and Hegel. I then proceed to a critique of the use of the term "religion" based in recent sociological and religious-scientific work. Building primarily on the work of Danièle Hervieu-Léger, I propose that we substitute the provisional category "religious tradition" for the essential concept "religion." Lastly, I fill out the understanding of "religious tradition" with reference to Heidegger's use of formal indications and Derrida's "quasi-transcendentals." Part Two contains extended examinations of three quasi-transcendentals that Derrida employs in contexts related to religion: messianicity, auto-immunity, and hospitality. The aim of these chapters is to follow some of the ways in which difference, change, and openness to others are inherent in the structure of what we can identify as religious traditions. The first chapter of Part Three turns to some examples of recent scholarship on issues of religious, political, and ethnic difference in South Asia, in order both to highlight the fact that these differences can be articulated in a variety of ways and to call attention to resources for understanding and encouraging pluralism beyond Western milieus. The last chapter focuses on examples from theological approaches to pluralism, demonstrating ways in which issues of religious diversity can be approached explicitly from within religious traditions.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work